In March, 1942, residents of the village Kozi Gory, in the Smolensk region, informed the occupying authorities about the place of mass graves of Polish soldiers. The Poles who worked in the construction platoon unearthed several graves and reported this to the German commanders, but it initially related to news with complete indifference. The situation changed in 1943, when a turnaround had already taken place at the front and Germany was interested in increasing anti-Soviet propaganda. 18 February 1943, the German field police have begun excavations in the Katyn Forest. A special commission was formed, headed by Breslau University professor Gerhardt Butz - the “light” of the forensic medical examination, who served in the rank of captain as head of the forensic laboratory of the Army Group Center. Already 13 on April 1943 of the year German radio reported on the found burial place of 10 thousands of Polish officers. In fact, the German investigators “figured out” the number of Poles who had rest in the Katyn forest, very simply - they took the total number of officers of the Polish army before the outbreak of the war, from which Anders ’military personnel were deducted. All the other Polish officers, according to the German side, were shot by the NKVD in the Katyn Forest. Naturally, it didn’t do without the inherent anti-Semitism of the Nazis - the German media immediately reported that Jews were involved in the executions.
16 April 1943, the Soviet Union officially denied the "slanderous attacks" of Hitler's Germany. April 17 for clarification to the Soviet government asked the Polish government in exile. It is interesting that at that time the Polish leadership did not try to blame the Soviet Union for everything, but focused on the crimes of Nazi Germany against the Polish people. However, the USSR broke off relations with the Polish government in exile.
Joseph Goebbels, the “propagandist number one” of the Third Reich, managed to achieve even greater effect than he originally intended. The Katyn massacre was issued by German propaganda for the classic manifestation of the "atrocities of the Bolsheviks." Obviously, the Nazis, accusing the Soviet side of the murder of Polish prisoners of war, sought to discredit the Soviet Union in the eyes of Western countries. The brutal execution of Polish prisoners of war, allegedly carried out by Soviet Chekists, should, according to the Nazis, alienate the United States, Britain and the Polish government in exile from cooperation with Moscow. Last Goebbels succeeded - in Poland, the version about the execution of Polish officers by the Soviet NKVD was accepted by very many. The fact is that even in 1940, the correspondence with the Polish prisoners of war in the territory of the Soviet Union stopped. Nothing more was known about the fate of the Polish officers. At the same time, representatives of the United States and Great Britain tried to “hush up” the Polish topic, because they did not want to irritate Stalin at such a crucial time when Soviet troops were able to turn the tide at the front.
To ensure a larger propaganda effect, the Nazis even brought in the investigation the Polish Red Cross (PAC), whose representatives were associated with anti-fascist resistance. From the Polish side, the commission was headed by Marian Vodzinsky - a physician from the University of Krakow, a reputable person and participating in the activities of the Polish anti-fascist resistance. The Nazis even went so far as to allow the representatives of the PAC to the place of the alleged shooting, where the excavations of graves took place. The findings of the commission were disappointing - the PAC confirmed the German version that Polish officers were shot in April-May 1940, that is, before the start of the war between Germany and the Soviet Union.
28-30 April 1943, an international commission arrived in Katyn. Of course, it was a very loud name - in fact, the commission was formed from representatives of the states occupied by Hitler's Germany or who maintained allied relations with it. As was to be expected, the commission took the side of Berlin and also confirmed that Polish officers were killed in the spring of 1940 by Soviet Chekists. Further investigative actions of the German side, however, were discontinued - in September 1943, the Red Army liberated Smolensk. Almost immediately after the liberation of the Smolensk region, the Soviet leadership decided that it was necessary to conduct its own investigation - in order to expose Hitler’s slander about the involvement of the Soviet Union in the massacre of Polish officers.
October 5 The 1943 Special Commission was established by the NKVD and the NKGB under the leadership of the People’s Commissar of State Security Vsevolod Merkulov and Deputy People’s Commissar of the Interior Sergey Kruglov. Unlike the German commission, the Soviet commission approached the matter more thoroughly, including the organization of the interrogation of witnesses. An 95 person was interviewed. As a result, interesting details emerged. Even before the start of the war, three camps for Polish prisoners of war were deployed to the west of Smolensk. They housed officers and generals of the Polish Army, gendarmes, policemen, and officers captured in Poland. Most of the prisoners of war were used in road works of varying degrees of severity. When the war began, the Soviet authorities did not have time to evacuate Polish prisoners of war from the camps. So the Polish officers were already in German captivity, and the Germans continued to use the labor of prisoners of war in road and construction work.
In August - September 1941, the German command decided to shoot all Polish prisoners of war held in Smolensk camps. The actual execution of Polish officers was carried out by the headquarters of the 537 Construction Battalion under the leadership of Lieutenant Arnes, Chief Lieutenant Rext and Lieutenant Hotta. The headquarters of this battalion was located in the village of Kozi Hory. In the spring of 1943, when provocation against the Soviet Union was already being prepared, the Nazis forced the Soviet prisoners of war to dig the graves and, after the excavations, removed all documents from the graves, dating back to the time after the spring of 1940. So the date of the alleged execution of Polish prisoners of war was “fitted”. The Germans shot the Soviet prisoners of war who carried out the excavations and forced the local residents to give evidence to the Germans.
12 January 1944 was formed a special commission to establish and investigate the circumstances of the execution by the fascist German invaders in the Katyn forest (near Smolensk) Polish officer prisoners of war. This commission was headed by the chief surgeon of the Red Army, Lieutenant-General Medical Service Nikolai Nilovich Burdenko, and included a number of prominent Soviet scientists. Interestingly, the commission included writer Alexei Tolstoy and Metropolitan of Kiev and Galitsky Nikolay (Yarushevich). Although public opinion in the West by this time was already quite biased, nevertheless, an episode with the shooting of Polish officers in Katyn entered the indictment of the Nuremberg Tribunal. That is, the responsibility of Hitler's Germany for the commission of this crime was actually recognized.
For many decades, the Katyn shooting was forgotten, however, when at the end of the 1980s. began the systematic "loosening" of the Soviet state, the history of the Katyn massacre was again "refreshed" by human rights activists and journalists, and then by the Polish leadership. In 1990, Mikhail Gorbachev actually recognized the responsibility of the Soviet Union for the Katyn shooting. Since that time, and now for almost thirty years, the version that Polish officers have been shot by the NKVD officers of the USSR has become the dominant version. Even the “patriotic turn” of the Russian state in the 2000s did not affect the changing situation. Russia continues to "repent" for the crime committed by the Nazis, and Poland puts forward more and more stringent requirements for the recognition of the Katyn massacre as genocide.
In the meantime, many domestic historians and experts present their views on the Katyn tragedy. So, Elena Prudnikova and Ivan Chigirin in the book “Katyn. A lie that has become history ”, draws attention to very interesting nuances. For example, all the corpses found in the tombs at Katyn were dressed in Polish uniforms with insignia. But until 1941, Soviet prisoners of war camps were not allowed to wear insignia. All prisoners were equal in status and could not wear cockades and epaulets. It turns out that to be with signs of distinction at the time of death, if they were really shot in 1940, Polish officers simply could not. Since the Soviet Union did not sign the Geneva Convention for a long time, the maintenance of prisoners of war with preservation of insignia in the Soviet camps was not allowed. Apparently, the Nazis did not consider this interesting moment and themselves contributed to exposing their lies - Polish prisoners of war were shot after the 1941 year, but then Smolensk was occupied by the Nazis. This circumstance, referring to the work of Prudnikova and Chigirin, is indicated in one of his publications by Anatoly Wasserman.
Private detective Ernest Aslanyan draws attention to a very interesting detail - Polish prisoners of war were killed from a gunshot weaponsproduced in Germany. The NKVD of the USSR did not use such weapons. Even if there were copies of German weapons at the disposal of the Soviet Chekists, it was by no means in the quantity used in Katyn. However, this circumstance is for some reason not considered by supporters of the version that Polish officers were killed by the Soviet side. More precisely, this question, of course, was raised in the media, but the answers to it were given some unintelligible, - said Aslanian.
The version on the use of German weapons in 1940 in order to “write off” the corpses of Polish officers on the Nazis really seems very strange. The Soviet leadership hardly expected that Germany would not only start a war, but also be able to reach Smolensk. Accordingly, there was no reason to “substitute” the Germans by shooting Polish prisoners of war with German weapons. Another version seems to be more plausible - the shooting of Polish officers in the camps of the Smolensk region was indeed carried out, but not at all on the scale mentioned by Hitler's propaganda. In the Soviet Union there were many camps where Polish prisoners of war were kept, but nowhere else were mass executions carried out. What could have forced the Soviet command to arrange the execution of 12 of thousands of Polish prisoners of war precisely in the Smolensk region? The answer to this question is impossible to give. Meanwhile, the Nazis themselves could completely destroy the Polish prisoners of war - they did not feel any reverence for the Poles, did not differ in humanism in relation to prisoners of war, especially to the Slavs. Destroying several thousand Poles for the Hitlerite executioners was not a problem at all.
However, the version about the murder of Polish officers by the Soviet Chekists is very convenient in the current situation. For the West, the reception of Goebbels propaganda is a wonderful way to once again “prick” Russia, to blame Moscow for war crimes. For Poland and the Baltic countries, this version is another tool of anti-Russian propaganda and a way to get more generous funding from the United States and the European Union. As for the Russian leadership, his agreement with the version of the shooting of the Poles by order of the Soviet government is explained, apparently, by purely opportunistic considerations. As “our answer to Warsaw,” we could raise the topic of the fate of Soviet prisoners of war in Poland, of which there were more than 1920 thousands of people in 40. However, no one deals with this issue.
A genuine, objective investigation of all the circumstances of the Katyn massacre is still waiting in the wings. It remains to hope that it will completely expose the monstrous slander against the Soviet country and confirm that the Nazis were the real executioners of Polish prisoners of war.