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75 Years After the Crime Katyn Families Still Fight for Truth and Justice

Katyn Massacre Letter  

Dr. Łukasz Kamiński, President

Mr. Dariusz Gabriel, Director of the Commission
for Investigation of Crimes Against the Polish Nation
The Polish Institute of National Remembrance

January 2015

Gentlemen,

            We, the family members closest to the victims of the Katyń Massacre, brought a legal action against the Russian State before the European Tribunal of Human Rights in Strasbourg (Complaint No. 29520/09). In this letter we draw attention to numerous irregularities that took place in the 1990s, beginning with the opening of international relations that allowed an opportunity to investigate this crime and resolve the remaining questions in order to assure due respect to the victims of the Katyń Massacre.
            Actions that were carried out during the investigation were indicative of a disregard for the rule of law and societal norms regarding the remains of the victims of the Katyń Massacre. The proceedings resulted in Poland abandoning the bodies of those massacred in the place of their murder.
            As a result, we believe that the Polish investigation into the Katyń Massacre carried out by the Institute of National Remembrance (“INR”) must conclude with a fulfillment of the testament of the victims of this crime. Therefore, we are posing several questions to the Prosecution of the INR, which has been carrying out the Polish Katyń investigation for the past decade.
            Naturally, due to the fact that the INR has been carrying out its investigation for several years, it also carries the burden of purging the Katyń investigation from all the irregularities, and should answer for the disregard to the gross injustice, which took place. Moreover, the INR must use all available resources to put an end to the manipulations and falsifications surrounding the Katyń Massacre, and to reveal any attempts to conceal the truth and actions that violated the rule of both Polish and international law.
            It goes without saying that every country in the world respects laws governing the interment of the remains of its own citizens, whether they are murdered or naturally deceased. The best example of this is the United States of America, which still searches for the remains of its soldiers—most recently pilots lost over the Pacific Ocean—in order to bury them in the United States with military honors.
            Tribute and respect paid to the dead or assassinated man, in particular the ones who defend the homeland, does not invite reproach; to the contrary, the lack thereof indicates a lack of respect from fellow countrymen.

            Striving for truth and final closure on the Katyń genocide, we request that the prosecution expeditiously concludes the Polish Katyń investigation.

            After years of striving towards the righteous and lawful burial of the Katyń Massacre victims, after constantly and repeatedly hearing responses objecting to the fulfillment of the existing law, we received a surprising peace of information from Deputy Secretary Katarzyna Pełczyński-Nałęcz of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MSZ). For the first time, she voiced an opinion regarding the lawfulness of the Polish government’s actions: Poland has never sought to rightfully acquire and bury the remains of the Katyń Massacre victims.” (DW.0121.58.2014/3). This information at last explains the decade-long, incomprehensible actions of the Polish institutions.
            The Council for the Protection of Memory on Struggle and Martyrdom (ROPWiM), which specifically in 1988 ceded to “deal with” all aspects of the Katyń Massacre, has been responding to requests for the acquisition and burial of the victims’ remains in Poland with what are simply lies—claiming that all the issues, orders, and prohibitions related to the Katyń Massacre are decisions of the Katyń Associations, which, incidentally, are under ROPWiM’s strict control.
            The Katyń Associations, as well as the Federation established over them, have no statutory right to make any decisions regarding matters concerning the victims of the Katyń Massacre. This includes their final resting place, the time frame, and the curtailment of the victims’ families’ rights.
            This lack of authority is confirmed by the fact that ROPWiM never submitted in its writings to interested parties and institutions any “statutes” by which Katyń organizations could appeal ROPWiM decisions and demand their right to make decisions regarding the final resting place of the victims of the Katyń Massacre. In this manner, ROPWiM managed for several years to block any actions and conscientiously contributed to the campaigns of disinformation of the society, institutions, and the public opinion. 
            The information related by the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about Poland’s notable lack of effort in securing burial locations opens up a range of questions, which we expect to be answered following the investigation currently being carried out by the Chief Prosecutor of the Institute of National Remembrance.
            We also base our complaint on Russian documents acquired by Krystyna Krzyszkowiak, daughter of Michał Adamczyk, Ojcumiła Wołk and Witomiła Wołk-Jezierska, widow and daughter, respectively, of Lieutenant Wincent Wołk, as well as other participants while making individual efforts to find answers and due respect for the victims.
            We further base our statement on the relevant paragraphs of pleadings of the Strasbourg Complaints, as well as on documents, containing the testimonies of thousands of Poles appealing for recognition of, and adherence to, international law. Finally, we also base our statement on letters written to the leaders of the Russian Federation and on writings related to the search for the remains of the victims that are in the possession of the Polish institutions.
            Moreover, we write in order to remind everyone of the injustice inherent in abandoning the victims’ remains in the location of the massacre. More about this issue can be found in Anatoli Yablokov’s book, in the writings of the poet Voznieshenski, in the articles of the journalist Vladimir Abarinov, as well as in various other sources, the aggregate of which demonstrates the utter inadequacy of Poland’s actions.
            Faced with this knowledge, we, the heirs of our loved ones, who perished in Katyń, Tver, and Kharkov, demand that the Polish prosecutor’s investigation into the Katyń Massacre respond to our fundamental questions:        
            Question 1: Who, by name, and in accordance with which law made the decision to allow the Katyń Massacre victims’  remains to linger in Russia and in Ukraine, thereby violating both the International Law of Armed Conflicts and the Polish—Russian Agreement, effectively opening the floodgate of Katyń-related manipulations?
            On March 23, 1993, Prime Minister of Poland Hanna Suchocka was questioned by the official signatory document of the Katyń families: “Why has the Polish government not appealed to the governments of Russia and Ukraine for permission to complete a full exhumation of the remains of prisoners-of-war camps from Kozielsk, Ostashkov, and Starobelsk, buried in Katyń, Miednoye (in Russia) and Kharkiv (in Ukraine)?”
            Apart from this document, for which there was no response, there exists another, equally important appeal for the burial of victims’ remains in Poland, for which the obligation of a response was ceded by PM Suchocka to Vice-Prosecutor General Stefan Śnieżko. Questions and requests for answers elicited no response from the then Minister of Justice Suchocka.
            Moreover, Professor Kulesza informed us, that PM Suchocka transferred acquired documents related to the Katyń Massacre to an institution in the process of being liquidated, of which Professor Kulesza was at the time in charge.
            Accordingly we petition that the following individuals be interrogated:
            Mrs. H. Suchocka
            Professor W. Kulesza
            Vice-Prosecutor General S. Śnieżko

In 1994, an agreement was signed by the Polish and Russian governments concerning the Katyń Massacre with the intention to implement and comply with the International Law of Armed Conflicts that calls for the burial of victims of war in their country of belonging, meaning, in this case, Poland. Below, we quote the relevant articles of the Polish-Russian Agreement:

            Article 4 of the Polish-Russian Agreement:
            1. An exhumation of the remains of military personnel and civilian persons for the              purposes of identification or transfer to their homeland for burial will be carried out only at the request of the interested party and with the agreement of the party, on whose territory the remains currently reside.
2. After obtaining the necessary approval for an exhumation and for a transfer of remains to the home country, both parties involved will agree to a procedure for carrying out the exhumation of both corporeal remains and the personal belongings, documents, decorations, and insignia accompanying them.
3. The exhumation will be carried out by competent specialists under the direct supervision of both parties involved. After the completion of the exhumation and the transfer of corporeal remains, a protocol will be agreed upon, which will, among other things, serve as a basis for the transfer of objects found with the remains, but not named in paragraph 2 of this article.

In light of the very clear and coherent guidelines established by the above articles, which are based on the principles of international law, we have found that the majority of the articles of this Polish-Russian Agreement have not been respected.

Here are the facts:

  1. The agreement allows for carrying out archaeological investigations in the place of the massacre only for the purposes of transferring the remains of victims for burial to their homeland.
  2. “Poland has never sought to bury the remains of the victims of the Katyń Massacre in Poland” (MSZ)—this ambivalent attitude of the Polish state to existing and binding laws has given and continues to give a broad justification for various scams and evasions of justice towards the society, the families of victims, as well as political manipulations of the Katyń Massacre, the profanation of the remains of the victims, and a wide range of dirty politics even within the so-called “Katyń Associations.”
  3. In the absence of a declaration explicitly calling for the burial of victims’ remains in Poland, Polish representatives had no right to enter onto foreign soil, into the pits of death in Katyń, Miednoye, and Kharkiv. Thus such actions, if they took place, must have been agreed upon under clandestine circumstances, outside the framework of the binding bilateral agreement.

            Question 2: Who, with whom, when, and with what authority entered into such an agreement and what was the purpose of it? What is the text of this agreement and on what law is it based upon?
            Only this intentionally vague and incoherent deal made by who knows whom in Poland and Russia could have resulted in actions in Miednoye and in Kharkiv, meaning opening the pits of death and wrenching debris and remains in a manner inconsistent with the norms of archeological exhumations. This resulted in the profanation of victims’ remains—storing the remains in garbage bags—and in non-accordance with the agreement itself: Russia did not receive documentation describing the exhumation work. These deficiencies impacted the Strasbourg complaint.
            All the personal belongings of the victims found in the death pits, as well as their gold dental implants and the business cards of Michał Adamczyk were transported to Poland in VIP luggage. This indicates that the prohibition against their export was also violated: as we noted, such articles could only be removed from the scene “along with the corporeal remains” (article 4.2).
            An account of this removal of personal assets can be found in a book written by Polish Consul Michał Żurawski.
            The fact that the recovery of these documents (namely, the business cards) was deliberately concealed had a significant impact on the Strasbourg complaint, in which Russia denied having possession of identification documents belonging to the father of Krystyna Krzyszkowiak, Michał Adamczyk, as well as the fathers and husbands of other relatives filing the complaint.
            Therefore, the Poland-Russia Agreement concerning “developing protocols” and prohibiting the removal of anything without also removing the “remains of victims” was violated.
            In light of the fact that skulls and a certain amount of remains, including dental gold, were removed from Miednoye and Kharkiv burial sites and transported to Poland, we request:

  1. That the documentation and authorization held by Professor B. M. as well as the boxes containing the victims’ remains in the Vistula River Units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs be verified.
  2. That the origin of documentation regarding the transport as well as documentation concerning individuals associated with the Vistula River Units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs at the time of its liquidation be verified.
  3. That the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ claim (Cf. BOIN-IV-0165-4-84 / 2014) that it does not posses documentation from archeological work done at the location of the massacre be verified, and that the subsequent calling into question the handing of Katyń related evidence be dealt with accordingly.
  4. That the Museum of the Polish Army, and, specifically, its director J. C. claim that it does not store the victim’s remains be verified, and that the Museum’s claim that the acquired dental gold was transferred to the Field Headquarters of the Polish Army and to the Katyń Museum be called into question.
  5. That the correspondence between Father Colonel J. W. and General M. C. Chief of Staff of the Field Headquarters of the Polish Army be acquired, investigated, and audited to find any evidence of cooperation with ROPWiM in 2005.
  6. That the authorization, documentation, and permission for ROPWiM’s removal of 22 skulls from Professor Baran’s lab in Kraków, Poland, and their transport to Russia be investigated.
  7. That it be verified whether material suitable for genetic identification was, in fact, taken from said skulls.

Regarding the above seven propositions, we raise the following questions:

            Question 3: Who gave written authorization to Vice Minister of Justice and Professor B. M. to profane the remains of victims corpses in Miednoye and Kharkiv? This specifically includes the acts of removing gold dental fillings from the victims skulls as a means of preserving their assets, as well as the authorization that brought about the illegal exhumation of the victims remains.
            Question 4: Who petitioned for the authorization to carry out such a profanation?
            Question 5: Who called together a cohort of so-called archeologists, headed by Professor A. K. to dig in the pits of death in Kharkiv and Miednoye and to disturb the remains of the victims of the Katyń Massacre, actions which directly went against international standards of exhumation and which effectively destroyed DNA traces of the victims?
            Question 6 Who provided permission for the improper securing of the remains? The manner in which the remains ought to have been documented and prepared for further identification has been codified after the catastrophe of the HMS Titanic and is compulsory for every country in the world.
In 1994, during excavations in Miednoye, near the corporeal remains of victims of the Soviet prisoners of war camp in Ostashkov, in death pit No. 10, business cards belonging to Michał Adamczyk were found near a corpse. This, more than anything, proves the fact that the remains of Michał Adamczyk were likewise located.
            Apart from the fact that the documentation was never adequately prepared, victims’ remains were carelessly thrown into black garbage bags, thereby rendering attempts to collect genetic material far more difficult. Here, we draw your attention once again to the existence of agreed-upon procedures established after the HMS Titanic catastrophe: these procedures were specifically developed for use in future forensic identification scenarios. In the case of Katyń, identification was by all means a possibility, as family members of the victims were still alive.
            From our analysis of several years of correspondences and memos, it gradually became clear that the Russian side is not in possession of any materials acquired from archeological excavations carried out in Miednoye, Kharkiv, and Katyń in the year 1994—this despite the fact that the excavations were carried out by both Poland and Russia. This is confirmed in a letter written by the Military Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation on July 29, 2014, No. 5-y6818-90, sent to Krystyna Krzyszkowiak. In this letter, it becomes clear that documents concerning excavation work carried out in Miednoye in 1994 are not to be found in Russia.
            Upon the completion of Survey-Exhumation Work carried bout by Poland and by Russia, Polish officials failed to supply protocols to Russian investigators—a failure that was not without consequences, as can be seen in the Strasbourg Complaint and in the letter received by Krystyna Krzyszkowiak. To a very great extent, these actions render impossible the attempts by families to find due respect for the Katyn victims.
            Professor B. M. admitted in an interview that he was aware of the removal of gold dental fillings from the skulls of victims and that he did not see any profanation nor did he see any irregularity in this unprecedented act. With this in mind, we have taken it upon ourselves to state some painful facts, which are nevertheless necessary in order to respond to our crucial questions:
            - Where are the gold dental fillings taken from the victims’ skulls now?
            - What their status is regarding their transport to Poland?
            - Who participated in this procedure—the Polish Army, the Museum of the Polish Army,                  The Museum of Katyń, the Field Headquarters of the Polish army?

We furthermore petition for the answers to the following questions:

            Question 7: Who authorized the profanation of the victims’ remains, including among other things the theft of gold dental fillings from the skulls of victims?

            Question 8: What purpose did the removal of gold dental fillings serve?

            Question 9: Who authorized the disposal of victims’ remains in black garbage bags? Failing to chemically secure the remains resulted in the complete destruction of the organic materials by bacteria and microflora.

APPEAL: With regards to the above, we demand the interrogation of:

1. B.M.

2. L. D. for the purposes of clarifying the case of the gold dental fillings, as well as the skulls and remains of victims, and their removal to Poland.

3. Prof J. C. director of the Museum of the Polish Army

4. Mr. F. in charge of the construction of the Katyń Museum

5. Z. S. director of the old Katyń Museum
6. J. M. director of the Museum of the Field Headquarters of the Polish Army

7. Representatives of MKiDN, regarding the lack of appropriate actions and documentation on the part of ROPWiM, an institution subordinate to the Ministry, in light of the above cases and the officially submitted Complaint.

The concealment of the truth about actions carried out by Poland, including the disregard of articles of the Polish-Russian Agreement, severely complicated our submission of the complaint before the European Tribunal for Human Rights in Strasbourg.
            Such a concealment of the truth is a crime, which deprives all the descendants of the victims of the possibility of fulfilling obligations to the victims, including settling the remaining questions about the massacre and interring the victims’ remains in Poland.

            With regard to the above, we pose the following question:

            Question 10: Who petitioned for the honorary distinction for W. D., an administrator of ROPWiM and Federation of Katyń’s Families, when he consciously held the Polish public and various Katyń Associations in ignorance of the decision made by the Polish state to disregard the victims’ right to final rest in “the country of their belonging?” This constitutes a disregard for international law, the Geneva Convention, as well as the Polish-Russian Agreement.
Documents concerning the victims of Katyń are to be found in the hands of the Russians, although Poland is likewise in possession of them, as well as other countries such as the USA, Great Britain, Germany, and France. In Poland the the most important Katyń documents are, in large part, in the governmental organizations such as ROPWiM, MSZ, IPN, in private and archival collections. This fact played no small role in the course of actions leading up to the Strasbourg Complaint. The authenticity of these documents verified in Poland is important for the leaders of Polish and European institutions. However, these documents are not recognized as legitimate by Russia - a detail we emphasized in the Strasbourg Complaint.
            Concerning Russia’s claim at the ETPC in Strasbourg, that Russia has no way of knowing whether anyone was murdered in Katyń or in Tver because there exist no available identifications, we emphasize that, over the course of a fourteen-year-long investigation carried out by Russia, no Polish institution contacted Russia or any other international body in order to bring about the recognition of documents resulting from the 1943 exhumation by the Technical Commission of the Polish Red Cross in Katyń. In the complete records of the1943 exhumation, one can find that the archaeologists identified the victims as well as the exact resting place of the victims’ remains. This information can be found in the protocols of the PCK led by Dr. Wodziński, as well as in German documents.
            This unprecedented violation of law played a key role in Russia’s denial in Strasbourg of any knowledge of the identities of those murdered in Katyń, among them the fathers of Witomiła Wołk-Jezierska, Krystyna Mieszczankowska, and Jerzy Malewicz, as well as the grandfather of Wanda Rodowicz.
            Question 11: Who was responsible for appearing before tribunals in order to testify about the adherence to legal protocols during the exhumation in 1943?
            Who in Poland was responsible for denying the claims of the Burdenko Commission, which, over the course of its forensic activity, failed to identify any of the victims, instead only provided the number of corpses examined?
            We underscore the fact that the complaint against Russia’s incomplete and improper investigation into the Katyn crime was intended as a means of concluding the Katyń-related fight that was going on in Poland at the cost of our loved ones. A continuation of the Russian investigation would have led to the identification of the Katyń victims, a process that begun in 1943 and as of yet has not been completed. In this vein, one can read the 1998 Russian letter written to Ojcumiła Wołk about her husband—the end of investigative activities in Russia will make possible further attempts related to Lieutenant Wincenty Wołk.

A lack of full documentation coming from the Polish side in Russia’s Katyń-related acts since 1994, as well as a lack of documentation of the PCK from 1943 compromised all of our efforts at the European Tribunal of Human Rights in Strasbourg: Russia protected itself by the fact that the victims of the Massacre were not identified.
            In order for the Strasbourg Complaint to have been correctly carried out, it would have been, of course, necessary for the 1943 PCK protocols to be accessed and for Russia to be petitioned to recognize them. A lack of this evidence will inevitably continue to complicate all efforts at gathering the remains collected in 1943, as Russia will likely once again state that the remains had not been identified.
            Question 12: We demand to know precisely who is responsible for the above-described procedural deficiencies, which severely influenced the Strasbourg Complaint as well as other efforts.
            Poland failed to care for everything that had to do with the Katyń Massacre: beginning with damages compensation, none of which was received by families, to orphans’ pensions, which we likewise did not received. This runs contrary to the norms established by the Geneva Convention related to the ending of a war – proper burial of victims.
            Poland is furthermore moving to block the fundamental rights of families to play a role in any and all decisions related to their loved ones—husbands, fathers, brothers, grandfathers, cousins—the burial of the victims of the Katyń Massacre, in short, paying respect to individuals who were murdered by enemies of their homeland only to be disregarded by their countrymen.
            The fact that Poland, a free state since 1990, has not appealed to the international community to ensure the proper burial of its citizens does not render moot the rights of families who are the only ones truly given the power to decide the fate and final resting place of their deceased family members. We have had this right since at least 1943, and Germany, for one, never denied this right (Cf. Professor J. Zawodny).
            A decision to forgo correct proceedings for 22,000 murdered Poles ought to be made based on the decisions of each and every family of the victims, but this was not done. Tadeusz Lutoborski, president of the Warsaw Society of Katyń Families, was well aware of this situation, as is evinced by his posing this very question to the widowed Mrs. Regina Rutkiewicz.
            On the basis of documents and testimonies (Chrzanowski and Młodziejowski) one can ascertain the manner in which Poland’s post-1990 leadership worked to disregard a correct and legally required resolution of these cases. What one sees is that the international law as well as the Agreement of 1994 was blatantly violated — and along with it, all humanitarian and legal norms.
            On the basis of the above information, as individuals associated with the Katyń Massacre, interrogated by INR prosecutors and now complainants before the European Tribunal of Human Rights, we appeal for the interrogation of all associated with the Katyń investigations from 1990 onwards. This includes Prime Ministers of the Republic of Poland to be interrogated in the context of their disregard for this matter, violating the rights of the victims to be buried in the country of their belonging, and the brutal abuse of the victims and of the Katyn Massacre itself for political gain by those who had nothing to do with the victims of this crime.
            To this we must add that only Professor Stanisław Ostrowski, President of the Republic of Poland in Exile in London, bestowed onto the soldiers killed in Katyń, Kharkiv, and Tver the Order of Virtuti Militari, “for the commemoration of their ultimate sacrifice in the name of an Independent Poland.”
            The bestowing of this order renders the recipients as Cavaliers of the Wartime Order of Virtuti Militari and necessitates a special ceremonial burial ritual, rather than a blatant disregard for the remains of its recipients and their placement into black garbage bags untruthfully declared to be “cemeteries.”
            Question 13: Russia officially terms Katyń, Miednoye, and Kharkiv “Historical Memorials of Russian Culture:” Who, among Polish activists and interested parties, permitted referring to the pits of death as “graves,” and the place of the massacre as “cemeteries,” thereby completely obfuscating the truth about the location and the events that transpired inthere?
            What role did Aleksander Kwaśniewski, the President of the Republic of Poland, play in negotiating the question of these memorials with President Yeltsin of the Russian Federation, as is indicated in Vladimir Abarinov’s book?
            In response to Poland rulers’ claim that “All Poles are one family,” we ask: why is it that only our families murdered in the Katyń genocide are punished with the denial of a return to their homeland if there is room for absolutely everyone else on Polish lands?
           
Now, 75 years after the deaths of our loved ones, it is high time to reverse this reigning blatant disregard. Enough MANIPULATION with the remains of murdered victims! It is time for an intelligent assessment of the case without any fear because there is no statute of limitations on the truth.

Respectfully,

Krystyna Krzyszkowiak – Daughter of an officer of the Polish Republic murdered in Tver;

Witomiła Wołk-Jezierska – Daughter of an officer of the Polish Army murdered in Katyń and cousin of three officers murdered in Kharkiv;

Wanda Rodowicz – Granddaughter of an officer of the Polish Army murdered in Katyń;

Krystyna Mieszczankowska – Daughter of an officer of the Polish Army murdered in Katyń;

Irena Erchard – Daughter of an officer of the Polish Republic murdered in Tver;

Gustaw Erchard – Son of an officer of the Polish Army murdered in Kharkiv;

Jerzy Wielebnowski – Son of an officer of the Polish Republic murdered in Tver;
 
Jerzy Malewicz – Son of an medical officer of the Polish Army murdered in Kharkiv

 

Attention:

All documents referred to in this document can be made available upon request.

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