Friday, April 26, 2013


Despite the Soviet allegations, the Polish Government in Exile, as well as local representatives in Poland had been most careful to document their distance from the Nazi’s.  When Kazimierz Skarzyński travelled to Katyn, on April 17, he brought with him a statement which was handed to Lieutenant Slovencik, an Austrian journalist, was the officer in charge of all delegations present at the site.  The statement read, in part:
The Presidium of the Executive Committee has decided to send to Smolensk 5 people from Warsaw comprising a Technical Committee consisting of 4 people who, if necessary, will remain on the spot and Mr. Skarzynski member and Secretary of the Executive Committee. In view of the fact, however, that the German Authorities have deprived the Polish Red Cross of all its responsibilities including the care of the graves, with the exception of those activities undertaken by the Office of Information, Mr. Skarzynski is authorized to act only within the framework of the said Office of Information.

This precise description of their responsibilities arose from the restrictions placed on the Polish Red Cross by the Germans themselves, and which the International Committee of the Red Cross had attempted to modify after receiving the protest of the Polish Red Cross.  An Office of Information – that was the official role of the Polish Red Cross – and it was a creative interpretation of that role which allowed the Technical Committee members to operate in Katyn.

The Secretary General, Skarzyński, was not a medical man, nor were a number of the other members of that second group which travelled to Katyn, one of whom was the Cannon Dean of Krakau, Rev. Stanisław Jasinski, whom Skarzyński described as follows:
The priest took his liturgical dress, and we all joined in the prayer. He immediately fainted after the prayer.He was a very poor man. He couldn’t stand the smell. We had to revive him in about half an hour.

Truly, in some images taken by the Germans, we can see a shaken figure in a cassock, a surplice and a stole.  Father Jasinski left Katyn on the same flight as Skarzyński and the others from that group – the only men who remained behind were (Lt.) Władysław Rojkiewicz, Stefan Kołodziejski and Jerzy Wodzinowski.

However, between the 17th and the 19th, their ability to work was significantly affected by the fact that they did not have any vehicles or supplies and were forced to try to negotiate this with Lt. Slovencik.

On April 20th additional personnel arrived from Warschau, they included Hugon Kassur (who assumed chairmanship of the group), Gracjan Jaworowski and Adam Godzik.  Mr. Kassur negotiated with Lt. Slovencik about means of travel, supplies, living and working quarters as well as other issues.

By April 26, additional members joined the group of six – these men were Dr. Marian Wodziński and his assistants: Stefan Cyprujak, Jan Mikołajczyk, Franciszek Król, Władysław Buczak, Ferdynand Płonka, all from the Krakau coroner’s office.

There was now a total of twelve men on site and they worked from 0800 until 1800 (6:00PM) each day, with a 90 minute lunch break.
                The lack of a sufficient number of rubber gloves caused great difficulty [in the work].

A discreetly worded statement which can give the average reader a grisly image of the conditions under which they worked.   There was a further comment
General working conditions were difficult and nerve wracking. Decomposition of the bodies and the polluted air contributed to the difficulty of the work.
The frequent arrival of various delegations, the daily visits to the area by a considerable number of military personnel, dissection of the bodies by the German doctors and the members of the various delegations, made the work still more difficult.
which corroborated the large number of visitors, primarily Wehrmacht, which were brought to the site. 

The report further states that
Through the Commission’s intervention visiting was limited to several hours daily, and military police were detailed to maintain order.
This large number of viewers led to a remark in one of the memos of the Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) Katyn investigation of 1948 where the statement was also made that hundreds of thousands had visited the site.

Dr. Kassur left Katyn on May 12 and was not able to return, while two individuals had left prior to the end of April, and this meant that two things occurred – the working group was reduced from twelve firstly to ten, and then to nine, and the new head of the group was Jerzy Wodzinowski.

© Krystyna Piórkowska