Death of Polish Katyn Delegation 169

A Head of State has a symbolic importance for the nation, that transcends the personalityand politics of the individual in office. I am therefore very sorry for the Polish people at the loss of President Kaczynski and the Polish delegation in the air crash at Smolensk.

Looking at the list of victims, I knew at least five of them, though not colse friends, from my time in the British Embassy in Warsaw, which makes the tragedy more real to me.

The massacre at Katyn was one of the most dreadful chapters in Poland’s tragic history. It was not just a massacre of 22,000 soldiers – it was a determined attempt by Stalin to wipe out the entire Polish officer class, as a step towards eliminating Poland’s indigenous leadership potential.

You have to understand Polish history to fully guage the significance of this. In the eighteenth century Poland was wiped off the map in successive partitions by Austria, Prussia and Russia. For two and a half centuries the Polish nation disappeared from Europe. Poles werensplit between different Empires, with Poles expected to fight Poles on their new masters’ behalf. A brief period of existence under Napoleon helped keep Polish identity alive – and along with the Chopin story sparked a lasting attachment to France..

So when Poland reemerged from the mists of time – to quote Norman Davies – in 1918 as a nation again, it was a nation with a sense of the precariousness of its own existence, which was to be strengthened by the hard but succesful battles against Soviet invasion in 1921.

It was only 18 years later, and Poland had only existed anew for 21 years, when Stalin and Hitler treacherously invaded Poland and partitioned it yet again. Britian’s declaration of war was no practical help to the Poles. As Poland was fighting for its very existence, even the least warlike had signed up for the hopeless fight against both Hitler and Stalin, so the 22,000 Polish officers among Stalin’s prisoners of war were a broad cross section of Poland’s educated classes.

Stalin’s decision to massacre them was an attempt to eradicate the very idea of an independent Poland.

When I was in Uzbekistan I was astonsihed to find that in Uzbek schools and universities the Stalin-Hitler pact had been eradicated from the history books. That is true today. They are told the “Great Patriotic War” started inn 1941. The Soviet invasion of Poland is a banned subject.

Since Putin’s new brand of Russian nationalism, the Stalin/Hitler pact has again diasppeared from Russian school books, although it is not formally a banned subject and is taught at some universities. But Putin – who of course is a product of the Soviet secret services – has discouraged at every turn openness about the crimes of Stalin, and archives on the subject have again been closed to the public.

The Poles were therefore quite right to press the Russians hard on Katyn, and you can be sure that the ceremonies would not have been given much prominence in Russian media. The fascinating thing now will be to monitor just how much depth the Russian media give to explaining just what President Kaczynski was on his way to Russia for

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169 thoughts on “Death of Polish Katyn Delegation

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  • writerman


    But Craig I didn’t actually write that Britain connived with Hitler and Stalin in their invasion of Poland, or that they encouraged it, though I’m not sure exactly what “encouraged” means in this context.

    It seems odd that Britain and France gave assurances to Poland, in the event of German agression, that they would come to Poland’s aide when this was a practical impossibility, given Poland’s geographical position. There was no land route to Poland, unless one carved one through Germany, and that was impossible given the strength of the German army. There was no sea route for aide because the Baltic was under German control. The only possibility would have been to attack Germany from the air with the Royal Air Force, but how could that possibly have saved Poland?

    Obviously Britain didn’t save Poland. It was crushed by overwhelming force, so the assurances were worthless in reality.

    It was also obvious that the Russians would invade Poland from the East if the Germans attacked Poland. The government in London wasn’t so obtuse that none of this totally escaped their notice. There was a debate inside the UK government about how Britain should react if war broke out between Germany and Poland. The debate was centred around precisely the question of whether going to war with Germany was “worth it” when Poland’s position was untenable should war break out. What shocked people was the extraordinary speed of the German victory in Poland, regardless of how brave the Polish army was. One of my uncles actually died in a senseless Polish counter-attack against German panzers which was suicidal, though perhaps understandable. I’m not personally an admirer of suicide missions, however “noble.”

    I think one needs to look at the practical results of a policy, and then interpret the diplomacy’s effectiveness in that light. That may seem like judging with the benefit of hindsight, but none-the-less this can often shed light, or at least give one a clue towards the context in which policy is taken.

    I just don’t have the same “benevolent” attitude to British diplomacy that you do, or the same absolute faith that Britain’s assurances to Poland were quite what they appeared to be on the surface.

    You mention Britain’s position in Yalta and that Britain had no choice, in practice, and it was forced to “betray” Poland when faced by Stalin’s boots on the ground.

    But Britain was alone at Yalta. Britain was an ally of the other collosus at Yalta, the United States. By this stage Britain was a mere bystander with little real influence and could only watch virtually helplessly as the US and the USSR carved up Europe between them.

    If it was right to go to war to save Poland from Hitler, why wasn’t it right to go to war to save Poland from Stalin, especially now that Britain had a really powerful ally beside it? After all Britain, ostensibly, went to war with Germany over Poland. That was the primary war aim at the beginning, saving Poland. Obviously things had changed and now Poland’s fate was not reason enough to go to war. Why not, what had changed? Obviously a lot had changed, and these changes can teach us a lot.

    Why could one “exist” peacefully with Stalin’s form of “fascism” for so long, even helping to cover-up the Katyn Massacre, and not live with German fascism?

    I am not saying that one should have co-existed with German fascism, but the fact is we were allied with Stalin’s “communism” or red fascism against Hitler’s fascism and called him Uncle Joe and chose to ignore his collosal crimes, which are now regarded as being on a par with Hitler’s. So our attitude to “fascism” and totalitarianism wasn’t as absolutely pure and clear as you seem to think.

    One could add that Western countries lived peacefully, for decades, with Spain and Portugal’s fascist regimes without any trouble at all, so things are rather more complex than they appear. It seems there are “fascist” regimes that one goes to war with to save people and liberate them, from the evils of fascism, and other fascist regimes that one doesn’t seem to mind so much. Isn’t that a bit odd? Or at least shouldn’t it make one think a bit and perhaps cause one to reconsider one’s perspectives a tad.

    Obviously Hitler was a worse butcher than Franco, but the idea that the West cannot exist peacefully with fascist regimes simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, and that should make one cautious about absolutes. Pretty much the same as today when one thinks about it.

  • technicolour

    It seems there are “fascist” regimes that one goes to war with to save people and liberate them, from the evils of fascism, and other fascist regimes that one doesn’t seem to mind so much.

    Could it be that the former are those one thinks one can win against and/or which present a threat of invasion?

    And there are, as you say, fascists and fascists. I always rather thought that, combined with the advancing German armies, people were moved enough by reports of the concentration camps to become NIMBY about it. There was at least one British plot to assasinate Hitler, apparently.

  • Alfred

    “There was at least one British plot to assasinate Hitler, apparently.”

    There are said to have been at least 17 assassination attempts on Hitler’s life. Most if not all undertaken by the same group from the conservative upper classes, and including General Ludwig Beck, Helmut von Moltke, son of the German commander in chief in 1914, Eric Kordt who headed Ribbentrop’s office in the Foreign Ministry, and possibly Admiral Canaris, chief of Military Counterintelligence.

    Their best shot was on June 20, 1944 during a daily report to Hitler by Count Klaus Schenk von Stauffenberg, chief of staff of the Home Army. An English-made bomb in a brief case was placed by Hitler’s chair and detonated at the time intended. However, a few moments before, Hitler had left his chair to go to a map on a distant wall.

    This was an elaborate plot, but Hitler’s survival, was immediately broadcast on the radio which put the conspirators into confusion. About 700 suspects were arrested and about 5000, killed usually after weeks or months of horrific torture. A few, including Field Marshall Rommel, were allowed to commit suicide as a reward for their past service to the regime. One of those executed was Erwin Planck, son of Max Planck, founder of quantum physics.

  • Alfred


    “It seems odd that Britain and France gave assurances to Poland, in the event of German agression, that they would come to Poland’s aide when this was a practical impossibility.”

    While I agree with most of what you say, I do not believe it is correct, technically, to say that it was impossible for the Allies to aid Poland. Not only, as you acknowledge, could the British have bombed Germany, but the French could have launched an invasion of Germany, against whom they had a 30 to one manpower advantage on the Western front. That would undoubtedly have forced Hitler to divert forces from Poland.

    So the Anglo-French guarantee of Poland may have been morally worthless, but it was not impossible of execution.

    “It was also obvious that the Russians would invade Poland from the East if the Germans attacked Poland.”

    Exactly, that is why the British and French did not fulfill the guarantee to Poland. They were not prepared to weaken Germany lest they be compelled to fight the Russians marching on through Germany and heading for the Atlantic coast.

  • Polo


    Any chance of specific references in Lobster. Searches tend to produce Iraq.

    Are you aware that in 1969 there was a serious chance of Ireland invading the North but it took refuge in the UN at the time, which organisation was not helpful.

    The UK parliament’s treatment of the NI minority since 1922 was shameful and an abrogation of “Imperial” responsibility.

  • writerman


    “Impossible” is a big word and I probably shouldn’t have used it.

    Why is all this debate about the origins of WW2 relevant anyway, why bother with the past so much, after all, it’s done with isn’t it?

    Well, no, it isn’t. The past is coming back at us again. Everytime we want to launch a new imperilist war for oil we seem to dream up a new Hitler leading his SS and panzers against some new, plucky little Poland that needs our help all over again, and then we demonize some second-rate dictator and those who question the fairytale are new appeasers and on and on…

    It’s like being stuck in a bloody timewarp, going round and round in circles, fighting WW2 all over again. Why? Because WW2 war supposedly the good war, a war everyone can agree on, therefore it’s a very powerful frame or propaganda tool still. Put the enemy inside the well-understood WW2 frame and suddenly everything becomes so much clearer.

    What muddies this “good war” perspective is the fact that the vast majority of the real fighting, where the really massive, historic, battles were fought, didn’t occure between the forces of “good” against “evil”, with democracy triumphing over the Nazis, but were fought by two cruel totalitarian regimes fighting for survival and to the death. For most of the war the Germans had between 75 and 80 of their army on the eastern front. That’s where the German war machine was destroyed. One just has to compare German and Allied casualties on the western front, with the casualties on the eastern front to see how different these two wars really were. And then one gets to the thorny, controversial, and unpleasant subject; if one was going to have a war like that, where would one, if one could, choose to have it fought and by whom?

  • Anonymous

    “why bother with the past so much, after all, it’s done with isn’t it?

    Well, no, it isn’t. The past is coming back at us again. Everytime we want to launch a new imperilist war for oil we seem to dream up a new Hitler leading his SS and panzers against some new, plucky little Poland that needs our help all over again, and then we demonize some second-rate dictator and those who question the fairytale are new appeasers and on and on…”

    Exactly. Which is why we mustn’t question, here, the official account of Muslim terrorism since September 11, 2001 — except on an expired thread that no one reads!

    “if one was going to have a war like that, where would one, if one could, choose to have it fought and by whom?”

    Good question.

    In which connection, the casualty figures are instructive:

    As a percent of population:

    Germany: 7.8 to 9.4% (1937 borders), ethnic Germans in other countries 10 to 19.2%.

    Soviet Union: 14.2%

    Poland: 16.1 to 16.7%

    UK: 0.92%

    Canada: 0.4%

    USA: 0.32%

  • Polo


    Protesters were being kneed in the balls in front of the cameras as early as 1969. I don’t have a link off hand to the online news photo, but I have vivid memories of it. Nothing surprising there.

    I can’t get a fix on any invasion of the South in the link you provided. Could you be more specific?

  • Suhayl Saadi

    I didn’t say anything about a ‘planned invasion of the South’, polo. My point in raising that hypothetical spectre was simply to demonstrate that the way in which ‘Islamist’ terrorism has been used – to facilitate and leverage a mass invasion of Asia – differs from the way in which ‘Irish Republican’ terrorism was used because the agenda in the case of the UK establishment’s manipulation of the situation in the latter case was entirely different. But the common factor is state instrumentalisation – either overt or covert.

    The Lobster articles point to to systemic and violent UK state manipulation of various groups in N. Ireland. If the UK state had wanted for some or other reason to ‘invade’ S. Ireland, they would no doubt have manufactured public hysteria about The Republic in the same way they do today over ‘Islamism’. Instead, they ‘cultivated’ a situation where the security state essentially gained control in the domestic political area and so perpetuated the colonial situation in (domination of) N. Ireland. It also prevented the Civil Rights Movement in N. Ireland from building a strong, non-violent (and possibly also left-wing; some of the Official IRA and some of the Protestant groups were avowedly leftist in orientation, aiming to build links b/w the Protestant and Catholic working classes; this is a narrative completely omitted in the MSM) movement in N. Ireland itself. Ian Paisley and the UDA were the UK hard state’s greatest boons in this scenario. The Provos and the violent Unionist groups both were heavily infiltrated and manipulated by the British Army/ UK intelligence. The articles in ‘Lobster’ go into some detail about such matters. I tried posting some links also re. Prof. David Miller, who makes a study of various aspects of the N. Ireland situation but because this website now screens out postings with more than one Link – at least I think it does – it may not come through. I’ll try posting the links in the next couple of posts.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Here you go:

    There’s more by him, but I think you could surf from his site to other ones. He also runs Spinwatch (I say this with some trepidation at the risk of upsetting Apostate).

    Miller’s thesis (among many) is that N. Ireland is “an unresolved colonial situation”.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    And one more, an article this time. I think that the British people – at least on the ‘mainland’ – have not, as a whole, been exposed to even an iceberg’s edge of the truth about what happened in N. Ireland.

    I think it’s important because of Ireland (in many ways, the relationship historically b/w Ireland and Britain over several hundred years both prefigured and annunciated the mechanics of imperialism of the British Empire as a whole; it most definitely was not cricket), but also because once one sees the state with its gloves off, one can no longer harbour illusions about the imperial(ist) state.

  • Polo


    I don’t think the UK could have manufactured a justification for invading the South nor would it have been in their interest as it would have increased IRA membership expenentionally.

    The UK was constantly spinning against the South in relation to it being a haven for the IRA and backing this up with assertions of negligible expenditure in the South on border security compared with that by the UK. This spurious assertion was exposed by the Irish Government which was, at the time, bearing a much larger per head expenditure burden on border security than the UK.

    Whatever about the UK, I don’t think the Southern MSM were in any doubt about the methods of perfidious Albion and fully realised that the North was being used as a laboratory for dealing with potential internal civil unrest within the UK and urban excursions outside it.

    As for Bloody Sunday, it led, inter alia, to the burning of the British Embassy in Dublin, at which I was present and for which I make no apology. In fact that occasion was one of enlightenment where the Irish Justice Minister instructed the police to place the preservation of human life above that of property.

    Infiltration of Irish revolutionary movements by UK forces has been endemic for centuries. We are well used to it and factor it in to our understanding of events.

  • Anonymous

    Why’s everyone talking about Ireland here. What’s it go to do with Poland, and the Katyn massacre?

    Folks here have a talent for total irrelevance.

  • Polo


    I’m just responding to the comments of others.

    Polish disaster was appalling. Unfortunately it is looking increasingly like political interference in the professional sphere. Lessons to be learned worldwide?

  • stephen

    Some of you may wish to understand where Alfred is coming from given his understandable reluctance to detail his own political views which he keeps hidden so as to create a false image of objectivity. The attached article by Christopher Hitchens may make things a lot clearer, and rebuts Alfred’s points with a style and panache that I can only dream of achieving. Please not the little reference to the British failure to procreate.

    The libel on Churchill re saying the war was unnecessary is really outrageous. in the context of 1940 Churchill most certainly not think that the war was unnecessary.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Imperialism and disinformation is one of the larger subjects of this blog, as I perceive it. It will wander occasionally, somewhat in the manner of the ‘Wandering Jew’.

    This wander came about because of a reference to Mountbatten in relation to WW2, I think. A study of Louis Mountbatten (Battenberg) tells us much about British Imperialism and without a clear understanding of British Imperialism we cannot fully comprehend either of the World Wars.

    So, in a roundabout way, it is of relevance in relation to Polish and Russian history, too. There were (? still are) Polish troops in Iraq; the Polish Govt was intensely adherent to the US line on this and then there was the issue of siting nuclear warheads in Poland – thankfully shelved for the time being.

    The manner in which the media manipulates information into propaganda for the war machine is of utmost relevance in today’s world.

    One cannot place things into boxes and treat them as though they are separate. So I think it was valid wander.

    To learn about British imperialism, or imperialism in general, it is imperative that one study the history of Ireland. I also learned a lot from Polo. Anything that teaches us is good. What an amazing vignette of recent history, Polo, the British Embassy burning in Dublin. Plus ca change…

  • dreoilin


    We were aware that the building was empty. It had been vacated earlier in the day, and we knew this. There was no danger to life.

    Years later, when invited to attend a function at the British Ambassador’s residence and on being introduced to him, I was terribly tempted to say, “I once burned down your Embassy, you know”, which would not have been accurate, as I was only standing around. Shouting perhaps. But not throwing.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    It would’ve made a great conversation-stopper, though, Dreoilin! Priceless! The Second Secretary might’ve choked on the asparagus-tips.

    PS. What were you shouting…?

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Fascinating, MJ. I thought this would begin soon. I put nothing past Putin. Mind you, does one believe anything the US-stooge President of Georgia says? One might also speculate that what better way, in the Lukewarm War b/w the USA and Russia, of implicating Russia than this? And anyway, in the face of all that, tell me what state puts all its senior armed service people on a single ‘plane? What kind of planning is that? I’m sure it’ll run and run, this story… we’ll never know, we never do end-up knowing, do we? It was much easier in the time of Henry II. Blues skies everywhere.

  • Alfred

    Stephen, a self-confessed admirer of war-crimes enabler-Jack Straw states, with reference to me, that:

    “saying the war (WW2) was unnecessary is really [an] outrageous [libel].”

    Unfortunately, Stephen doesn’t know anything relevant to the discussion and so has to engage in silly lying interventions that waste people’s time to rebut.

    In his memoirs (which I have read and Stephen hasn’t), Churchill, who led Britain to victory in World War II, wrote:

    “One day President Roosevelt told me that he was asking publicly for suggestions about what the war should be called. I said at once, “The Unnecessary War.” There never was a war more easy to stop than that which has just wrecked what was left of the world from the previous struggle.”*

    *Memoirs of the Second World War: Part 1, The Gathering Storm.

    In his book “The Unnecessary War” (which I have also read and Stephen hasn’t) Patrick Buchanan writes:

    “The war was unnecessary, Churchill said, because of the constant blunders before the war that got us into it. It was the easiest war to avoid in all of history. That’s what Churchill told Franklin Roosevelt and he was right. What he didn’t say was a number of those blunders had been committed by Winston Churchill himself.”

    Among blunders Churchill referred to included the refusal of Britain to work with France and Poland in 1934 to remove Hitler from power by military intervention, which would have been a simple matter as Germany was then still virtually disarmed, and the refusal of Britain to do anything to oppose Germany’s remilitarization of the Rhineland, contrary to the Locarno Treaty — both errors in policy that I have noted above.

    I suggest, Stephen, that you go away a read one or two relevant books.

    Here’s one that will be particularly helpful:

    “Tragedy and Hope” by Carroll Quigley. It covers the entire progress of civilization from Ur to 1966. It’s over thirteen hundred pages. So run a long, Steve, like a good lad. And we won’t expect you back for a month or two.

  • MJ

    “Mind you, does one believe anything the US-stooge President of Georgia says?”

    That’s what I thought.

    “I put nothing past Putin”

    And that.

    “Blues skies everywhere”

    That’s what the Polish MP said.

  • Alfred

    The Global Analysis International Intelligence report (link provided by MJ above) headed “Poland’s Suspicious Second Katyn Massacre Tragedy,” which suggests that the plane crash that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his entire retinue seems highly implausible.

    First, it quotes an unsupported accusation by Georgia’s mad dog President Mikheil Saakashvili, which should certainly be ignored.

    Second, it states:

    “[The] terrain WEST of the Smolensk-Severnyi military airport reveals that for an extended area, the terrain is DISTINCTLY LOWER than the airport itself, which is situated on a sort of plateau. The area to the WEST of the military airport is between 100 and 150 feet BELOW the plateau. In THAT case, the plane COULD NOT HAVE SCRAPED THE TOPS OF TREES, unless the trees were about 400 feet high.”

    This is nonsense. The airport is said to have been shrouded in fog, so what would a pilot do?

    Approaching from the West, 5km from the airport, the ground rises from around 734 feet above sea level to 752 (see Google Earth), it then dips to about 739 feet in a treed area, before rising to 789 feet at the West end of the runway. Unable to make an instrument landing, the pilot’s only option, would have been to bring the plane down, through the fog, to within sight of the ground as he approaches the airport. He would then have had to follow the ground visually, all the way in to the landing strip.

    That dip of around 15 feet, at about 2 km out, is probably what proved fatal. As the ground fell, the pilot would have had to lose height or lose sight of the ground. The trees need not have been more than 50 feet tall, and perhaps less, to provide a deadly obstruction.

    This may sound an improbably way of landing a plane, but that is how Aurigny Air pilots sometimes land on the Channel Island of Alderney when the landing strip is in fog. They come in low over the water (which is warm, and therefore free of fog) from the North then follow the ground as it rises several hundred feet, through fog, to the landing strip. Throughout the final approach, visibility may often appear to be less than 50 feet. A treed dip of 15 or 20 feet on that approach would be lethal.

    The inference that because the crash is being investigated by Russian military intelligence it must have been engineered by Russian military intelligence is weak, even by the standards of your average conspiracy theorist, especially as there is no report that agents of the Polish government have been denied involvement in the inquiry.

    Finally, the report states that “An article in The Guardian cites a Polish MP who attended the memorial gathering in the Katyn forests, having travelled there by train, who claims that at the time of the alleged ‘accident’, which occurred just before 11:00 a.m., there were blue skies over Katyn.”

    If anything, this supports the official account of the crash, since ground fog normally occurs after a clear night that allows radiant cooling of the ground, which is necessary to the formation of fog. It is not surprising, therefore, that the sky over Katyn was blue.

    On the last landing I experienced at a fog-bound Alderney airport, the sky was blue ?” which enabled me to follow the transit of Venus by projecting the image of the sun on the cabin wall through an inverted binocular (So now Stephen can run off and check the date of the last transit of Venus and then check the weather report for Alderney Airport and prove that I’m actually telling the truth.).

  • Alfred

    My first sentence above should, obviously have read:

    The Global Analysis International Intelligence report (link provided by MJ above) headed “Poland’s Suspicious Second Katyn Massacre Tragedy,” which suggests that the plane crash that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his entire retinue was due to a Russian assassination plot seems highly implausible.

  • dreoilin

    But I was watching Sky not very long after the crash, and I could see the fog all around. It was hard to see among the trees, although the camera was on the crashed plane and I could see that fair enough. Saakashvili is a liar and an American pawn.


    “A leading Polish defence analyst says late president Lech Kaczynski was well known for ordering pilots to land in dangerous conditions …”


    “What were you shouting…?”

    I really haven’t a clue but I’m sure bastards came into it somwhere. 🙂

  • hi there

    I saw the “worldreports” article on the Katyn crash mentioned here. I never go for it when people credentialise themselves by saying how long they’ve been doing a job; I think it’s pathetic. I have no idea whether Christopher Story is an agent of a foreign power – the first I heard of the idea was when I heard him shout from the rooftops that the idea is untrue. But I do know that if he exercised a bit more rigour as an “intelligence expert”, he wouldn’t have stated that Putin was in the GRU. He wasn’t. He was in the KGB. It’s like the difference between British army intelligence and SIS, or between Israel’s Aman and Mossad, or the American DIA and CIA. Give us a break!

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