In April 1943, it was the Germans, then at war with the USSR and advancing with lightning speed into Soviet territory, who discovered the mass graves. They immediately tried to turn the atrocity into a propaganda coup to split the Big Three Allies: the USSR, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Of course, the Soviets, being masters of lies, responded by claiming the Nazis were the perpetrators. Stalin and his goons attempted to blame Hitler and his goons. Stuck in between was the rest of the civilized world, which sought to determine which devil did the deed.
For the record, in the United States, Ambassador Jan Ciechanowski of the Polish government-in-exile and Congressman John Lesinski (D-Mich.) were certain the Soviets did it. For this, they were denounced by FDR’s hideous Office of War Information, which we now know was one of the most infiltrated agencies of the entire wartime federal government, penetrated by communist spies and sympathizers. FDR refused to believe that the government of his pal “Uncle Joe”—his term of endearment for Stalin—was involved. This greatly frustrated men like former Pennsylvania Governor George Earle, a fellow Democrat who FDR had appointed to investigate the matter, and who knew the Soviets were guilty as sin.
FDR disagreed, fully buying the Soviet line, telling Earle: “George, they [the Nazis] could have rigged things up. The Germans could have rigged things up.”
The liberal/progressive icon insisted to his special emissary: “I’m absolutely convinced that the Russians didn’t do this.” An amazed Earle responded: “Mr. President, I think this evidence is overwhelming.” Of course, it was. (For an outstanding book and companion video series that includes this extraordinary exchange, see Laurence Rees’ WWII Behind Closed Doors.)
What happened at Katyn 70 years ago this spring was one of the most terrible human-rights atrocities of the 20th century, which is saying something. It deserves the same infamy as words like “Rape of Nanking” or “Buchenwald” or “Auschwitz.” The people of Poland have never forgotten. Chief among them was Poland’s proud president, who was on his way to pay remembrance when he, too, breathed his last in a violent death in the Russian territory of Smolensk.
Let’s pay tribute to his and Poland’s loss by remembering Katyn, and teaching the world about this forgotten tragedy of history.
Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College, executive director of The Center for Vision & Values, and author of the book, “The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor.” His other books include "The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism" and "Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century."