“THE DESTRUCTION OF THE POLISH ELITE. OPERATION AB – KATYŃ”
AN EXHIBITION AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY
International Affairs Building, ground floor
From April 9 to April 18, 2013.
Acting upon a proposal by the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs submitted to the Politburo by Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria of March 5, 1940 and approved in an archived document by Joseph Stalin, Kliment Voroshilov, Vyatcheslav Molotov and Anastas Mikoyan, around 22,000 Polish prisoners of war, almost without exception officers, were executed at several locations in the Katyn Forest near villages in the proximity of Smolensk in April and May 1940 by the NKVD. The executions were largely carried out with German Walther PPK pistols, but also with Russian/Soviet-made Nagant M1895 models. 7,000 were personally executed by the NKVD’s chief executioner, Vassili Mikhailovich Blokhin.
The Katyn massacre has still not been recognized as a genocide, and Western public opinion still hushes up overly vocal discussions of the issue so as not to upset Russia. Some Russian historians insist to this day that it was Germans who killed around 22,000 Polish officers. The Russian government denies responsibility by way of state succession to the Soviet Union because, they claim, the massacre was committed by bandits, so that the statute of limitations for homicide has run. Russia is not a party to the European Court of Justice, therefore the ECJ lacks jurisdiction. The European Court of Human Rights has definitional issues because human rights violations are not deemed to include crimes committed for purposes of social cleansing, and it is true that a certain layer of society, the Polish officer’s corps and intelligentsia, was persecuted at Katyn. They were not selected for execution because of religion or ethnicity. A parallel cleansing of Polish intellectual and political elites by Nazi Germany under Operation AB (Außerordentliche Befriedungsaktion, or Extraordinary Operation of Pacification) that claimed some 30,000 victims never received judicial attention for similar reasons.
The exhibition titled “The Destruction of the Polish Elite: Operation AB – Katyń” at Columbia University was curated by the Public Education Office of the Institute of National Remembrance. It features dozens of photographs and documentary exhibits, a selection of which is shown in the photographic sequence below.
The opening of the exhibition took place on April 9, 2013, at 6PM. Professor John Micgiel of the East Central European Center at Columbia University introduced the speaker, Przemysław Gasztoń-Seń from the Institute of National Remembrance, who delivered a lecture on the significance of the events documented in the exhibition.
Joanna Diane Caytas