Events Leading Up to the Katyn Massacre

Posted: February 10, 2011 in Before the Massacre...

On September 17th, 1939 the Red Army entered the eastern part of Poland in accordance with the secret agreements between Germany and the USSR in the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact. Ten days later, Poland surrendered and Germany and the Soviet Union divided Poland between them. In the months following the Soviet invasion there were widespread arrests, deportations and executions. The first victims were associated with the defeated Polish government and Polish army. The surrender of Polish army units which had neither been captured by the Germans nor broken into neutral Romania had not been planned for, and the prisoners of war were handed over to the NKVD, which was the Soviet Secret Police. These units of the Polish army were put into prison camps.

The amount of prisoners in the camps were overwhelming, and more were expected to be on their way. Finally, a recommendation to Joseph Stalin, leader of the Communist party. was made on March 5th, 1940: “They(prisoners of the camps) are all thorough going enemies of Soviet power, saturated with hatred for the Soviet system…the only reason they want for liberation is to be able to take up the tight against Soviet power…” The inmates of three camps, 14,700 POWs, and 11,000 Polish civil servants, police and intellectuals held in prisons “should be dealt with by special measures and the highest measure of punishment, shooting, should be applied to them.” Only 600 men were reprieved from this death sentence, because their military experience would be crucial in a future war with Germany.


“Uncovering the Past.” Hoover Digest. Hoover Institution. N.d. Web. 31. Jan. 2011.

The Katyn Massacres, pgs. 374-385, Stalin and His Hangmen: The Tryant and those Who Killed for Him, Donald Rayfield


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