Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cursed Katyn

No amount of sprinkled holy water, priestly incantations with swinging smoking censers or grim exorcists dispatched from the Vatican can purge Katyn of its deadly curse for the Polish people. Twenty-two thousand Polish officers were murdered in cold blood in 1940 in the killing fields at Katyn by the Soviet KGB under orders from Stalin. A few days ago a Russian made aircraft filled with the highest ranking Polish military and and civilians crashed and burned in the area, adding another 96 Polish souls to charnel house known as Katyn.

The tragic irony is that those recently killed were to attend ceremonies on the spot commemorating the 70th anniversary of the thousands of Poles killed previously by the Russians in the WWII era.

Though the Polish anger over the incident festers, the Russians finally made an effort to show culpability by sending Vladimir Putin to the event sponsored by the Russians. As the event plays out, despite soothing diplomatic cooing from both sides, the compounded tragedy will increase the traditional hatreds between the two countries. The Russians have still to make amends officially for the atrocities and war crimes of the forties.

As human butchery is scored in WWII, 22,000 murdered Polish POWs is a low score; comparatively 2 million Poles were killed, 6 million Russians, and 6 million Germans. Additionally the Jews claim 6 million of their people were killed. But this figure is challenged as high and confused by the nationality of the Jews killed. Were they also counted in the Russian or Polish figures? The killer big-time was Josef Stalin who was reported to have killed another 6 million Russians during collectivization and War Communism of the 20s and 30s.

The Polish rage over Katyn is not only based on the horror of the murders, but also over the effort by the Russians to shift guilt and blame to the Nazis. There was a premeditated effort by the Russians to convince the world the officers were murdered by Germans. The POWs were killed with German small arms and ammunition with a single bullet to the back of the head. The Germans discovered the mass graves, but the Russians claimed to be innocent of the crimes. It soon became evident through international investigations that the Germans were in the clear.

Forensic evidence, diaries of the dead, eye witnesses and timelines, let the Germans off the hook and pointed to Russian guilt. This was surprising given the German record of killing Russian POWs, mass reprisals in occupied areas, and the systematic genocide of Jews; but it was evident in the end; the Russians were guilty. It was only after the advent of Solidarity could the Poles openly discuss the Russian responsibility for the murders.

Why did Stalin kill the Polish officers rather than do as they did to the captured German POWs; work them to death as slave labor? Two reasons: The officers were bourgeois, educated and constituted a threat to postwar Communist rule of Poland; secondly, was revenge. Stalin had a score to settle with the Polish Army that defeated him and the Red Army 20 years earlier in the Polish-Soviet War. Stalin's foolish actions in the war as a Commissar personally contributed to the Soviet defeat.

Putin has taken charge of the crash investigations, but there is Polish representation in the process. At this time many unanswered questions exist, but it is clear to me that it is unlikely the Russians bear guilt. This event was an overt effort by the Russians to bring closure to a burning issue between the two countries. If there was a conspiracy to kill off the Polish leadership, look elsewhere. The Russians had nothing to gain killing more Poles near Katyn.

The Polish leadership was on record rejecting international banking interests. It wanted no part of a one-world banking system run by the world bankers. It was the same group that Putin kicked out of Russia that subsequently made the US neocons squeal so much; and, that led GW Bush to trash relations with the Russians. And coincidently, the head of the Polish central banking system was killed in the crash. Was it a possible warning to the next Polish government? We will wait Mr. Putin's findings with great anticipation.

Flying around in Russian transport aircraft, in my book, is always hazardous duty. In the 60s I logged many hours as an American military attache in Russia on Aeroflot, the Soviet airlines. It was always a hair raising experience which included tipsy pilots and stewardesses. I was awarded an air medal for flying around in combat in a helicopter in Vietnam, but using the criteria of that medal, my earlier duty in Russia probably would have qualified for a distinguished flying cross.

Aeroflot no longer uses the TU154 aircraft in which the Polish leadership perished. This aircraft had been refurbished in December 2009, so it is doubtful the crash was due to aircraft failure. More likely it was pilot error, but with the high military brass aboard it is doubtful the pilot made the final call on landing in turbulent weather at a field without instrument capability. The Polish aircraft had been directed to other airfields by Russian ground control.

No matter what the findings of the crash investigations determine, the permanent conclusion will be established by the BABAs, the Slavic old ladies who sometime double as sorceresses; the ground of the Katyn Forest will be found as hallow for Poles but deadly – to be avoided like dogs’ blood and cholera. You believe you are in Eastern Europe? Nope... East of Europe works better. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA Ret.


Anonymous WLindsayWheeler said...

Thank you for your service in Vietnam. Great Article.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home