The Katyn Memorial

"In memoriam
to the 14000 members
of the Polish armed forces
and professional classes
who were executed
in Katyn Forest
Nineteen Hundred and Forty (1940)"


A memorial to the victims of the Katyn Massacre was unveiled by Stefan Staniszewski, whose father Hillary Zygmunt Staniszewski (a high court judge) died in the massacre. Preserved below the memorial are phials of soil from both Warsaw and the Katyn forest.


The Katyn Massacre was the mass murder of thousands Polish military officers, policemen, intellectuals and civilian prisoners of war by Soviet NKVD, based on a proposal from Lavrentiy Beria to execute all members the Polish Officer Corps dated March 5 1940. This official document was then approved (signed) by the entire Soviet Politburo including Stalin and Beria. The number of victims is estimated at about 22,000, with the most commonly cited number of 21,768. (The victims were murdered in the Katyn forest in Russia, the Kalinin (Tver) and Kharkiv prisons and elsewhere). About 8,000 were officers taken prisoner during the 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland, the rest being Poles arrested for allegedly being "intelligence agents, gendarmes, saboteurs, landowners, factory owners, lawyers, priests, and officials." Since Poland's conscription system required every exempted university graduate to become a reserve officer, the Soviets were able to round up much of the Polish intelligentsia, and the Jewish, Ukrainian, Georgian and Belarusian intelligentsia of Polish citizenship.

Polish prisoners of war captured by the Soviet Army, 1939.
Polish prisoners of war captured by the Soviet Army, 1939.

Nazi Germany announced the discovery of mass graves in the Katyn Forest in 1943. The revelation led to the break up of diplomatic relations between Moscow and the London-based Polish government-in-exile. The Soviet Union continued to deny the massacres until 1990, when it finally acknowledged the massacre by the NKVD, as well as the subsequent cover-up. The Russian government admitted Soviet responsibility for the massacres, yet does not classify this action as a war crime or as an act of genocide. This acknowledgement would have necessitated the prosecution of surviving perpetrators, which is what the Polish government had requested. In addition the Russian government also does not classify the dead as victims of Stalinist repression, which bars formal posthumous rehabilitation.