Andrzej Wajda's film "KATYN".
Volunteers to Polish Army in the USSR in 1941,
just returned from the Soviet labour camp.
The first page of Beria's notice (oversigned by Stalin), to kill approximately 15,000 Polish officers and some 10,000 more intellectuals in the Katyn Forest and other places in the Soviet Union.
Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov signs the German–Soviet Treaty of Friendship in Moscow,
28 September 1939
Nazi propaganda poster depicting execution of Polish military officers by the Soviets with caption in Slovak "Forest of the Dead at Katyn".
Katyn Forest Mass Grave.
Soviet Invasion of Eastern Poland - Soviet Cavalry invades Lwow.
17 September 1939
Sikorski's Liberator lying on its back in the sea just off Gibraltar following the crash.
|23.08.1939||Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact is signed by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union; this is a neutrality pact, delineating the spheres of interest between the two powers; it provides a written guarantee of non-belligerence by each party towards the other; and declares commitment that neither government will ally itself to or aid an enemy of the other party.|
|01.09.1939||World War II begins; Germany invades Poland from the west.|
|08.09.1939||Lavrentiy Beria, head of NKVD, organises two NKVD operational groups to be based in Kiev in Ukraine and Minsk in Belarus, for near-future deployment to eastern Poland to arrest “resistance elements”. The two groups in Ukraine and Belarus are led by Ivan Serov and Lavrentiy Tsanava, respectively.|
|17.09.1939||The Soviet Union invades Poland from the east. Around 25,000 Polish military officers, senior NCOs, police officials, intellectuals and priests (ie Polish Elite) are arrested and interned on the territory which is now western Ukraine and western Belarus. They are either imprisoned locally or sent eastward to three special prisoner-of-war camps administered by the NKVD in Kozelsk and Ostashkov in western Russia and Starobilsk in eastern Ukraine.|
|October 1939||Beria issues an order that the Polish Elite should be separated from among the hundreds of thousands of other Polish POWs.|
|February 1940 through June 1941||Up to an estimated 2.6 million Poles from the Kresy (eastern Borderlands), Ukraine and Belarus are deported to Kazakhstan and other remote Soviet locations.|
|05.03.1940||The Soviet Politburo declares most Polish POWs and some of the Elite in captivity "enemies of the Soviet Union" and orders death sentences for all of them, fearing that, if released, they will organise resistance movements against the Soviet occupation.|
|Spring 1940||Over 20,000 Polish Elite are massacred by the Soviet NKVD killing squads. The murders, carried out with shots to the back of the head, take place in the Katyń forest in western Russia and other locations.|
|26.10.1940||Beria orders the decoration of 125 NKVD staff involved in the Katyń operation.|
|22.06.1941||Germany attacks the Soviet Union via Soviet-occupied Poland.|
|June 1941||As a result, the Soviets join the Allies in the war against Hitler.|
An agreement is signed between the Polish Government-in-Exile (located in London) and the Soviet Union whereby the Soviet Government renounces territory gained under the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and grants “amnesty” to Poles held prisoner in the Soviet Union.
A Polish Army on Soviet territory is to be formed from these released prisoners.
|06.08.1941||The Polish General Władysław Anders is appointed Commander of the Polish Army on Soviet territory.|
|03.12.1941||When General Anders requests that 15,000 Polish prisoners-of-war whom the Soviets had once held at camps near Smoleńsk be transferred to his command, the Soviet government informs him that most of those prisoners have escaped to Manchuria and cannot be located.|
|March 1942||Polish workers, stationed near Katyń, discover graves. The Germans are informed but do not announce it until the following year.|
|13.04.1943||Nazi Germany's propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels, announces the German discovery of mass graves in the Katyń Forest near Smoleńsk, in their area of occupation, containing a total of 4,443 corpses, of which over 1,700 are bodies of Polish officers who were shot in the back of the head. Goebbels hopes public knowledge of the Soviet crime will sow distrust between the Soviet Union and the Western Allies and weaken their alliance.|
|14.04.1943||Polish Red Cross Technical Commission arrives at Katyń.|
|15.04.1943||Churchill privately acknowledges to Polish officials that the Soviet regime has probably committed the Katyń murders.|
|17.04.1943||The Polish Government-in-Exile in London, under the leadership of Władysław Raczkiewicz, Władysław Sikorski and Stanisław Mikołajczyk requests the International Red Cross to investigate the matter.|
|24.04.1943||Churchill, realising that bringing up the issue of Katyń at this stage would jeopardise the Alliance with the Soviet Union, informs Stalin that Great Britain will oppose any investigation of Katyń.|
|26.04.1943||The Soviet Government breaks diplomatic relations with the Polish Government-in-Exile in London. The Soviets then set about establishing a Polish Government-in-Exile composed of Polish communists.|
|01.05.1943||As part of the Nazi propaganda effort, the Germans bring a group of American and British POWs to Katyń, including US Lt. Col. John H Van Vliet as well as other groups, to see the remains of the Poles in the mass graves, in an advanced state of decomposition. The International Medical Commission completes its investigation on the Katyń Massacre, concluding that the Soviet Union is responsible for the atrocity and reporting that the graves contain the bodies of 4,143 officers, of whom 2,914 are identified by documents in their uniforms. It is the commission's opinion that the men were shot to death in the Spring of 1940. The Soviet authorities flatly reject the accusations of the German-appointed commission, arguing that the Germans themselves committed the deed when they occupied the area in July 1941.|
|04.07.1943||General Sikorski dies in a plane crash under suspicious circumstances.|
|November 1943||Several months after the Red Army liberates Smoleńsk, the Soviet Union appoints an NKVD commission of inquiry of its own. It begins top secret work with local NKVD falsifying evidence and removing all evidence of Soviet guilt, blaming the Germans for the Katyń murders.|
|1943||Memo by Owen O’Malley (British Ambassador to Polish Government-in-Exile) asserts Soviet guilt for the Katyń massacres but ends with the words, “Let us think of these things always but speak of them never.”|
|1943||Dr Jan Zygmunt Robel, a Polish forensic scientist, begins work on the materials recovered from the Katyń pits.|
|1944||Nikolai Burdenko (President of the Soviet Academy of Medical Sciences), Chairman of the Extraordinary State Commission for the Katyń massacre conducts investigation “Soviet Burdenko Commission” at Katyń site. It claims that the Polish Officers were shot by the Germans in 1941.|
World War II in Europe ends.
Upon being freed, Lt. Col. John H. Van Vliet gives his first report to US Army intelligence on what he witnessed at Katyń, a report that disappears until the release of US Archive files in 2012.
Robel’s Archive is lost in a fire during transportation to the West although some material, including prisoners’ diaries are either hidden in Poland or spirited away to London.
Dr Roman Martini, a Polish Prosecutor, begins his investigation into the Katyń massacre for the new Polish Communist authorities.
|30.03.1945||Dr Martini is murdered.|
|1946||Memorial Obelisk is erected at the Katyń site with an inscription in Polish and Russian, blaming the Germans and citing Autumn 1941 as the date of the massacre.|
|01-02 July 1946||At the International War Crimes Tribunal at Nűremberg, the Soviet Prosecutors attempt to add responsibility for Katyń to the list of charges against the senior surviving Nazi leaders. However, the defence is able to call witnesses to refute the accusations of German responsibility. As a result, the Tribunal does not add Katyń to its list of charges, but neither does it make any judgement regarding ultimate responsibility.|
|1948||“The Katyń Murder in the Light of New Evidence” is edited by Józef Mackiewicz, with a foreword by Władysław Anders.|
|early 1950||A United States Congressional Inquiry finds the NKVD responsible, and most Western historians now believe that the massacre was committed at the behest of the Soviet authorities.|
|1951||The US Congress sets up a committee to investigate the Katyń crimes after questions about the whereabouts of the missing Van Vliet report from 1945. Even ahead of the formal establishment of the committee, Van Vliet in 1950 makes a second written report on his impressions from Katyń.|
|1952||The Congressional committee concludes that there is no question that the Soviets bear blame for the massacre. It faults Roosevelt's administration for suppressing public knowledge of the truth. The report also says it suspects that pro-Soviet sympathizers within government agencies buried knowledge about Katyń. It expresses anger at the disappearance of the first Van Vlietreport and says: "This committee believes that had the Van Vliet report been made immediately available to the Department of State and to the American public, the course of our governmental policy toward Soviet Russia might have been more realistic with more fortunate post-war results." However, Soviet leaders continue to insist that the Polish officers found at Katyń were killed by the invading Germans in 1941. This explanation is accepted without protest by successive Polish communist governments until the late 1980s, when the Soviet Union allows a non-communist coalition government to come to power in Poland, as a result of the activities of Solidarność.|
|08.03.1989||The Polish Government officially accuses the NKVD of perpetrating the Katyń murders. In 1989, Mikhail Gorbachev reveals to the world that in March 1940 Joseph Stalin gave orders for the execution of 25,700 Polish Elite. He also admits that two other mass graves have been found in the Katyń area.|
In keeping with the reformist Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev's Glasnost policy, the Soviet Union releases documents indicating its responsibility for the massacre at Katyń, and uncovers further mass graves in the area. Gorbachev hands lists of murdered POWs to Polish President Jaruzelski in Moscow.
Polish TVB broadcasts “Katyń Forest 1990”, a project initiated by Andrzej Wajda.
The Soviet authorities publicly announce the discovery of the Katyń burial site in the Piatykhatky forest on the outskirts of Kharkiv.
A plaque is added to the London Katyń monument identifying Stalin and the Soviet Secret Police as the perpetrators.
|Late 1990||Soviet and Polish chief military procuracies agree to open investigation at Mednoe Kharkiv and Katyń.|
Russian Chief Military Prosecutor investigates the Katyń case.
Some of the materials secretly archived by Jan Zygmunt Robel’s team in 1943-1945 are discovered in a building in Kharkiv.
|25.10.1991||Excavations are carried out at Katyń as part of the investigation.|
The Smoleńsk Soviet Regional Executive Committee declares 100 hectares at Katyń to be a protected zone; it mentions the presence of Soviet mass graves for the first time; it calls upon the procuracy and the KGB to conduct studies aimed at establishing sites and numbers of victims.
|May 1992||Polish President Lech Wałęsa visits Katyń.|
|14.10.1992||The Russian government releases documents proving that the Soviet Politburo and the NKVD were responsible for the massacre and cover-up, and reveals that there may have been more than 20,000 victims.|
A Russian-Polish bilateral agreement is signed to maintain and protect extra-territorial memorial sites.
Katyń families visit Moscow at the invitation of Boris Yeltsin.
|1993||Boris Yeltsin kneels before the Katyń cross in Warsaw and asks Poles, “Forgive us if you can.”|
|July 1994||Alexander Lukashenko becomes President of Belarus.|
|1995||President Lech Walesa declares 1995 “The Year of Katyń” in Poland.|
|31.01.1995||Smoleńsk Procuracy confirms the presence of mass Soviet burial sites at Katyń.|
|May/June 1995||Foundation stones are laid for a memorial at Katyń but Yeltsin does not attend the ceremony.|
|October 1996||Russian government resolves to build a complex of memorials at Katyń and Mednoe.|
Additional explorations at Katyń take place.
The construction of Katyn Memorial Complex commences.
|2000||Major memorial complexes open at Piatykhatky (Kharkiv), Katyń and Mednoe.|
|June 2001||Lukashenko signs decree to widen ring road around Minsk threatening to destroy the Kurapaty site. Demonstrations erupt. A permanent vigil is set up.|
|December 2001||Kurapaty is recognised by the Belarusian Government as a site of mass executions by the NKVD. Parliament rejects bid to erect monument.|
|2003||Włodzimierz Odojewski publishes his novel “Silent Undefeated”, a Katyń story originally written at the suggestion of Andrzej Wajda with the view to a future film project.|
|September 2004||The Russian Chief Military Procuracy investigation of Katyń is closed.|
|November 2004||The Polish Institute of National Remembrance launches its own Katyń investigation.|
|14.11.2007||The Polish Sejim declares 13 April “The Worldwide Day of Memory of Victims of the Katyń Crime”. The date marks the anniversary of the German announcement. Relatives of the victims complain to the European court that the Russian inquiry was ineffective and that the Russian authorities have displayed a dismissive attitude to requests for information about the event. The case is brought by 15 Polish citizens relatives of 12 victims.|
|2008||Wajda’s film “Katyń” premieres in Latvia and Estonia and he is awarded the Order of Yaroslav the Wise in Ukraine and The Cross of Terra Mariana in Estonia.|
|July 2009||The consecration of memorial stone in the Katyń Valley of Death in marking mass graves of Soviet terror victims takes place.|
|2010||Russia’s parliament issues a statement saying more work is needed to be done in “verifying the list of victims … and uncovering the circumstances of the tragedy.”|
|07.04.2010||The Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, joins Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, at a ceremony commemorating the massacre at Katyń, marking the first time that a Russian leader has taken part in such a commemoration.|
|10.04.2010||A plane carrying Polish President, Lech Kaczyński, to another commemoration ceremony crashes near Smoleńsk and the Katyń site, killing all 96 members of a delegation on its way to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the massacres. Victims include Kaczyński, his wife, the head of the national security bureau, the president of the national bank, the army chief of staff, and a number of other Polish government officials.|
|26.11.2010||The Russian State Duma (the lower house of the Russian Federal Assembly) officially declares that Joseph Stalin and other Soviet leaders were responsible for ordering the execution of the Polish officers at Katyń.|
|December 2010||Medvedev decorates Wajda with the Order of Friendship.|
|2011||The Russian Foreign Minister expresses a willingness to consider “rehabilitation of Katyń victims”.|
The US National Archives releases about 1,000 pages of newly-declassified records related to the Katyń massacre. Among them are the newly-declassified US army documents proving that two American POWs, Stewart and Van Vliet, wrote encoded messages to Army intelligence, MIS-X, soon after their 1943 visit to Katyń, pointing to Soviet guilt.
The Belarusian-Katyń list is found in the Soviet Archives.
|October 2013||The European Court of Human Rightsrules that Russia failed to comply with its obligations to adequately investigate the massacre of more than 20,000 Polish Prisoners-of-War by the Soviet Secret Police in 1940. But the court says it has no jurisdiction over the massacre itself or the subsequent treatment of the relatives of the dead.|
Witness report by Van Vliet.
They will never be forgotten.
Their memory lives on.
Click on Images to Enlarge.
The Katyn Forest murders committed by the Soviets.
Exhumation of bodies as part of the investigation process.
Lech Walesa commemorates 55th anniversary of the Katyn Massacre
Katyn Forest Massacre.
Documents confirm that the Soviet Union DID sanction the massacre killing.
15 July 1943
Bulletin announcing death of General Wladyslaw Sikorski and ordering a national day of mourning.
Kharkiv, Katyn, Mednoe memorial.
Four mass deportations of Poles from the Kresy from 10 February 1940
to June 1941
The International Commission upon completion of their report.
Katyn Forest massacre.
Ceremony of military upgrading of Katyn massacre victims Pilsudski Square, Warsaw.
10 November 2007
6 March 2011 - The Katyn Memorial on Cannock Chase, Staffordshire in the UK.
In memory of 25,000 Polish Prisoners of War and professional classes who were murdered on Stalin's orders by the Soviet Secret Police in 1940 at Katyn Forest, Kharkov, Miednoye, Kozielsk, Starobielsk, Ostaszkov, and elsewhere.
Finally admitted in 1990 by the USSR after 50 years of shameful denial of the truth.
Katyn Forest Massacre.
The murders are carried out with shots to the back of the head.
Katyn 1943 exhumation.
Photo by Polish Red Cross Delegation.
10 June 1943
German Police report on the Katyn massacre.
30 July 1941
Katyn Forest Massacre.
General Wladyslaw Anders
Commander of the Polish Army
Katyn Massacre 1940.
Plane crash near Smolensk, killing Lech Kaczynski and delegation.
The Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, joins Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, at a ceremony commemorating the massacre at Katyn.
7 April 2010
Memorial at Katowice in Poland.
© Kresy Family
Our material is not to be copied or used in any way without the specific permission of Kresy Family Polish WWII History Group.
For help and advice, please refer to our contact page.
Please note that we have no connection with the Kresy-Siberia Foundation.