Published: 2009-09-16

The Soviets were the main contributors of what was deemed to be evidence of alleged German crimes at the Nürnberg Trials of the International Military Tribunal (IMT). In November 1942, they created the: “Extraordinary State Commission for Ascertaining and Investigating Crimes Perpetrated by the German-Fascist Invaders and their Accomplices” to investigate those alleged crimes. From “The Role of the Soviet Union in the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg and Impact on Its Legacy”, by Michael J. Bazyler:

“[T]he Commission's extraordinary efforts resulted in an impressive list of “hundreds of Germans, from generals to humble privates”, and a “specific and detailed enumeration of the crimes of which they stood accused”. These records proved indispensable at the IMT.”

This then tells us that without those contributions it would not have been possible to conduct those trials. The war in the east was not just a very intense battle fought with conventional weapons but also a war of ideologies: Communism (Bolshevism) vs. Fascism (National Socialism). The former won, thus the reports of this “Extraordinary State Commission…” should be very carefully scrutinized to eliminate findings tainted by ideology, i.e., insure that what is presented is fact based. Was this done? No international body of forensic experts has ever been appointed to investigate, as was done by the Germans at Katyn and Vinnitsa, to verify the findings of this “Extraordinary State Commission…”. The charges levelled against the Germans at the IMT were based on documents presented by said Commission and even though of dubious origin were taken at face value (Dr. F. Seidler, “Das Recht in Siegerhand”, pp.272/73). “Perpetrator” confessions and eyewitness testimonies? Here is how they were obtained:

“Since the Soviet legal system did not differentiate between police investigation and judicial investigation, evidence obtained during the pre-trial interrogation constituted a prime basis for indictment. Therefore, the bulk of the interrogation records contained defendants' responses to two instructions, which were posed interchangeably: "Inform the investigation what you know about the destruction of Soviet citizens of Jewish nationality [within a given area]," and "Inform the investigation about your participation in the destruction of the Soviet citizens of Jewish nationality." The attributive mode of these statements was a reflection of a well-tested interrogation technique "perfected" during the 1930s show trials[…]Confession and eyewitness testimonies were considered of crucial importance. Often they were taken at face value and provided the sole basis for indictment and conviction. Although officially illegal, brutal methods for extracting confession were also a normative component of the Soviet police system before, during, and after the Stalin era. The interrogation practices of the 1930s political trials included threats to the defendant's family, appeals to his "party conscience," sleep deprivation, beatings, and torture. With the exception of appeals to party conscience, all were also used widely against alleged collaborators during and after World War II (Alexander Victor Prusin, “Fascist Criminals to the Gallows!”, p.17).

Now to one of the sites investigated by this “Extraordinary State Commission…”, Katyn. In summer 1942, traces of the crime were found by the Germans, but a full investigation did not take place till spring 1943. From the April 13th 1943 Berlin radio broadcast:

“[T]he German authorities inspected the place called Kosogory[…]situated 16 km west of Smolensk, and made the most horrific discovery. A great pit was found, 28 meters long and 16 meters wide, filled with twelve layers of bodies of Polish officers, numbering about 3 000. They were clad in full military uniform, and while some of them had their hands tied, all of them had wound in the back of their skull caused by pistol shot[…]” (Anna M. Cienciala, Natalia S. Lebedeva, Wojciech Materski, Katyn: a crime without punishment, p.305)

The Germans conducted a thorough investigation, inviting: “…twelve forensic experts and their staffs from Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Croatia, the Netherlands, Romania, Sweden, Slovakia, and Hungary. After the war, all of the experts, save for a Bulgarian and a Czech, reaffirmed their 1943 finding of Soviet guilt[…]” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katyn_massacre

No doubt the above mentioned “Extraordinary State Commission…” was formed as a result of Katyn, to use the common description, because the first traces were discovered in summer 1942 and word probably got out. Following the Berlin broadcast of April 13th 1943, on April 19th 1943 the Supreme Soviet passed a law. From “Fascist Criminals to the Gallows”, by Alexander Victor Prusin:

“The turning point in Soviet retribution policies came on April 19, 1943. The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet signed a decree stipulating public execution or heavy prison sentences for Axis personnel and their accomplices found guilty of crimes against civilians and POWs. The decree provided no legal definition of war crimes—it used the all-encompassing terms "atrocities" or "evil deeds" (zverstva or zlodeianiia)—but it stated that while the Axis powers and their accomplices had committed horrible crimes against Soviet citizens, "to date the punishment meted out to these criminals and their local hirelings is clearly inadequate to the crimes they have committed."[…] While some scholars have suggested that the decree was a direct Soviet response to the German discovery of the mass graves of Polish POWs in the Katyn Forest in April 1943, the fact that the Soviets never published the decree confirms that it was intended for internal purposes. In addition, the issuance of the decree corresponded with an extensive restructuring of the Soviet security organs as part of a massive effort to seek out and punish real and potential collaborators[…]”

Mr. Pursin’s efforts to downplay the connection are appreciated, but publishing decisions was not a customary Politburo practice, for instance, document No. P 13/144, of March 5,1940 concerning Katyn was also not published (Michael S. Voslensky “Das Geheimnis wird Offenbar”, p.29). The restructuring canard is just that, a canard and will not work.

In all, some 25 000 Polish officers, intellectual and officials were murdered by the NKVD, the afore mentioned document speaks of 25 700, with 21 875 executed and the fate of the remaining 3 943 unknown (Ibid, p.30 [the numbers provided by Voslensky add up to 25 800]). The order to kill the Poles was signed by Woroshilov, Mikojan, Kalinin, Kagarowitsh and Stalin (Ibid). The German investigation revealed evidence, among it letters and newspaper clippings found in the clothing of the victims, all dated 1940, i.e., the time before Barbarossa. When the Red Army liberated the Katyn territory, an “Extraordinary State Commission” was formed, consisting of:

“Academicians Burdenko, Alexis Tolstoy, and the Metropolitan Nicolas- this commission was composed of the President of the Pan-Slavonia Committee, Lieutenant General Gundorov; the chairman of the Executive Committee of the Union of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, Kolesnikov; of the People's Commissar for Education in the R.S.S.F.R., Academician Potemkin; the Supreme Chief of the Medical Department of the Red Army, General Smirnov; and the Chairman of the District Executive Committee of Smolensk, Melnikov. The commission also included several of the best known medico-legal experts[…]”
http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/02-14-46.asp (p.426)

Here is part of what was presented at the IMT:

"GENERAL R. A. RUDENKO (Chief Prosecutor for the U.S.S.R.): Members of the Tribunal, the Soviet Prosecution have several times expressed their view respecting the application of Defense Counsel to call witnesses with regard to the mass shooting of Polish officers by the Fascist criminals in Katyn Forest. Our position is that this episode of criminal activity on the part of the Hitlerites has been fully established by the evidence presented by the Soviet Prosecution, which was a communication of the special Extraordinary State Commission investigating the circumstances of the mass shooting of Polish officer prisoners of war by the German Fascist aggressors in Katyn Forest. This document was presented by the Soviet Prosecution under the Document Number USSR-54 on 14 February 1946, and was admitted by the Tribunal; and, as provided by Article 21 of the Charter, it is not subject to argument.

"Now the Defense once again are putting in an application for the calling of three supplementary witnesses-a psychiatrist, Stockert; a former adjutant of the Engineer Corps, Bohmert; and a special expert of the staff of the Army Group Center, Eichborn.

"We object to the calling of these three witnesses for the following reasons: The calling of the psychiatrist Stockert as a witness must be considered completely pointless as the Tribunal cannot be interested in the question of how the commission drew its conclusion-a conclusion which was published in a Hitlerite White Book. No matter how this conclusion was drawn, the fact of the mass shooting of Poles by Germans in Katyn Forest has been unequivocally established by the Soviet Extraordinary State Commission."
(http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/06-03-46.asp, 3 June 1946, pp.289/90)

Unequivocally established”, when in fact it was a lie. Voslensky, who was an insider, remembers how uneasy everyone felt when the Burdenko report was presented in the Moscow Academy of Science. Especially the part about “shooting in the back of the neck”, presented as a German method, was met with silence because all of them knew that “8gr. of lead in the neck” was an NKVD method (Ibid, p.31).

Khrushchev did not dare reveal what really happened at Katyn when the Stalin area came to a close, fearing that if it is admitted to that his predecessors committed crimes of that enormity, people might feel that the present regime is also capable of committing them (Ibid, p.32). Thus, on March 3,1959, Alexander Schelepin (the names are copied from a book written in German), head of the KGB at that time, wrote a letter to comrade Khrushchev. The letter was marked “Top Secret” and handwritten by the mighty boss of the KGB to avoid it being read by anyone other than Khrushchev. Voslensky provides a copy of the letter, in German, and if need be I’ll produce it. We read, and I am paraphrasing, that the (Katyn) action was undertaken by an order issued on March 5,1940 by a special Troika (a group of three), and 21 857 people were shot as a consequence. No information about this action had been released, the documents stored in a sealed room. Those documents are of no historical value for Soviet authorities and could not be of any interest to our Polish friends. On the contrary, the discovery of the documents could have some unpleasant consequences, because the special Burdenko commission concluded that the crime had been committed by the German fascist aggressors, and that those findings are firmly lodged on the memory of the population (Voslensky writes that at this time nobody believed that version). It is therefore suggested that all documents be destroyed, save for those that recorded NKVD interrogations of some of the victims and they could be shown if needed (Ibid, p.31/2, [“Izvestia”, 19.11.1992]).

Western reports forced the Soviets to re-address the issue, a number of meetings of the Politburo were convened in 1971 to 1973 resulting in an official condemnation of the “lying” and “Anti-Soviet propaganda” by the western press, using the same language as in the times of Stalin. On April 5,1976 it was decided to take some countermeasures concerning western reports re. the Katyn question and play the role of the offended. In 1985 Gorbachev came to power, but it took him four years to finally getting around to address that issue. On March 31,1989 the Katyn issue was placed on the agenda of the Politburo and the CPSU (Communist Party) asked for suggestions as to how to solve this issue. The result: it was decided to blame the NKVD for the crime (Ibid, pp.32/33).

This plan is outlined in a letter to Gorbachev of February 2,1990, by Valentin Falin (head of the international department of the central committee of the communist party). Voslensky provides the wording of this letter, in German, and I can reproduce it. For now, I’ll just paraphrase again: A number of Soviet historians have discovered documents concerning the treatment of POW’s for the years 1939-1940. Those documents are in regards to Katyn and the fate of 14 000 former Polish citizens. In April/May 1940 the prisoners were handed, in batches, from three camps to the NKVD. Lists were compiled, containing on the average 100 names, they arrived regularly at the central authority, four to five per day. The camp commanders were advised not to send registration cards to the central authority. Before the operation began, a strict postal control was enforced, all in- and outgoing letter confiscated. Historians are about to publish this material. This would create a new situation: Our argument that no material on Katyn is stored in the archives will no longer be believed. When considering what the historians have discovered, even though it is only part of the secret, in combination with the facts the Poles base their assessments on, it would make it impossible to maintain the official version. With the 50th anniversary of Katyn approaching, we need to make clear what our position is, one way or the other, and it seems to me that the following variation entails the fewest disadvantages:
We are to inform W. Jaruzelski (Polish head of state) that we have not found any orders and the like to determine exactly what happened at Katyn and who is to blame for that tragedy. We have, however, discovered some material that puts the findings of the Burdenko commission into question. Based on those findings we can conclude that the NKVD officers Beria and Merkulov are personally responsible for the death of the Polish officers (Ibid, pp.33/34 [Komsomol’skaja Pravda, 15.10.1992]).

Thus, Beria and Merkulov were declared to be the guilty, responsible for the death of over 25 000 Polish officers, officials and citizens (the order, signed by Stalin et al surfaced later). Those two had been shot long ago, but the Soviet government claimed to have been unaware of their crimes, and that was the position taken by Gorbachev when he talked to Jaruzelski in 1990. Did Gorbachev know the truth about Katyn? In an interview with Komsomolskaja Pravda he stated that he only opened the files hours before he resigned, i.e., on December 25,1991. When Jelzin arrived, Gorbachev took the files out of the safe and noticed that only Andropov and Tschernenko (sp.?) had opened them before him, begging the question why neither Khrushchev nor Brezhnev had looked at them. Gorbachev explained that this was because 1 500 top secret files of the central committee were stored in Stalin’s former living quarters and only the general secretary of the central committee had access to them. The files contained a note saying that on April 15,1981 the contends were read to comrade J. W. Andropov and that he made himself familiar with the contend. Problem is, in 1981 Andropov was not the general secretary. Also, if it was read to him, others, at least the reader, would have known what the files contained (Ibid, p.35).

Voslensky concludes that the leadership of the CPSU knew the facts about Katyn, but kept lying about it.


What is of interest here is the fact that an “Extraordinary Commission” under Burdenko had allegedly undertaken an investigation and came to the conclusion that the “German Fascist Aggressors” were to blame for the Katyn crime. A few more samples of bogus findings by said “Extraordinary Commissions”:

“I refer further to the report of the State Extraordinary Commission relative to the crimes in the city of Kiev[…]Radomsky and Rieder used all kinds of devices for the extermination of Soviet citizens. For instance, they invented the following method of murder: Several Soviet prisoners would be forced to climb a tree and others had to saw it down. The prisoners would fall together with the tree and be killed."[…]”
http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/02-19-46.asp (p.582)
“[I]n only two camps of death the criminals exterminated 5 1/2 million people. In proof of this I quote the conclusions of the Extraordinary State Commission for Auschwitz. I will quote only a short excerpt. It is preceded by a detailed calculation. The Tribunal will find this reference on Page 356 of the document book, second column of the text, fourth paragraph. I begin the quotation:
"However, employing rectified coefficients for the part-time use of the crematorium ovens and for the periods when they stood empty, the technical expert commission has ascertained that during the period of time that the Auschwitz Camp existed the German butchers exterminated in this camp not less than 4 million citizens of the U.S.S.R., Poland, France, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Holland, Belgium, and other countries." […]

http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/02-19-46.asp (p.589)

The 5 ½ million refers to Auschwitz and Majdanek. We are now told, however, that some 1 million were killed at Auschwitz (Pressac has it at just over 600 000) and about 80 000 ‘died’ at Majdanek. Thus, this “Extraordinary Commission…” missed the mark by over 4.4 million. And last, but not least:

“In this same report, in the last paragraph on Page 136 of the document book, we may read that Camp Belsen was founded in 1940; but it was in 1942 that the special electrical appliances were built in for mass extermination of people. Under the pretext that the people were being led to the bath-house, the doomed were undressed and then driven to the building where the floor was electrified in a special way; there they were killed.[…]”
http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/02-19-46.asp (576/77)

This electric floor nonsense was peddled for a while, then quietly dropped, along with all the other inconvenient “evidence”. This just to demonstrate how thoroughly the Soviets ‘investigated’ and more samples could be provided. Then there is the issue of Stalin’s “scorched earth” order, issued on July 3,1941 during a radio broadcast. Here is how this order was implemented:

“When Nazi forces are reported to be nearing a Soviet district three things happen. if it is a collective-farm the entire population works to gather together anything that might be of use to the invaders. Grain, oil, machinery, food—all are loaded info lorries or peasant carts and evacuated to the rear or handed over to near-by Red Army units. A number of people leave the villages to carry these goods to the rear.
Cattle, livestock and poultry are then driven off into the forests and hidden. In innumerable cases the villagers then set fire to their own homes, applying the scorched earth policy in all its heartrending ruthlessness, and also take to the forests. In other cases a certain proportion of the people remain in the villages to act as bases for the guerilla detachments[…]
(“We Are Guerillas”, An Account of the Work of Soviet Partisans behind the Nazi Lines, Published by authority of “Soviet War News”, p.5)

How many of those villages were destroyed by the Russians themselves and the crime blamed on the Germans we don’t know. It is also more than reasonable to assume that unwilling villagers were shot by the partisans, the Germans blamed for it. Most of the charges laid at Nürnberg et al were based on the findings of those Commissions, and historians, as well as courts relied/rely on them to write history and sentence the accuse. “Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus”?( false in one thing, false in everything). Those of us who are questioning the official version are accused of applying this adage and if we were just talking about “uno”, that is one un-truth, the charge would stick. But when looking at the material presented by the Soviets it becomes hard to tell what to believe and what not. In fact, when the cold war started, the Soviets were declared to be compulsive liars by the west, but just from then on, not before 1945.

Only a thorough investigation by independent experts can determine what crimes were committed by the Germans. As is, many a crime blamed on the Germans was in fact committed by the Soviets, as Katyn showed. The Soviets presented graves and bodies which were of their own doing and “experts” determined that the “German fascists” were the criminals. Unless and until all of it is investigated, the charges levelled at the Germans are not fact based but the result of an ideologically driven agenda.

Armes Deutschland.

Wilfried Heink

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Author(s): Wilfried Heink
Title: Katyn
Published: 2009-09-16
First posted on CODOH: Sept. 16, 2009, 8:08 a.m.
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