Dictionary of East European History since 1945

By Joseph Held | Go to book overview

power. When he became successor to the ousted Edward Gierek (see Gierek, Edward) in September 1980, Kania was largely unknown to most of the Polish people. Yet, he was a key member of Gierek's government, and Gierek sponsored Kania during the 1970s. When the time was right, Kania jettisoned his benefactor. In October 1981, however, Kania himself was ousted by General Wojciech Jaruzelski (see Jaruzelski, Wojciech), who considered Kania too soft in dealing with the Solidarity trade union.


Bibliography

Andrews Nicholas G., Poland 1980-1981: Solidarity Versus the Party ( Washington, DC, 1985); Taras Ray, Poland: Socialist State, Rebellious Nation ( Boulder, CO, 1986).

Katyn Woods Massacre. In 1939, when the Soviet Union joined Nazi Germany in the attack on Poland, about 14,000 officers of the Polish armed forces were captured by, or gave themselves up to, the Red Army. This was the last time most of them were ever heard from; aside from a few postcards, their families received no further news of their fate. A clue to their treatment was provided by a Soviet NKVD-KGB decree, issued in 1940, according to which fourteen categories of people were to be deported from the Soviet-occupied areas of Poland. One of the categories was membership in the officer corps of the Polish armed forces. Altogether, about 1.5 million Polish citizens were declared "class enemies" by the Soviet secret police and were transported to Kazakhstan and Siberia. After the German attack on the Soviet Union, an amnesty was declared for the deportees but, by then, barely half of them were still alive.

The 14,000 officers were, however, murdered closer to home. The victims included not only the professional soldiers, but also intellectuals, scientists, and other culturally important people who served as reserve officers in the Polish armed forces.

They were deposited in three prisoner-of-war camps. The first, in Kozelsk, was located along the railway line connecting the city of Smolensk with Tula. Here they were placed in an abandoned old monastery. The camp consisted of two hermetically isolated compounds; one for officers who originally were stationed in territories now in German hands, and the other for those captured on Soviet-occupied Polish lands.

The second camp was established at Starobelsk, south of Kharkov in eastern Ukraine. All the officers who defended the region around the city of Lvov were brought here. Among them were about twenty university professors, about four hundred physicians, and hundreds of engineers, teachers, lawyers, and pilots of the Polish air force.

The third camp was at Ostashkov, southwest of the city of Tver. Altogether, there were 14,300 prisoners of war in the three camps.

The murder of the prisoners of the three camps began just before Christmas 1939. On Christmas eve, all the priests were collected from the three camps (they numbered about 200), and secret policemen murdered them. The location of their graves is still not known. The next wave of murders began on April 3, 4, and 5. Groups of from 50 to 250 prisoners were sent, sometimes on foot, sometimes by train, other times by

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