About 10% of the Polish population was murdered by Nazis or Communists during the war.  The Soviet’s massacred at least 22,436 Polish prisoners at Katyn forest in 1940.  It was not a random selection.  The Soviets were trying to wipe out Polish leadership.  They chose the best and the brightest they could find.   They turned others over others to the Nazis, with whom Stalin still had friendly relations.  The Nazis themselves were working hard to wipe out the vestiges of Polish national feeling by wiping out the people most likely to be able to carry it on – teachers, professors, officers and civic leaders.

The Katyn massacre was particularly noteworthy to the extent that it was premeditated and personal. The Soviet questioned the Poles for months to determine who to kill.  After Hitler attacked Stalin and the Nazis took over Katyn and discovered the crime, they publicized it.  This put the allies in a tough position.  Churchill suspected that Nazis were mostly telling the truth in this particular rare case, but chose plausible deniability.   When you have to work with one horrible tyrant (Stalin) to defeat another horrible tyrant (Hitler) it inevitably entails some moral compromises.  

The Soviets kept an official lid on the story until the fall of the Soviet Empire around fifty years after the event.  Everybody knew about during that time, but there was no official record or confirmation.   Worldwide lefties gave the Soviets the benefit of the doubt they didn’t deserve and it was convenient to blame the Nazis, who were responsible for so many other atrocities and were the default villians of the period.   After the truth came out, there was lots of talk about it in Poland and memorials went up worldwide   But the Katyn Memorial in Baltimore was a surprise.  I just didn’t expect to find something like this here.  I guess there is a large Polish-American community in Baltimore.

LA Times has a good article re.