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The Katyn Massacre 1940

The Katyn Massacre 1940

The Katyn Massacre – 1940

The Katyn Massacre, also known as the Katyn Forest Massacre, was a mass execution of Polish military officers and intellectuals by Soviet secret police in 1940 during World War II. The massacre remains one of the most controversial events of the war, with the Soviet Union denying responsibility for the killings until 1990.


In September 1939, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany invaded Poland, dividing the country between them. The Soviet Union occupied the eastern part of Poland, which included the city of Katyn and the surrounding forest.

In April and May 1940, the Soviet secret police, known as the NKVD, arrested approximately 22,000 Polish military officers, police officers, and intellectuals who were being held in Soviet prison camps. The prisoners were taken to various locations in the Soviet Union and executed, with the majority of the killings taking place in the Katyn Forest.

The Massacre

The killings in the Katyn Forest were carried out between April and May 1940. The prisoners were brought to the forest in groups and were shot in the back of the head. The bodies were then buried in mass graves.

The NKVD made no attempt to disguise the killings, and the bodies were left in the graves for several years. In 1943, the German army discovered the mass graves and used the discovery as propaganda against the Soviet Union. The German authorities invited the International Red Cross and a group of journalists to visit the site and witness the exhumation of the bodies.

The Soviet Union denied responsibility for the killings and claimed that the Germans were responsible. The Soviet authorities even went as far as to accuse the Polish government-in-exile, which was based in London, of collaborating with the Germans in the killings.


The Soviet Union maintained its denial of responsibility for the Katyn Massacre for decades, even after the war had ended. It was not until 1990, as the Soviet Union was collapsing, that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev finally admitted that the Soviet secret police had carried out the killings.

The Katyn Massacre remains a controversial and sensitive issue in Poland and Russia. The Polish government has declared April 13th as a national day of remembrance for the victims of the massacre, while the Russian government has been accused of not doing enough to acknowledge the role of the Soviet Union in the killings.


The Katyn Massacre was a tragic event that resulted in the deaths of thousands of Polish military officers and intellectuals. The Soviet Union’s denial of responsibility for the killings and its attempts to blame others for the massacre only added to the tragedy. The event serves as a reminder of the horrors of war and the importance of acknowledging and remembering the victims of such atrocities.

Molotov signs the Molotoc -Ribbentrop Pact - Sept 1939
Polish POWs 1940 - Soviet newsreel
Accepted proposal from Beria to Soviet Central Committee authorising massacre of Polish prisoners
Photograph of exhumation of mass grave of executed Polish officers in Katyn Forest KATYN, 1943.


– The White Rose Movement (Article about German student resistance movement)


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