Cry for Poland

It is a twist of fate unbearably cruel that the Polish government leadership should be decimated in a plane crash while en route to commemorate the Katyn Forest massacre of 1940. At Katyn and surrounding areas, 20,000 Polish army officers who had been taken prisoners of war during the Soviet invasion and occupation of eastern Poland in September 1939, along with many hundreds of doctors, lawyers, police officers and other public servants, were murdered by the Soviet Communists. The present Russian government, after 70 years of denials, had only just gotten around to admitting the truth.

The purpose of Stalin and his henchman Lavrenty Beria was to destroy Poland’s leadership class, so as to weaken Poland permanently as a country and make it unable to resist future Soviet dominance. Here is Wikipedia’s article. The details are gripping.

Mourners gather in front of St. John’s Cathedral in Warsaw.


David Ost writes in The Nation:

Meanwhile, the staggering death toll boggles the imagination. It was only in the third article I read in the Polish press that I learned of the death of Izabela Jaruga-Nowacka, Poland’s leading parliamentary feminist. And only in the fourth did I learn of the one truly legendary person who died, and about whom the world press still says almost nothing: Anna Walentynowicz, 80 years old, the unassuming yet inspiring Gdansk shipyard worker whose dismissal led to the formation of Solidarity in 1980. Her death alone would have triggered a national mourning in Poland. Today, one learns of it only in passing, after reading about those in the political class who died with her.

And from the same article, this hopeful and touching note:

Moscow residents are now laying flowers at the Polish embassy in Moscow, and Polish officials and family survivors who now begin to travel to the crash site will likely find themselves experiencing an unexpected bond with the Russian officials arranging accommodations for their grief, with the emergency workers excavating the wreck in the forest. Poles who have not often known the nurturing side of Russian nature will come face to face with it now. Of all the unexpected developments we might imagine, how unimaginable remains this possibility that the site of the horrific war crime of 1940 might be where a reconciliation begins today.

- end of initial entry -

Kilroy M. writes:

First of all, thank you for posting this. I have often use the Katyn massacre as a rebuttal to Christophobes who claim that religion has been the predominant cause of war and suffering throughout history. From the Wikipedia article: “The procedure went on every night, except for the May Day holiday.” Well, the Reds certainly observed their holy days! Katyn is a symbol of the spirit of Communism much the same way Auschwitz is the symbol of Nazism. Godless regimes in the 20th century are responsible for much more human misery than all the inquisitions of the Catholic Church etc. since 1 AD. We should be reminded of this, and here is an opportunity.

Some in the West may think the Katyn massacres were “just another episode” in the gruesome history of WW2, but as you correctly pointed out, the thousands of murders were not indiscriminate but part of an orchestrated campaign to decapitate a nation and make its resistance to post World War II Soviet imperialism considerably weaker. The fact that this was done by an “ally” made this episode in Russian history all the more heinous.

A related point: upon hearing rumours about the massacre, the Polish Government-in-Exile applied pressure to its “ally” to come clean about what happened to all the “missing” Poles. The resulting break in relations between Moscow and the Poles of London led not only to Stalin’s refusal to provide any material assistance during the 62 day Warsaw Uprising, but to his refusal to allow the Brits to use Soviet territory to drop supplies to the insurgents. Some brief details are available to readers here and here. This should have given pause to the Western allies regarding just who they were dealing with in Moscow, but it seems that Roosevelt was too enamoured by the charming Uncle Joe. Having a Communist spy Alger Hiss in his ear certainly didn’t help either, I’m sure.

Two other points regarding The Nation’s piece you cited.

1. To suggest that Anna Walentynowicz is being ignored by the media is nonsense. I’m writing from Australia and it is well known among the Polish community here that she was a victim of the plane crash—the information here is all coming from the Polish print media and word-of-mouth. She is being acknowledged. [LA replies: you misunderstood the Nation writer’s point. He did not say that she is being ignored; he said that the tragedy is so terrible, with so many prominent victims, that he did not come upon her name until the fourth article he read on the crash.]

2. The response of the Russian people to the plane tragedy is certainly promising. But the only way that reconciliation can be reached on an official level is for Moscow not only to admit that it was responsible for the murders (which it has, reluctantly) but that the murders were a crime against humanity, an act of attempted genocide (which it was but which Russian authorities continue to deny). The denial just keeps the wound open, the salt rubbed in and the bitterness on the surface. Some have suggested that the people should get over it, but what they fail to realise is that Poland to this very day is experiencing the effects of having the entire class of its best and brightest annihilated 70 years ago. This isn’t exactly ancient history and the impact is felt to this very day. An intellectual class can be murdered from dusk to dawn, but rebuilt only over several generations.

The reason for Russia’s reluctance/refusal is that Stalin is considered a national hero to this day. So much so that criticism of him and his legacy is, for lack of a better description, politically incorrect. To countries such as Poland, Czecho-Slovakia, Hungary and the Baltic States, Russia has always been seen as Hitler’s ally and a fascist occupier of Central Europe. Russia sees itself as a liberator of the area from Nazism. As you can see, if you Americans think you have problems with the interpretation of your history, just think of the mess in that part of the world. It’s not enviable, not at all …

Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 11, 2010 01:26 PM | Send

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