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Thu Apr 5, 2012, 05:54 PM

They were put in a cell and murdered for who they were. [View all]

72 years ago last night the Soviet secret police, the NKVD, began removing Polish prisoners from the camps where they had been kept since last September, when the Soviet Union overran half of Poland in concert with Nazi Germany's invasion of the other half. The Polish Second Republic enlisted anyone who had graduated college as at minimum a reserve officer in the Polish army, meaning that the 8,000 officers the Soviet Union had captured included many of Poland's best and brightest: dozens of university professors, hundreds of doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, and journalists. They had also arrested 6,000 police officers, and another 8,000 civilians on suspicion of being "intelligence agents, gendarmes, landowners, saboteurs, factory owners, lawyers, officials and priests."

The Poles were told that they were being released and allowed to return home after their six months of captivity. 395 of the prisoners were deemed to be "of value" by the NKVD; the rest were taken out in groups of 250 every night.

They weren't being taken home. It had been decided a month earlier that if the Poles were released, they would likely end up opposing Soviet rule of Poland. Instead, most were being taken to an isolated location near Katyn Forest. There, they were searched for valuables. One man, named Adam Solski, was writing in his diary about the NKVD taking his wedding ring, when mid-sentence they came to get him.

Each man was placed on his knees in a specially soundproofed cell, and shot in the back of the head. Their bodies were stacked in trucks, and taken out to the forest to be dumped into open pits. When one pit was filled with layer upon layer of bodies, it would be covered over with dirt and a new one used.

Between the killings at Katyn and four other prison sites, by the end of the night over a thousand men were dead. By the end of a month's time, the NKVD executed at least 21,768 people.

One man, Vasili Blokhin, chief executioner of the NKVD, was reported to have personally shot 7,000 of the prisoners. He had supplied himself and the other executioners with German-made Walther pistols, primarily because the Soviet service pistols available were too powerful and had too much recoil--after the first few dozen murders, the executioner's hand might get sore.

***

I post this not just in remembrance of the victims, but in remembrance of history. In my opinion, the greatest problem in American politics right now is a failure to know and understand history. From the idealization of a rose-colored past as some kind of time of milk, honey, and American values, to the misuse of phrases like "police state" and "fascism," to the repeating of mistakes learned about long ago about progress and prohibition.

It's not a "police state" or "fascism" when you have to have healthcare coverage, or pay taxes, or can't indefinitely camp on other people's property, or someone gets arrested for committing a crime. If you want to know what fascism means, read about the Polish Jews who were rounded up by the SS in late 1939 and forcibly marched away from their homes, hundreds of miles on foot. The old or sick who fell behind would be shot. Some of the troops would take women away at night and gang rape them, followed by a bullet to the head. When the survivors reached the river that divided German-occupied Poland from the Soviet side, their shoes fallen apart and feet bleeding, some cut to the bone, they were forced at gunpoint to swim the river. Ninety lived to make it across: when the march had begun, there had been almost a thousand of them.

Fascism means you might be murdered because you might oppose the government, or because your mother was a gypsy, or your uncle was a dissident. A police state means having the bodies of your family, still inside the wrecked train car where they died in a collision, hastily buried alongside the track where the accident happened because it might embarrass the government, and being forbidden to take personal effects, photos, or even to talk about it--which is what happened in China just last July. Repression is having military units shelling civilian neighborhoods because the people there had the audacity to demand free and fair elections.

Using words like that to describe a policy in a democratic country, even policies you disagree with in the strongest terms, not only devalues and disrespects the struggles of the people who suffered, died, and still do today under repressive and autocratic dictatorships, but it represents the kind of bourgeois attitude to history and fact that makes rational discourse impossible as a nation.

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Reply They were put in a cell and murdered for who they were. [View all]
TheWraith Apr 2012 OP
indepat Apr 2012 #1
sudopod Apr 2012 #2
Bluenorthwest Apr 2012 #3
bbgrunt Apr 2012 #9
dixiegrrrrl Apr 2012 #10
EmeraldCityGrl Apr 2012 #11
woo me with science Apr 2012 #22
Wait Wut Apr 2012 #4
K Gardner Apr 2012 #5
freshwest Apr 2012 #6
gratuitous Apr 2012 #7
sudopod Apr 2012 #8
midnight Apr 2012 #17
MisterP Apr 2012 #12
Flying Squirrel Apr 2012 #13
stupidicus Apr 2012 #14
ScreamingMeemie Apr 2012 #15
stupidicus Apr 2012 #20
pacalo Apr 2012 #16
stupidicus Apr 2012 #21
pacalo Apr 2012 #25
woo me with science Apr 2012 #23
Rex Apr 2012 #18
Fumesucker Apr 2012 #19
Ikonoklast Apr 2012 #26
woo me with science Apr 2012 #24