On the 13th March 1943 Berlin Radio announced that:
A report has reached us from Smolensk to the effect that the local inhabitants have mentioned to the German authorities the existence of a place where mass executions have been carried out by the Bolsheviks and where 10,000 Polish officers have been murdered by the Soviet Secret State Police. The German authorities went to a place called the Hill of Goats, a Russian health resort situated twelve kilometers west of Smolensk, where a gruesome discovery was made.
It was the start of controversy that would remain unresolved until the end of the Cold War.
The western Allies, principally Britain and America, found themselves caught up in a web of lies and deceit. The evidence pointed very strongly in support of the German claims. The British and Americans knew they were in an alliance with a despotic regime – and that the USSR, communist Russia, was perfectly capable of such crimes. Yet they were also fighting a war in which they depended on Stalin and had to do everything to support his regime.
Churchill’s attitude was expressed succinctly in his memoirs, recalling a meeting with the head of the Polish Government in Exile :
Early in April 1943 Sikorski came to luncheon at No. 10. He told me that he had proofs that the Soviet Government had murdered the 15,000 Polish officers and other prisoners in their hands, and that they had been buried in vast graves in the forests, mainly around Katyn. He had a wealth of evidence. I said, “If they are dead nothing you can do will bring them back.”
This was the harsh reality of war.
The Soviet state continued to claim that the Germans had been responsible for the crime right up until the Soviet regime collapsed in 1989. They alleged that the Poles were not killed in 1940 by the NKVD, but a year later when the Germans invaded Russia and overran the camps containing the Polish officers held by Russians. Only then were they murdered by the Germans. It was “an act of faith” to believe this said Churchill, in his memoirs, The Hinge of Fate. However many people preferred this version.
Final conclusive proof came with the release of damning evidence by the Russian State prosecutor in 1990:
From the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to comrade STALIN
In the NKVD POW camps and in the prisons of the western oblasts of Ukraine and Belorussia there is currently a large number of former officers of the Polish army, former Polish police officers and employees of intelligence agencies, members of Polish nationalist c-r (counterrevolutionary) parties, participants in underground c-r rebel organizations, defectors and so on. All of them are implacable enemies of Soviet power and full of hatred for the Soviet system.
POW officers and policemen located in the camps are attempting to continue c-r work and are leading anti-Soviet agitation. Each of them is simply waiting to be freed so they can have the opportunity to actively join the fight against Soviet power.
NKVD agents in the western oblasts of Ukraine and Belorussia have uncovered a number of c-r rebel organizations. In each of these c-r organizations the former officers of the former Polish army and former Polish police officers played an active leadership role.
Among the detained defectors and violators of the state-
(Signatures: In favor – Stalin, Voroshilov, Molotov, Mikoyan)
(In margin: Comrade Kalinin – In favor. Comrade Kaganovich – In favor.)