On 17 September 1939 the Soviets invaded Poland with an army of 600,000 that included 24 infantry divisions, 15 cavalry divisions, and nine tank brigades [ii]. They immediately set about carrying out their policy of ethnic cleansing [iii].
They came with previously-prepared lists and ordered that all Kresy Polish military residents, police, civil servants, civilian farmer settlers and well-to-do land-owning peasants (Kulaks) have their property appropriated and their bank accounts frozen. Homes, businesses and farms were ransacked, personal property destroyed and owners imprisoned.
The war crimes of the deportations of Polish citizens from the Eastern Borderlands of Poland and of the Katyń massacre of Polish officers [i] were never mentioned at the Nuremberg Trials.
Both these war crimes were carried out by Soviet Russia during that period when Germany and Soviet Russia were allies from September 1939 to June 1941.
Summary chart of the Deportations
|09-10 February 1940||110 trains each carrying 2,000 || 220,000|
|Camps: Archangelsk, Sverdlovsk, Omsk, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk |
|12-13 April 1940||160 trains each carrying 2,000 || 330,000|
Areas: Kazakhstan, Sverdlovsk, Altai Kraj, Akciubinsk, Kustanaj, Petropawlosk,
|28-29 June 1940|
Areas: Novosibirsk, Bashkirska, Maryjska, Krasnoyarski Kraj, about 10% to northern Ural,
|13-22 June 1941||From around Wilno || 200,000|
| Scattered widely throughout USSR|
The deportations continued in lesser numbers throughout the period of the German-Soviet alliance, from September 1939 up to June 1941. A relatively small percentage of Ukrainians, Jews and Belarusians were included in the deportations.
The Soviets are always reluctant to reveal their wartime statistics; therefore, the estimated figures of those deported can range from under one million to over three million depending on how the deportees are categorised.
The majority of the February deportations were mostly the families of settlers (osadnicy), policemen and foresters, civil servants and government officials.
Most of the April deportees were the families of officers and ex-officers, many of whom were murdered in the Katyń massacres, but also included in this category were some families of Polish military settlers, small farmers, policemen, foresters, civil servants, government officials imprisoned in the Soviet Union and Poland and also families of those in hiding or abroad and families of landowners, soldiers, tradesmen, farmers and the families of the previously-arrested intellectuals.
The deportations of June 1940 were principally refugees from German-occupied Poland who had not accepted Soviet passports, intellectuals, professionals and “those likely to prove difficult to convert to communism”.
The June 1941 deportees were Polish citizens from the Baltic States and those previously missed.
Estimate “A” gives a total of 1,045,000 whereas estimate “B” gives a figure of 1,989,000 [v].
| “A” || “B”|
|09-10 February 1940||220,000||429,000|
|12-13 April 1940 ||320,000||624,000|
|28-29 June 1940 ||240,000||468,000|
|13-22 June 1941||265,000 ||468,000|
However, when the “B” figures are coupled with the known 647,000 POWs, Red Army recruits and Concentration Camp victims in the Soviet Union in June 1941, the number of those in exile would total 2.636 million [vi].
According to Michael Hope [vii], 1.680 million is the figure generally agreed on for civilian deportees. This does not include the Polish Prisoners of War.
‘Stalin’s terror [was] on a far greater scale than Hitler’s; it was also incomparably more lethal’ [viii].
[i] 250,000 Polish servicemen were taken as POWs. The officers were arrested and sent to three special prisoner-of-war camps administered by the NKVD in Kozielsk and Ostashkov in western Russia and Starobielsk in eastern Ukraine.
[ii] L.Rees: Behind Closed Doors [Page 36] A secret protocol limited British obligation to German aggression only.
[iii] A plan was composed and signed by Colonel Serov, Deputy Commissioner for Security to deport over a million Polish citizens.
[iv] Halik Kochanski: The Eagle Unbowed [Page 139]
[v] W.G. Helon quoted in Kresowa Czystka Etniczna; Scientific Curiosities; ISSN 1176-7545; No. 930; 15.02.2005
[vi] T. Piotrowski: Occasional Papers in Polish and Polish American Studies; No. 12; 2002; [Page12]
[vii] Michael Hope: Polish Deportees in the Soviet Union [Pages 23-28]
[viii] Bloodlands, Timothy Snyder. [Pages 85-86]
Hania Kaczanowska: God How I Hate the Cold
ARCHIVAL LISTS - Evacuation USSR to PERSIA www.polishexilesofww2.org/archival-lists-ussr-to-persia
The overwhelming majority of those arrested were never tried. Many of them were to disappear for ever, probably murdered.
The families of those arrested and other civilians were deported to Posiolki (family work camps), collectives, construction projects and lumber camps in isolated areas of Siberia, Kazakhstan and East Asia. The civilian deportees were never tried or convicted of crimes.
Prisoners of War and convicted criminals, including many political prisoners (on trumped up charges) were sent to Gulags in places like Vorkuta, Pechora, Uktha and Magadan. These were already established as part of the Russian prison system for convicted criminals.
The deportees were forced to endure long train journeys, sometimes up to several weeks, under brutal conditions in appallingly overcrowded and unhygienic boxcars. They were kept locked in, with only a tiny grated window at the top so it was dark and stuffy. There was a stove for heating food, and for occasionally boiling snow to wash themselves, and a hole in the floor as a toilet.
They were very rarely let out into the fresh air. Once in a while they were given watery soup, maybe some bread or cereal. Many died, especially small children and the elderly. Their bodies were just thrown out and left in the snow.