Saturday, April 27, 2013


In London, General Sikorski met with Messrs Eden and Winston Churchill as well as the US Ambassador, Drexel Biddle, to discuss the position of the Polish Government in light of the Soviet severance of relations.  In the interim the Polish Cabinet met and prepared a statement in which they noted that the Polish government have strictly discharged its obligations and that
In light of facts known throughout the world, the Polish Nation and the Polish Government have no need to defend themselves from any charge of contact or understanding with Hitler.
It further read
In a public statement of April 17, 1943 the Polish Government categorically denied to Germany the right to abuse the tragedy of Polish officers for her own perfidious aims.
Yet Harrison Salisbury’s comments on these days show how poorly the Polish position was understood, even by journalists stationed in London, and in truth how little they valued the lives of these officers.  His outrage at the audacity of the Polish Nation in seeking the truth about this matter bridle with condescension, nay contempt for their loss.

In Berlin, the various members of the International Medical Commission were arriving throughout the day, Dr. Naville arrived by train at Potsdam station, while Dr. Tramsen flew in, as probably did Dr. Piga of Spain, who then visited the his Embassy.  As Ribbentrop noted in a statement to be delivered to Foreign Minister Count Jordana and General Munoz Grandes for General Franco, although
He showed great interest in visiting the mass graves.  After a visit to the Spanish Ambassador in Berlin, he suddenly declared that on grounds of health, he had to return to Madrid.  According to our information, this illness was of a diplomatic character…

In 1952, Dr. Zietz recollected that he had been occupied arranging for the needs of the individual members, some of whom sought to purchase books and materials unavailable in their countries.  He also arranged for a dinner with Dr. Mueller-Hesse, the foremost forensic specialist in Berlin, who also later visited Katyn.

In the three POW camps, where the known English-speaking witnesses were held, not only were they aware of the massacre, they had been advised that they would be obliged to travel there.  The Senior British Officer in Oflag IX A/Z (Rotenberg am Fulda) and Lt. Colonel John H. Van Vliet Jr., were advised by Hauptmann Heyl of the camp administration, that that two US Army officers (as well as a Dominion officer) would be required to go to Katyn.
Brigadier Nicholson and I protested that no member of that camp would go as an individual, as a representative of the prison camp, or as a representative of his own particular army or country except under duress, and then only as an individual under guard, under protest, unwilling, and would express no opinion and act in no way as a member of an investigating group.  
Nicholson and Van Vliet submitted a formal protest to the Puissance Protectrice as well as to the Camp Commandant.  The Germans
shrugged it off and that specifically I, would go, and that Lt. Colonel Stevenson would go, and that I would select one other American officer to go.
That letter to the Swiss Puissance Protectrice (Protecting Power)– was the first formal notification that the US State Department received via its representative in Bern that US Army officers had been taken to Katyn.  It was incumbent upon the State Department to follow up on this matter as they did.  Van Vliet responded to their correspondence which reached him in March of 1944, similarly, Captain Dr. Stanley Gilder in the Lazarette at Rottweil, also advised the British authorities through the Puissance Protectrice and responded to his government’s request for information.

Yet, the State Department’s actions in this matter were not placed under detailed review, and were only superficially touched upon by the Madden Committee, as the State Department did not submit their materials to the Madden Committee.  As Committee Counsel stated – the document had been made available to the Committee at the very last minute, and it appeared to confuse the members of the Committee, who were unaware that Van Vliet’s protest had reached the State Department.  

Little did the Congressional Committee members know much of the truth would be kept hidden from them by the State Department and Department of the Army – even during their hearings in 1952.

© Krystyna Piórkowska