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Dialogue and Universalism

Volume 21, Issue 3, 2011

Poland in the Context of Russia’s Way to Europe

Witold Wasilewski
Pages 113-135

Deceit around the U.S. House of Representatives’ Katyn Committee

In 1951–1952 a selected committee appointed by the US Congress investigated the circumstances of the so-called Katyn Crime. The reasons why the highest US legislative body undertook the issue hale to be sought in the international situation of the day, which was determined by the Korean War. The “Katyn Committee” was called up on September 18, 1951 by the House of Representatives of the 82nd Congress on the strength of Resolution 390. Sitting on it were Daniel L. Flood, Thaddeus M. Machrowicz, George A. Dondero, Foster Furcolo, Alvin K. O’Konski, Timothy P. Sheenan and Ray J. Madden, who was also appointed its chairman. The committee began interrogating witnesses on October 11, 1951 and closed the interrogations on November 14, 1952. Simultaneously, the committee inspected 183 material exhibits pertaining to the Katyn event. In all the committee took down the testimonies of 81 main and about 200 secondary witnesses as well as about a hundred written testimonies and accounts. The committee’s final report to the House of Representatives clearly stated the responsibility of the Soviet NKVD for the 1940 massacre of around 15,000 Polish officers from POW camps in Kozielsk, Starobielsk and Ostaszków. In response to the committee’s proceedings the east bloc staged a propaganda campaign aimed at discrediting its work and upholding the so-called Katyn Lie—a 1943—originated false version of the events whereby the executions of the Polish officers had been carried out by the Germans in the latter half of 1941. The Soviet government took an official stand on the committee on February 29, 1952. It rejected all possibility of cooperation and underscored the Germans’ responsibility for the massacre. On March 1, 1952 the Polish government issued a statement condemning the committee and reiterating the false version of the Katyn incident. This statement appeared in the March 1 edition of the national daily Trybuna Ludu under the heading, The Polish nation indignantly condemns the cynical provocations of American imperialists, who are feeding on the tragic deaths of thousands of Polish citizens in Katyn. The main wave of attacks on the Madden Committee (as it was called) rolled through the Eastern European press in March, 1952. It was most intense in the Soviet Union and Poland, but also penetrated to other countries like Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria. In the USSR most of the related coverage was published in the communist party daily Pravda. In Poland articles attacking the Madden Committee and propagating the false version of the Katyn events appeared in all dailies and periodicals, including the party, military, youth, branch and satirical press. Especially avid in this respect were papers brought out by the Czytelnik publishers, notably Życie Warszawy. Also published was a deceitful book The Truth About Katyn by Boleslaw Wójcicki. Simultaneously to the press campaign against the Madden Committee the eastern countries launched broad scale repressions involving the prosecution, courts and intelligence services.

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