Stalin's order for the KATYN FOREST MASSACRE

Top Secret

5 March 1940

USSR People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs


To Comrade Stalin

A large number of former officers of the Polish Army, employees of the Polish Police and intelligence services, members of Polish nationalist, counter-revolutionary parties, members of exposed counter-revolutionary resistance groups, escapees and others, all of them sworn enemies of Soviet authority full of hatred for the Soviet system, are currently being held in prisoner-of-war camps of the USSR NKVD and in prisons in the western provinces of Ukraine and Belarus.

The military and police officers in the camps are attempting to continue their counter-revolutionary activities and are carrying out anti-Soviet agitation. Each of them is waiting only for his release in order to start actively struggling against Soviet authority.

The organs of the NKVD in the western provinces of the Ukraine and Belarus have uncovered a number of counter-revolutionary rebel organisations.

Former officers of the Polish Army and police as well as gendarmes have played an active role in all of these organisations.

Amongst the detained escapees and violators of the state borders a considerable number of people have been identified as belonging to counter-revolutionary espionage and resistance organisations.

14,736 former officers, government officials, landowners, police, gendarmes, prison guards, settlers in the border regions and intelligence officers [more than 97% are Poles] are being held in prisoner-of-war camps. This number includes soldiers and junior officers.

Included are:

generals, colonels and lieutenant colonels- 295
majors and captains- 2080
lieutenants, second lieutenants and ensigns- 6049
officers and juniors of the police, gendarmes, prison guards and intelligence officers- 1030
rank and file police officers, gendarmes, prison guards and intelligence personnel- 5138
government officials, land owners, priests, settlers in border regions- 144
18,632 detained people are being kept in the western region of the Ukraine and Belarus
[10,685 are Poles]

They include:

former officers- 1207
former intelligence officers of the police and gendarmerie 5141
spies and saboteurs- 347
former land owners, factory owners and government officials- 465
members of various counter-revolutionary and resistance organisations and other counter-revolutionary elements- 5345
escapees- 6127

In view of the fact that all are hardened and uncompromising enemies of Soviet authority, the USSR NKVD considers it necessary:

[1] To instruct the USSR NKVD that it should try before special tribunals:

[a] the cases of the 14,700 former Polish officers, government officials,land owners, police officers, intelligence officers, gendarmes, settlers in the border regions and prison guards being held in prisoner-of-war camps;

[b] together with the cases of 11,000 members of various counter-revolutionary organisations of spies and saboteurs, former land owners, factory owners, former Polish officers, government officials, and escapees who have been arrested and are being held in the western provinces of the Ukraine and Belarus and apply to them the supreme penalty: shooting.

[2] Examination of the cases is to be carried out without summoning those detained and without bringing charges, the statements concerning the conclusion of the investigation and the final verdict should be as follows:

[a] for persons being held in prisoner-of-war camps, in the form of certificates issued by the NKVD of the USSR NKVD;

[b] for arrested personnel in the form of certificates issued by the NKVD of the Ukrainian SSR and the NKVD of the Belarus SSR.

[3] The cases should be examined and the verdict pronounced by a three person tribunal consisting of comrades Merkulov, Kobulov and Bashtakov.

People's Commissar for the Internal Affairs of the USSR

L Beria

[Signed by: Stalin, Voroshilov, Molotov, Mikoyan, Kalinin and Kaganovich]

This is my translation of the order which I have seen over the years in various places. I first saw part of the order set out in a poster at Ymok during the dedication ceremony at the Polish cemetery in 1995.

I have a complete copy of the order in a Russian language book called "Russia in the 20th century-Documents-Katyn, prisoners of the undeclared war", which was nominally edited by A N Yakovlev and published in Moscow in 1997. isbn 5-89511-002-9. The page reference is 384, the document reference is No 216. The originals of the various documents are reproduced, with typewritten copies of the texts alongside.

Unfortunately this book stops with Stalin's order in 1940, and, I believe, leaves a wide range of Soviet/Russian documents on many events associated with Katyn since then still unavailable.

This tag is for a very good Russian language site about Katyn, which includes Russian documents on Katyn.

For a long time it was believed in the West that about 4243 Poles were shot at Katyn; 4143 that the Nazis exhumed from seven graves in 1943, and a further 100 allowed for in the "eighth" grave that the Nazis opened but did not exhume.

In his 1993 book "Memoirs of a prisoner of war of Kozielsk", at page 157 Rev Msgr Zdzislaw Peszkowski gives a figure of 4403 Poles shot at Katyn from a Soviet document he was shown dated 14 May 1940.

Reports of the new memorial dedicated to the Polish dead at Katyn on 28 July 2000 give the number named on the wall plaques as 4,421.

Karta [Go through Karta-Programmy to Karty-Index Represjonowanych- and then select the site you require.] lists 4410 for the dead at Katyn, 3739 for those at Kharkov and 6314 for those shot at Tver.

Although the total of the Stalin order is given as 25,700, I understand that a 3rd March, 1959 KGB report by KGB head Aleksandr Shelepin, gives the figure of 21,857 as the number of Poles actually shot as a result of this order.

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Katyn related sites and LINKS

The text of the order to shoot the Poles

A map of the Katyn massacre site

Katyn related books and videos

Articles about the Katyn Massacre on this site.

"Doing justice to the dead"

"Separate memories, separate sorrows"

"Lost Souls"

"The Soviet memory hole"

The Anglo-Polish agreement of 25 August 1939

A page which explains the photos used in this site

Katyn related photos which people have sent me

Information on the rebellion of Russian troops at Courtine in 1917

Early German/Soviet co-operation: the Treaty of Rapallo

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