Ethnic Cleansing and Soviet Crimes Against Humanity
by Ataullah Bogdan Kopanski
During the period from 1939 to 1949, the Soviets committed mass murders of many peoples. Among those holocausted were: Baltic, Slavic, Caucasian and Turkic people, eastern Germans, and Poles.
There is a cynical answer to the question of why, in 1941, the German liberators of the Soviet death and labor camps were unable to establish stable national government in Russia. Quentin Reynold, an American liberal journalist and author of The Stars Are Neutral, written in 1941 in the Soviet Union, explained it:
Today there is not one fifth columnist, nor one Quisling at liberty in the Soviet Union. The Germans tried desperately to set up local tribunals with local citizens as nominal heads of the tribunals when they captured cities like Odessa, Kiev and others which fell to them during their successful march through the south last autumn. But in no case were they successful. Potential Quislings were all in the labor camps of the far north. Stalin knew what he was doing, back in 1938.
Thus, Stalin called by his propagandists a genial engineer of the people's dreams, ordered the murder of all potential Russian allies of Hitler's army three years before the Barbarossa invasion. Millions of potential reactionaries and fascists were shot in the back of the head before Hitler decided to invade Poland. How far-sighted and visionary was Uncle Joe, indeed!
But in 1941, after three months of constant retreat of the mammoth Red Army, Stalin and his henchmen panicked and ordered the destruction of the files of the notorious Lubianka Prison. The German Panzer divisions reached the western boundaries of Moscow district. In the Baltic states and Ukraine, thousands of Slavs, Byelorussians, Estonians, Lithuanians and Latvians flocked to welcome the German troopers. However, in the regions still occupied by the Red Army, thousands of suspected disloyal citizens were prophylactically shot or deported to the slave camps of Vorkuta and Karaganda.
The infamous Soviet inner state of Gulag (the acronym of Glavnoye Upravlenye Ispravitelno-Trudovikh Legerei, or the Main Administration of Corrective Labor Camps) established in 1934, had a special branch of the security policy called Smersh who murdered thousands of captives during the war of 1941-1945. The Soviet technology of mass execution was primitive, cheap but deadly efficient. In 1941, in the prison cells of the Soviet steamer Dzhurma, 12,000 captives had been frozen to death near Wrangel Island. A whole trainload of 1,650 Polish deportees died in the wintertime of 1940-1941 in unheated and overcrowded cattle cars. Of the estimated 2,000,000 Polish civilians deported to the Russian Arctic regions of Gulag in the terrible railway convoys of 1939-1940, at leaat one half were dead within a year of their detention. More than 15,000 interned Polish officers, intellectuals, teachers and doctors disappeared in the Okchotzk Sea. They were transferred in April 1940 from three large Soviet detention camps located in Ostashkov, Kozielsk and Starobielsk.
Three years later, the victorious German troops exhumed in the forest between Katyn and Gniezdov near Smolensk a horrible evidence of the Soviet war crime. Katyn was one of the Narodnyi Komissariat Vnutriennikh Del (National Committee of Interior Affairs, NKVD) killing fields since 1918. Polish POWs were transported to Katyn in the so-called Stolypin's trucks or chornyi woron (black crows). In the forest, other prisoners unearthed a huge pit. NKVD firing squads were waiting at the checkpoint. As the victims emerged one by one from the trucks, each was seized by the wardens who tied their hands behind their backs with wire, and they were brought to the edge of the pit. At a sign from the NKVD commissar, the executioners placed their pistol muzzles at the victims' necks. After the order agon! (in Russian: fire!), bullets smashed their way out of the foreheads of the Polish POWs. The lifeless bodies toppled softly into the ditch. Every day, 300 Polish interned officers were slaughtered in the same way. Those who resisted were quickly jammed into the mouth of those who tried to scream. A body which moved in the pit was professionally stabbed with a bayonet. Twenty-two years of experience lay behind the progressive state.
On May 11, NKVD men killed the last convoy of Polish prisoners and 4,000 corpses were covered by a thick layer of the Byelorussian sandy soil. A special NKVD forestry detachment shoveled the mass grave and planted rows of pine saplings over the mounds in the site called the Goat Hills by the local villages.
When the Germans disclosed in 1943 the killing fields of Katyn to the shocked world, American President Franklin Roosevelt declared it all to be a Nazi lie and Hitler's plot. The Soviet mass murder in Katyn was well-known to the British and American Intelligence services. Information passed to the Soviet Union by Eduard Pfeiffer, homosexual double agent and his British lover Maclean about a French plan of sending the fifteen thousand Polish officers from the Soviet detention camps to Syria - where Gen. S. Kopanski formed a new Polish Carpathian Brigade, certainly influenced Stalin's decision on liquidation of the intellectual elite of the Polish army defeated in 1939 by the German and Soviet armies.
The German military investigators, who located the mass graves of 4,500 Polish victims of the Soviet policy of genocide, invited an international independent commission and the Red Cross Organization from Switzerland to Katyn. When they began to dig up the mass grave in April 1943, a Soviet plane was observed hovering over the place. Investigators from several neutral countries found undeniabale evidence of the Soviet war crimes. However, their report was totally ignored by the Soviet, American and British prosecutors during the Nuremberg Trial. Seventeen German officers who confessed their participation in the execution of Polish prisoners of war in Katyn were found quilty of crime against humanity and hanged. Until 1990, the Soviet dictators and their communist stooges in Poland maintained that the crime in Katyn had been committed by the Nazis. Those who denied it, like Stanislava Kostus, my hgh school teacher of history in Poland in 1966, were punished and dismissed from work. In October 1992, Russian President Boris Yeltsin dispatched an envoy to Warsaw to hand over a copy of Stalin's document decreeing in March 5, 1940, the supreme punishment by firing squad of 14,736 Polish army officials, along with another 10,685 Poles held by NKVD in the detention camps at Ostashkov and Starobielsk.
Six thousand Polish captives from Ostashkov and Starobielsk were transported to the Ukrainian town of Dergachi near Kharkov and executed in a similar way as in Katyn. Others were relocated to the coast of White Sea, placed on board two vessels and sunk in the icy waters.
The mass executions of the Polish captives were organized by Y. Raichman, a commissar of NKVD under direct commands of Lavrentyi Beria.
But the most savage death toll came later, in slave camps of Kolyma and Uzbekistan, where inmates, women, men and children never survived longer than two years. 7 In the Kolyma gold mines, the annual death rate of Polish slaves alone rose to more than 50 percent in 1940. After 8 hours of inhumanly hard work, they received a bowl of potato soup and a slice of frozen black bread. My relative survived the Siberian death camp because he ate raw dead owls and small rodents. In the death and labor camps of Kolyma more than 3 million prisoners died between 1935 and 1955. Polish, German, Rumanian and Finnish war prisoners who worked in the gold fields were the third generation of Soviet slaves. Working bulldozers sometimes excavated a huge mass grave and scraped up these stiffened bodies, thousands of bodies, thousands of skeletal corpses, twisted fingers, putrefying toes, frozen stumps, the dry skin scored with blood, and hungry blazing eyes.
Prisoners and slaves of the Vorkuta and Pechora camps who worked in temperature below zero, coerced by the desperate instinct of survival ate their own vomit and even flesh of killed fellow prisoners. They were too weak to escape or to resist. One Polish survivor described the human phantoms of Kolyma camps: It was a procession not of human beings, but of corpses and trunks. The majority had neither noses, lips or ears. Female slaves in the Gulag were constantly raped by the camp guards who infected them with syphilis.
The cheapest and the most efficient Soviet weapons of mass killing were frost, starvation and exhaustion by hard labor.
After the invasion of Poland in 1939, the Red Army committed several horrifying war crimes in the city of Lviv (Lwow, Lvov, Lemberg, Leopolis). But Rockwell Kent, an American tourist and humanist, who was in the eastern Poland (western Ukraine) during the Soviet attack, greeted the Red Army.
The Soviet invaders who now liberated Ukraine from the yoke of Polish landlords installed their own Bolshevist dictatorship in the formerly Polish - occupied ziemie. To protect the Red Ukraine against the Ukrainian and Polish reactionaries, the Soviet commissars converted the old Catholic convent of the St. Brigide Order into one of the worst prisons in the eastern Europe, where thousands of Ukrainian and Polish patriots were tortured to death by NKVD-men. When the German army entered Lviv in June 29, 1941, they found in every cell of Brigidki jail a layer of a viscous mass. Dead bodies were stacked four or five deep on the cell floors. The Soviet policemen murdered about 3,500 prisoners before their retreat.
A Polish woman who visited the prison on June 30 reported:
I saw a table in a room covered with many corpses that had been beaten to a pulp. One dead man was seated in a chair with a bayonet sticking out of his mouth. I saw the dead body of a small girl aged about eight years, hanging from the ceiling lamp.
Another Polish witness saw more savage examples of the Soviet purge:
Among other bodies, I saw a female corpse, one of whose breasts had been cut off, whilst the other was deeply lacerated. Another woman's abdomen had been cut open; she had been pregnant. From the open wound, the head of an unborn child stuck out. All the teeth had been broken from the mouth of a male corpse. A small girl was dressed on the upper part of her body, whilst the lower part was naked and smeared all over with blood, especially near her private parts.
Nikita S. Khrushchev, the chief of the Ukrainian Communist Party, had ordered mass murdering of all suspected Quislings, Petains and other potential opponents of the Soviet regime. At Vinnitza, the German army discovered other Soviet killing fields and the mass graves of executed enemies of scientific socialism. In 1943, a team of Wehrmacht investigators uncovered nearly 10,000 corpses of Ukrainian victims of the Great Terror. The Germans published a photocopy of the report with the terrifying photographs.
Commissar Rapaport, known as The Beast, a supervisor of the mass killing of Ukrainians in Vinnitza and the man known even among his cruel henchmen as a sadistic psychopath, personally shot several prisoners.
In 1944, Stalin told the Polish premier Stanislaw Mikolajczyk that he had liquidated 20,000 Ukrainian nationalists and conscripted another 200,000 suspected Ukrainian enemies of the Soviet Union into the Red Army. 15
After the stunning victories of the Germans and massacres of the prisoners by Beria's executioners, in several Siberian labor camps the Soviet slaves rose up against their opressors. In 1942, the slave uprising broke out in Ust- Usalpechora and Vologda Gulag camps. Polish prisoners of Vorkuta were astonished by the fact that millions of Soviet slaves prayed for liberation by the armies of Hitler.
The German army planned to liberate many Soviet concentration camps and Hitler considered to dispatch a special airborne commandos of Russian volunteers commanded by the Baltic German Russian-speaking SS officers for liberation of 20,000 Soviet slaves, but the war misfortunes of Wehrmacht and the Russo-Anglo-American counteroffensives thwarted the plan.
In June 16, 1940, a day after a Soviet ultimatum was handed to the Lithuanian government, 300,000 Russian troops invaded that tiny Baltic republic. Stalin and Molotov in their caveating note demanded free movement of their army in Lithuania, the installation of communist ministers and trial of two Lithuanian army officers who offended the Soviet Union. After the conquest of Lithuania, the Soviet army invaded next day a second small Baltic nation, Latvia. In June 17, the Soviet soldiers entered the Latvian capital of Riga.
On June 18, the Red Army occupied the third Baltic republic of Estonia.
One month later, the microscopic communist parties of the occupied Baltic republics won 92.8, 97.19 and 99.19 percent of votes in spontaneous elections, and established their regimes which immediately declared the Baltic republics as integral parts of the Soviet Union. Vladimir Dekanozov, Andrei Vishinsky and Andrei Zhdanov, the Soviet prosecutors, were appointed as the supreme commissars of the Socialist Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Within one year of Soviet occupation more than two percent of the Baltic population was executed. The inhumanity of the Soviet purges were comparable to Byelorussia and Ukraine, available when the German armies evicted the Soviet forces in June 1941. Juozas Viktoravicius, a Lithuanian survivor of the tortures in the Forest of Death at Petrosiunai, four miles outside Kaunas, describes his experiences:
I was beaten 45 hours without stopping, they bound my hands and feet and put me into cold water. Others had their testicles kicked to pulp, were seated on red-hot stoves (called in Russian: tiepelushka), had needles rammed under their fingernails, were scalped, had their jaws ripped down to their necks, and their eyes gouged and their tongues torn out. At Kretinga, victims were bound to trees with iron hoops before being burned alive. In order to avoid the sound of shot in Kaunas prison, the commandant of the jail had instructed his executioners to kill each victim by bashing in his temples with a hammer.
Eight months before the Soviet invasion of the Baltic states, during the invasion of Poland in October 11, 1939, the commissar-general of NKVD, comrade Ivan A. Serov, signed top secret order No. 1223: the plan of Expulsion (Vivod) of the anti-Soviet elements from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. In this document which was found by the German soldiers in the NKVD office at Valka, in July 1941, Serov described in detail the method of the ethnic cleansing in the Baltic lands. Those arrested at dawn would be transported in trucks to family would be segregated; children, women and men would be loaded into the separate cars. Serov's order did not specify the places of banishment.
1. Q.Reynold, The Stars are Neutral, London 1942, p. 97.
2. E. Buca, Vorkuta, London 1976, pp. 142-144, L. Tolstoy, Stalin's Secret War, London: Cape, 1981, p. 242.
3. R. Conquest, :Kolyma: The Arctic Death Camp, London 1978, p. 34. J. Lukacs, The Last European War: September 1939 - December 1941, London 1976, p. 89. L. FitzGibbon, Katyn: A Crime Without Parallel, London 1971, pp. 30-51.
4. L. Tolstoy, op. cit., p. 183.
5. M. Graczyk, Upiorny las (Haunted Wood), Katyn, Wprost, June 4, 1995, pp. 26-28.
6. J. Czapski, The Inhuman Land, London 1951, p. 35.
7. A. Ekart, Vanished Without Trace: The Story of Seven Years in Soviet Russia London 1954, p.11.
8. L. Tolstoy, op.cit., p.16.
9. A. Priess, Verbannung nach Sibiren Manitoba 1972, pp.55.
10. D. Caute, The Fellow-Travellers: A Postscript to the Enlightement London 1973, p. 186.
11. L. Tolstoy, op. cit., p. 246. 12. Ibid., p. 247.
13. Ibid., p. 247.
14. Amtlisches Material zum Massenmord in Winnitza, Leipzig 1943, passim. Also: M. Seleshko, Vinnytzia - The Katyn of Ukraine. A Report by an Eyewitness, The Journal of Historical Review, 1980, no. 1, p. 344.
15. S. Mikolajczyk The Pattern of Soviet Domination, London 1948, p.111.
16. A. K. Herling The Soviet Slave Empire, New York 1951, p. 175.
17. W. Schellenberg, The Schellenberg Memoirs, London 1956, p.314.
18. Pelekis, Genocide: Lithuania's Threefold Tragedy Munich 1949, pp45-55.
19. These Names Accuse: Nominal List of Latvians Deported to Soviet Russsia in 1940-1941, Stockholm 1951, p. 15.
Dr. Ataullah Bogdan Kopanski is a professor at the International Islamic University in Selangor, Malaysia. Because of limitation of space, the editors are unable to print all of the atrocities cited in Dr. Kopanski's manuscript.
Previous articles posted on the same subject:
1. POLISH History KATYN, dated May 1, 1996,
Re: 1. POLISH History KATYN, dated May 6, 1996.
Dana I. Alvi PAPUREC@aol.com The article below was published by The Barnes Review, December 1997.
to: Crimes Against Humanity