Category Archives: Katyn

Dr. Chodakiewicz speaks about Katyn and Smolensk at the Second Polonia Forum

On Saturday, April 18, Dr. Marek Jan Chodakiewicz took part in the Second Polonia Forum, a Polish-American conference held at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Częstochowa in Doylestown, PA, and was sponsored by the Smolensk Disaster Commemoration Committee.

Dr. Chodakiewicz’s lecture, which was part of the panel on “the Katyn Crime 75 Years Later,” was entitled “the Legacy of Hopelessness: Katyn and Smolensk.” It addressed the historical and political contexts of the Katyn Forest Massacre (spring 1940), the genocidal Soviet extermination of 22,000 Polish officers (and other members of the national elite), and the suspicious Smolensk Crash (April 10, 2010), which saw the deaths of Poland’s president, the late Lech Kaczyński, and 95 additional members of his entourage, who constituted Poland’s patriotic pro-Western elite. More specifically, Dr. Chodakiewicz spoke about the feelings of helplessness that these two historical disasters engendered and the ways to remedy them. We are reproducing his speech below:


Ladies and Gentlemen:

In the case of Katyn and Smolensk, we have both good news and bad news. The good news is that, eventually, the truth always surfaces. As far as Katyn is concerned, no one today — except for liars and Stalinist fanatics — denies that the crime was committed by the Soviets. How is this possible? Well, in short, we eventually gained access to the documents. The longer answer is: memory. We remembered Katyn, regardless of the consequences and circumstances.

What is memory? It is whatever we chose from the present to salvage it from extermination by time. Thus, we preserve the crumbs of past experiences which are important for various reasons. There are two kinds of memory: a collective one that is public and group-centric; and an individual one that is private and family-based. Collective memory is often expressed through symbols. Characteristically, the Crucifix frequently functions as such a symbol, itself being a symbol of suffering and victory. The crying injustice of Katyn, which is commonly referred to in Poland as the “Golgotha of the East,” is often expressed through the Cross or the Virgin Mary. Smolensk — the symbol of post-communist and post-Soviet pathologies — was also commemorated by the Cross.

Public memory only appears to be abstract, theoretical, and symbolic. In reality, it coalesces with individual, personal, and family memory. For me, for instance, Katyn also means Second Lieutenant Symeon Kazimierz Chodakiewicz and Rotamaster Jan Fuhrman. The former was my grandfather’s cousin, the latter was the godfather of my uncle, Stasiu Wellisz. Smolensk, in turn, brings to mind Janusz Kurtyka and Andrzej Przewoźnik, both of whom were historians. I recall Janusz Kurtyka particularly warmly, for he was one of the few professional historians to help our efforts to debunk the false and malicious narratives surrounding the history of the National Armed Forces. We remember people and create symbols. In the short-term, that is very little, but in the long-term, it is the foundation.

And now, the bad news. In the short-term, memory is insufficient because remembering the victims does not translate into political compensation or atonement. After all, the victims weren’t strong enough to resist the aggression, and their heirs weren’t strong enough to obtain justice. Moreover, the mighty of this world did not want to hear complaints. This is an experience that is universal and does not apply solely to the Poles. For example, right after the Second World War, practically no one cared to hear about the Holocaust. The doyen of Holocaust studies in the US, Professor Raul Hilberg, was criticized sharply by his dissertation advisor and other professors. They warned him that delving into the extermination of the Jews would spell the end of his career. For almost ten years no one would publish his opus. The topic was eventually popularized only because of his strong will, meticulous research, discipline, and strategy. It also helped that a Jewish philanthropist not only financed the printing of the book but also purchased the entire print run. The breakthrough occurred only during the 1960s. It is unrealistic to expect immediate success without any effort or support. The same applies to Polish issues.

The geopolitics and geostrategy of foreign powers call for permanent Polish impotence. Why? Because the mighty prefer to cut deals among themselves. The Poles, however, irritate everybody with their importunity and constant search for truth and justice. After all, it is clear that both the US and Britain knew about Katyn, but the governments of the two countries did not want to know about it. Winston Churchill told his personal secretary: “For God’s sake, let’s not talk about it in public, but it is clear that the Bolsheviks murdered the Poles.” US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt sent his friend as a private emissary to Europe to deal with the Katyn issue. After returning home, he informed FDR that the Polish officers were shot by the Soviets. The president ordered him to keep his mouth shut, but when his friend threatened to expose the truth in the press, FDR had him impressed into the military and sent off to Samoa. The Poles were, quite simply, an inconvenience. Their interests did not matter; the alliance with Stalin did. The Red Army was fighting and, although Soviet troops were dying as well, they kept killing and pushing the Germans westward. Hence, the Western Allies did not have to pay a high price in blood. Furthermore, FDR hoped especially that Stalin would become his future partner in the postwar world government known as the United Nations Organization. Thus, it was convenient to consider the Katyn case closed and to agree with Stalin’s version: the Germans did it.

Given such an ideological and geopolitical atmosphere, Soviet agents of influence had a much easier job, particularly since it had its tentacles even at the highest level of the US government: in the White House. Harry Hopkins, Harry Dexter White, and Lauchlin Currie all worked for Stalin. The last named was FDR’s personal secretary. It was this trio that provided the NKVD with all the details the Chekists wanted to know. One example was the presidential approach to Katyn, or, in general, all other Polish issues. Since FDR generally couldn’t care less, the Soviet dictator knew how to negotiate with him. The only concern was for all of this not to surface prematurely, lest the Polonia not vote for the Democratic candidate.

In the lower tiers of the US federal government, including the Office of War Information and other agencies, communist agents launched attacks against anyone who wanted to amplify the Katyn case. For example, Polish-American radio programs were the victims of such attacks; their owners were either threatened or the programs were simply shut down. “Dirt-digging” and character assassination [Rufmord] campaigns were routinely waged against people wishing to expose the truth about Katyn. The anti-Polish campaign hit its lowest point when the main newspaper of the US military, Stars and Stripes, published a caricature of a Polish officer “supposedly” shot at Katyn. Nota bene, one of the communist moles in the OWI then engaged in combating the truth about Katyn later resurfaced in the communist-occupied Polish People’s Republic and did the very same thing in the capacity of the editor-in-chief of the red Trybuna Ludu [People’s Tribune]. This time, at least, he was officially on the communist payroll.

Discrediting alternative narratives about Katyn and supporting Moscow’s propaganda line were routine in the US during the war. It is important to keep in mind these mechanisms and to verify if and how they apply to the Smolensk Crash. It will be a very interesting endeavor to test the validity of theories arguing that similar mechanisms of deception are behind both Katyn and Smolensk.

Let us look at the case of Smolensk in the West. The Poles are once again inconvenient. And yet again the Western powers fail to support Poland as a matter of official policy. Smolensk is considered a closed case, yesterday’s news. The White House has practically buried the issue: it was an accident, pilot error, and now let’s move on. It doesn’t matter that there was no serious, thorough investigation and that Russia is dictating the discourse. Without the President’s permission, or a presidential order, the intelligence community cannot conduct its own separate investigation.

Naturally, there are a few individual exceptions in the US. A handful of conservative Congressmen and Senators is interested in Smolensk. The intelligence community is unofficially gathering materials and hoping for a better political climate. Some of our professors from the Institute of World Politics have been helping for a long time as well.

What can we do to overcome helplessness? Napoleon used to say: money, money, and more money. But money is only a means to an end. We have to also know how to grease the wheels to get to the desired destination. Above all, we need three things: ideas, strategy, and cadres. The idée is “national,” and therefore the continuation of tradition in the new conditions of post-modernity. Strategy is required to ensure that our ideas win and to prevent our children from becoming victims. In other words, it is about might and power, i.e. “peace through strength.” The cadres devise the tactics, i.e. immediate maneuvers leading to the main objective. The cadres will take care of the logistics and will establish organizations, in addition to fundraising and communications.

Where would the financial backing come from? Everyone has $10 that could be donated monthly to a cause close to their heart. On the other hand, like my Californian Foster Mother likes to say: the Polonia has long tongues, which it wags constantly while chattering about Poland and other causes; but it also has short arms, which makes it incapable of writing checks to support vital initiatives. Thus, the Polonia has to be told bluntly: “Put your money where your mouth is. Put up, or shut up.”

Dr. Chodakiewicz lectures about Katyn at the Polish Museum of America

Katyn Truth RemembranceOn Sunday, February 8, Dr. Marek Chodakiewicz delivered an address at the Polish Museum of America in Chicago during the opening of the exhibition “Katyn: Truth and Remembrance.” The following is a summary of Dr. Chodakiewicz’s remarks.

The Katyn Forest Massacre, during which the Soviet NKVD killed 26,000 Polish officers and other members of Poland’s elite, is a symbol. First, it is a symbol of the pathology of twentieth-century totalitarianism with all its mass murder, deception, and willful blindness. Secondly, it is a symbol of martyrology and the extermination of the flower of Poland’s elite. A people without an elite struggle to remain a conscious nation but, instead, turn into passive “ethnographic material.”

Why should we remember Katyn? It is humans – not beasts – who remember and honor their dead. The Poles were not allowed properly to bury and mourn the victims of Katyn for half a century. Officially, they were not allowed to remember them. The natural or divine law was thus violated by positive or man-made law, in this case Soviet communist “law” (show trials, executions, terror, and censorship).

To remember is to know. Knowledge is indispensable to make informed decisions, and we learn from experience. We pass on knowledge from generation to the next. That is why tyrants have always attempted to kill memory, as did king Creon of Thebes in Sophocles’ Antigone. The heroine, who buried her brother’s body, in spite of Creon’s edict banning it, was reproached by the tyrant, who asked why she dared to disobey his laws. Antigone answered:

Yes, for it was not Zeus who gave them forth,
Nor Justice, dwelling with the Gods below,
Who traced these laws for all the sons of men;
Nor did I deem thy edicts strong enough,
Coming from mortal man, to set at nought
The unwritten laws of God that know not change.
They are not of to-day nor yesterday,
But live for ever, nor can man assign
When first they sprang to being. Not through fear
Of any man’s resolve was I prepared
Before the Gods to bear the penalty
Of sinning against these. That I should die
I knew, (how should I not?) though thy decree
Had never spoken. And, before my time
If I should die, I reckon this a gain;
For whoso lives, as I, in many woes,
How can it be but death shall bring him gain?
And so for me to bear this doom of thine
Has nothing painful. But, if I had left
My mother’s son unburied on his death,
I should have given them pain. But as things are,
Pain I feel none. And should I seem to thee
To have done a foolish deed, ‘tis simply this,-
I bear the charge of folly from a fool.

What do the totalitarians want to remember? Nothing! The Maoist cannibal, Joseph Kabila of the Congo, killed old people specifically because they shaped the young. In a pre-literate society it was a winning formula. After thirty years, he was able to capture power thanks to the amnesia he thus imposed on the masses.

What do we know? Katyn is just the tip of the iceberg. The Bolshevik mass-murder machine began operating as soon as the communists seized power in Russia in 1917. First, they targeted the Polish nobility of the eastern borderlands of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, followed by the intelligentsia, priests, social activists, and even boy and girl scouts. Then, during the so-called “liberal” 1920s in the USSR, the Bolshevik regime combated the Catholic Church and its lay followers. In 1929 – 1933, the Poles, and especially the petty nobility of the Minsk and Kyiv areas, was overrepresented among the victims of Stalin’s collectivization and finished-off during the “dekulakization” operation in 1935. As Dr. Tomasz Sommer has demonstrated in his book, the greatest peacetime genocide of the interwar period, the “Anti-Polish Operation” of the NKVD, was ordered by Stalin and the Politburo and lasted from August 1937 until November 1938. The Soviet chekists targeted ethnic Poles as alleged “spies” and even searched for Polish-sounding names in the phone books to fulfill the plan of extermination. As a result, up to 250,000 Soviet Poles – usually men between the ages of 16 and 65 – perished.

The deportations of Poles to Siberia and mass executions after 1939, including Katyn, were the logical continuation of this orgy of totalitarian madness. The postwar communist terror was its final chapter. Thus, for example, in August of 1945, during the Augustów Dragnet, the NKVD rounded up thousands of suspected Polish resistance fighters and killed many of them. The Poles continued to be the enemy nation. In fact, twice the number of NKVD regiments were stationed in the Soviet-occupied rump Poland after the war than were in the USSR’s occupation zone in East Germany.

The objective of all this was to destroy the Polish Nation via the extermination of the conscious broadly-understood elite! The people would become mere ethnographic material, like putty in the hands of the communist social engineers, not a nation.

Stalin and the Politburo considered Poland enemy number one long after it was warranted on the account of the Polish-Bolshevik War of 1919-1921. Why? Because the Poles were able to project a universalistic message, the power of the Commonwealth, to organize the Intermarium in a just and decent way. And this the successors of the communists, the Soviets, the successors to the empire of the Tsars, wanted to obliterate.

Yet, we did not forget. We remember. And now the whole world knows, ironically because of the Smolensk Presidential Plane Crash. All wires and dispatches in 2010 mentioned Katyn. When President Lech Kaczyński was buried at the Wawel Cathedral, the funeral was not only his own, but also (finally) a collective official one for the victims of Katyn. In the US Army, the rule is to “leave no man behind.” The same principle is honored by the Polish military and the Polish nation. To remember is not to leave behind.

Now that we know about Katyn, we can move forward. Nevertheless, historians and other concerned individuals must remain in the rear and resolve a few more issues. First, we must finally obtain the Belarussian Katyn List. Secondly, we must thoroughly research the anti-Polish operation of the NKVD (1937-1938). What we have so far is only an introduction to further research. Third, we must delve into the anti-Polish aspects of the Soviet democide of the late 1920s and early 1930s. Fourth, we must unearth the tragic fate of the Poles during the revolution and civil war in Russia (1917 – 1921). Fifth, we must zero in on Communist crimes after 1945. We owe it to the victims to remember.

Three years after the Smolensk Crash

Less than a month ago was the third anniversary of the tragic Smolensk Plane Crash, which was a great blow to our Polish ally within NATO. In a recent SFPPR News & Analysis article, Paweł Styrna summed up the many suspicious developments in the case that have continued to surface in the past three years, thereby demonstrating that the crash is by no means “yesterday’s news.”

Paweł Styrna is a student of international relations at The Institute of World Politics and a researcher and administrative assistant for the Kościuszko Chair of Polish Studies and the Institute. He is also a Eurasia analyst for SFPPR and has written and lectured on the Smolensk Plane Crash.

The views expressed in the article below are solely Mr. Styrna’s and do not necessarily reflect those of the Institute of World Politics or the Kościuszko Chair of Polish Studies.

Smolensk: An inconvenient tragedy
Three years following the suspicious Smolensk Plane Crash new developments and evidence continue to surface.

SFPPR News & Analysis
By Paweł Piotr Styrna
April 22, 2013

The Smolensk Plane Crash claimed the lives of the President of Poland, his wife, and 94 other members of the country’s patriotic and pro-American political and military elite.

Three years have passed since the suspicious Smolensk Plane Crash of April 10, 2010. During this time, new developments in the case occurred and evidence continued to surface. Most disturbingly, these findings have anything but dispelled doubts about the veracity of the official, FSB/KGB-manufactured Moscow-Warsaw “pilot error” line. Instead, they have consistently pointed in the direction of foul play. Since the mainstream media and public opinion in the West do not appear to have been following these developments or registered the geopolitical significance of Smolensk, it seems appropriate to elaborate on some of the more recent findings. For brevity’s sake, this article will mention only developments which occurred after mid-2012, for I have focused on the background and previous discoveries in two SFPPR News & Analyses articles.

Cyber attacks on the Polish Foreign Ministry

To begin with, we have learned that two cyber attacks—one on April 6, 2010, and another on April 10, i.e. the very day of the crash—temporarily crippled the Polish Foreign Ministry. Its employees thus had no access to servers with secret information, not to mention email or even telephones. On the day of the tragedy, the cyber attack even prevented the Foreign Ministry from receiving a list of passengers via email. This was discussed, in a June 2012 interview, by retired CIA new technologies and aviation expert, S. Eugene Poteat, who argued that it was quite likely that the culprits were hackers working for the post-Soviet regime in Moscow. After all, Russian cyber attacks had also paralyzed Estonia and Georgia (before the August 2008 invasion). Poteat, a professor at the DC-based Institute of World Politics, conducted the initial investigation of the crash that questions Russia’s claim the crash was a case of mere pilot error, leading others around the world to take a second look.

To continue reading this article, please visit SFPPR News & Analysis.

The Fifth Annual Kosciuszko Chair Conference is held at IWP

On Saturday, 3 November, the Institute hosted the Fifth Annual Kościuszko Chair Conference, dedicated to topics in Central and Eastern European culture, history, and current affairs. Prof. Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, the current holder of the Kościuszko Chair of Polish Studies, introduced each speaker while providing the introductory remarks and a running commentary to each presentation.

This year, the conference consisted of six lectures:

The Emergence of a German-Dominated Europe: Economic and Political Implications for Poland: Prof. Casmir Dadak (Hollins University)

Dr. Dadak – professor of economics at Hollins University – pointed out that the Euro Zone fails to meet the conditions of an “optimum currency area.” The economies and standards of living of the European Union’s many member states are simply too diverse.

The reasons commonly offered for the Euro Zone crisis are overspending, excessive debt, and rigid labor markets. Prof. Dadak, however, argues that these explanations miss the point. The Spaniards had cut spending and debt while liberalizing their labor market, but this did not save them for their present predicament. The Germans, on the other hand, maintained high spending and debt levels whilst conserving inflexible labor relations. Further, Germany has benefited from the Euro crisis. Berlin’s role in Europe is on the rise and no decisions are ever made in the Euro Area against its wishes.

The great chasm between the economies of Germany and Poland – particularly in terms of the standard of living and purchasing power – means that Warsaw should avoid joining the Berlin-dominated Euro Zone, argued Prof. Dadak. Surrendering her own sovereign currency would deprive Poland of key instruments to shape an economic policy favoring her own interests. Instead of accepting the Euro, Poland would be better advised, he continued, by decommunizing, cutting bureaucracy, and investing in infrastructure. Poland’s potential is great, but it has yet to be unleashed.

To view Prof. Dadak’s Power Point presentation, please click here:  The Emergence of a German-Dominated Europe: Economic and Political Implications for Poland

Prof. Marek Chodakiewicz  and Prof. Casmir Dadak

The Polish Operation of the NKVD: Dr. Tomasz Sommer (Institute of Globalization, Poland)

In addition to being a trained sociologist and the publisher of an influential conservative-libertarian weekly, Dr. Tomasz Sommer is also the author of the first monograph on the “Polish Operation” of the NKVD and a recognized authority on the subject.

The NKVD’s “Polish Operation” was an ethnic cleansing campaign claiming the lives of as many as 250,000 ethnic Poles in the Soviet Union in 1937-1938. This number constituted a substantial portion of the Bolshevik Empire’s Polish population. In fact, as an ethnic category, Soviet Poles were percentage-wise the greatest victim group during Stalin’s Great Purge. Also, the “Polish Operation” was the first instance in which the Soviets killed their victims based only on an ethnic criterion.

Simultaneously, the NKVD was also carrying out the bloody anti-Kulak Operation. Dr. Sommer, who researched the impact of both operations in the Minsk Oblast (District) of the Belarusian SSR, noted that the anti-Polish operation was far more destructive than the anti-kulak one in the district. The NKVD massacred and repressed the local Poles, in spite of the fact that many attempted to pass themselves off as “Belarusians” to survive.

The ethnic-based brutality of the “Polish Operation” demonstrates the degree to which Moscow wished to eradicate the last remnants of the legacy of the Polish-Lithuanian-Commonwealth in the region.

Dr. Sommer’s Power Point presentation may be viewed here:  The Polish Operation of the NKVD in the Minsk Oblast, BSSR: Statistics and Demographics

Dr. Tomasz Sommer

English-Speaking POW Witnesses to Katyn–The Coded Letters: Ms. Krystyna Piórkowska (Museum of the Polish Military, Warsaw)

Ms. Piórkowska is a researcher affiliated with the Museum of the Polish Military (Muzeum Wojska Polskiego) in Warsaw, Poland, and the author of the book English-Speaking Witnesses to Katyń: Recent Research (Warsaw: Muzeum Katyńskie and Muzeum Wojska Polskiego, 2012).

Her lecture was preceded by brief introductory remarks by Lt. Gen. Edward Rowny – America’s  chief negotiator during the arms reduction talks with the Soviets and ambassador to the START I talks – who recalled orders he had received in 1951, while fighting the communists in Korea, to remain silent on the Soviet role in Katyn.

Ms. Piórkowska’s presentation clarified this seemingly mysterious policy. The English-speaking POWs, including Americans, had been compelled by the Germans to travel to the excavated killing field in Katyn as witnesses. One of the US officers, Lt. Col. Van Vliet, sent a coded message to Washington, conveying his conviction that the Soviets were to blame. Roosevelt and his administration were aware of this, but covered-up the truth to appease their Soviet ally in the war against Germany. By the time of the Madden Committee in 1951-1952, the Van Vliet Report had disappeared. The congressional body, which concluded that the Soviets had massacred the Poles, feared exposing FDR’s indifference for political reasons.

Ms. Piórkowska also mentioned the story of Harrison Salisbury – the Pulitzer-Prize-winning liberal journalist and the New York Times’ Moscow bureau chief from 1949-1954 – who was also sent to Katyn as a “witness,” albeit on a Moscow-sponsored mission. The genocidal massacre of Polish officers had not made a great impression on Salisbury, who was much more concerned with the quality of the cabbage and sour cream in the borshch the Soviets has served him on the train. Thus, the entire truth about Katyn was an inconvenience for many on both sides of the Iron Curtain.    

To purchase Ms. Piórkowska’s new book, please click here.

Ms. Krystyna Piórkowska

“Polish Concentration Camps:” Cultural Prejudice in the U.S.: Ms. Paulina Migalska

The infamous canard – “‘Polish’ concentration camps,” the topic of Ms. Migalska’s MA thesis defended at the Jagiellonian University in Poland – has been perpetuated by the mainstream media for many years.

This unfortunate term originates in the claim that Poles collaborated with the German Nazis and helped to plunder and kill Jews during the Holocaust. This Soviet-spun myth evolved into the centerpiece of post-modernist pseudo-scholarship about the Shoah in Poland which has, in turn, dictated the popular perception of Polish-Jewish relations. The paradigm of Polish “collusion” with the Nazis against the Jews eventually generated such a gross distortion of history as the phrase “Polish concentration camps.”

Obviously, the Poles not only did not establish or man the German concentration and death camps in their occupied country, but were incarcerated and killed within them as well. Hence, as Ms. Migalska pointed out, most Poles are deeply offended by the great historic ignorance encapsulated in the canard. After years of protesting, the Polish-American community eventually succeeded in bringing some public attention to the matter and correcting the journalistic rule book.

Even so, President Obama’s “Polish death camp” remark, uttered in May 2012, of all circumstances, during a ceremony posthumously awarding the Medal of Freedom to Jan Karski (the legendary Polish courier who warned the West that the Germans were exterminating the Jews) shows that there is still much work to be done.

Ms. Migalska’s Power Point presentation may be viewed here:  “Polish” Concentration Camps: Cultural Prejudice in the U.S.

Ms. Paulina Migalska

Polish Catholic Priests in German Concentration Camps: Ms. Agnieszka Gerwel (Princeton University)

The German Nazis are often erroneously depicted as a conservative and Christian movement. In fact, the National Socialists were deeply anti-Christian, just as their totalitarian and revolutionary twins, the Communists. Viewing Christianity as a “Jewish plot” to “weaken” the Aryan race, they reserved particular ire for Catholicism, especially Polish Catholicism, as showed by the fate of Polish and other Catholic priests in the first German concentration camp of Dachau.

One of the prisoners was Ms. Gerwel’s relative, Father Antoni Gerwel, who perished in the camp in August of 1942. As she demonstrated, Polish clergymen formed the largest priestly contingent of Dachau inmates (1,780), followed by Germans (447), and Frenchmen (156). The men of the cloth were imprisoned together and were treated as brutally as any other political prisoners.

In 1940-1941, following an intervention by the Vatican, they were allowed to celebrate mass, but, as of October 1941, the Polish priests were deprived even of this concession. As a matter of fact, the German National Socialists killed more Polish Catholic priests than even the Soviets.

Ms. Gerwel’s presentation can be viewed here:  Polish Priests in Dachau, 1939-45 Story of Father Antoni Gerwel

Ms. Gerwel also published an article in Polish on the subject: Księża polscy w Dachau, 1939-1945

Ms. Agnieszka Gerwel

The Wellisz Family: Poland’s Free Market Pioneers: Mr. Pawel Styrna (IWPSelous Foundation for Public Policy Research)

The Wellisz Family is a great lacuna in Polish history, in spite of its contributions. Wilhelm Wellisch moved to Russian-ruled Poland in the late nineteenth century from Austrian Brno and built a business empire. His son and heir, Leopold Wellisz, expanded his father’s work and labored to accomplish his objective: the building of a viable, self-sufficient arms industry in resurrected Poland following the First World War. Given his assistance to his workers, none of his factories ever went on strike, in spite of the difficult economic times. Mr. Styrna argued that Leopold Wellisz could have achieved more in the interwar period had it not been for obstructionist measures by the state.

Since the German-Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939 forced Wellisz to leave Poland, he accepted a New-York-based position advising the Polish Ministry of Finance in 1941, despite comfortable arrangements in Switzerland. In the US, he struggled to obtain American assistance for the postwar reconstruction of Poland and combated anti-Polish propaganda of the Soviet or German pedigree. Public service meant that Leopold Welisz had to forego much more lucrative work in the private sector, but his faith and patriotism had always motivated him to labor for the common good. As a veritable polymath, he also focused on literary history and wrote works on the connections between famous Polish writers and Western literati, thereby hoping to emphasize that Polish culture was an intrinsic part of Western Civilization. He also discovered the works of the Polish poet Cyprian Norwid.

Yet, in spite of this fascinating history, the Wellisz Family remains virtually unknown, much to the detriment of Poles awakening from decades of totalitarian slavery.

Mr. Styrna’s presentation is available here:  The Wellisz Family: Poland’s Free Market Pioneers

Mr. Pawel Styrna

Katyn documents declassified

The Institute of World Politics and its Kościuszko Chair of Polish Studies have firmly and consistently supported endeavors to publicize historical documentation on all things pertaining to US-Polish relations, including the Katyn Forest Massacre. The Soviet-perpetrated genocidal operation claimed the lives of approximately 25,700 members of the Polish elite, including officers, policemen, and teachers. Thus, we view the Katyn declassification conference – which took place on Capitol Hill on Monday, 10 September 2012 – as a most welcome development and a step in the right direction.

The event crowned long-time efforts initiated by the Polish-American community for the US National Archives and Records Administration to declassify and release documents on the massacre. Instrumental in this push were the Libra Institute of Mrs. Maria Szonert-Binienda, which has collaborated with the Kościuszko Chair on Katyn; the US Katyn Council with branches in DC, MD, VA, NJ, NY, Il, CT, CA, FL, TX, and OH; Prof. Witold Łukaszewski of the Kresy-Siberia Foundation; and many others. In addition to the Polonia, representatives of the Polish Foreign Ministry and the US Congress played a prominent role throughout the event; Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) stressed the importance of declassification in her speech.

In the short-term, of course, publicizing the secrets of the past sometimes reveals ugly episodes. For instance, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his administration knew the truth about Katyn, but nevertheless intentionally chose to suppress it. Quite simply, FDR viewed appeasing the Soviets, in the context of the war against the Axis, as a greater priority than defending a “lesser” ally. In the long-term, however, the truth provides a more solid basis for good relations and national reconciliation.

The Katyn Forest Massacre might also serve as a useful case study from the perspective of genocide prevention.

To view the NARA website dedicated to the declassification process, please click here.  

-Paweł Styrna

Prof. Chodakiewicz elaborates on the genocidal character of the Katyn Massacre

In an exchange with diplomatic historian, Professor Emerita Anna Cienciala, Dr. Chodakiewicz has stressed both the genocidal and simultaneously classist nature of the Katyn Massacre of April-May 1940. Katyn constituted a mass slaughter by the Soviet NKVD, on Stalin’s direct orders, of almost 26,000 members of interwar Poland’s multiethnic and multiconfessional elite, including officers, policemen, and teachers. Prof. Chodakiewicz’s comments are a response to Prof. Cienciala’s uncertainty whether Katyn may be classified as a genocide, whether classism was a factor, and whether the crime was an attempt to exterminate Poland’s elites.

The polemic was published in the most recent edition of the Polish scholarly historical journal, Glaukopis (issue 23-24, 2011-2012, pp. 332-336).

To read the entire exchange, please click here: Cienciala – Chodakiewicz: An Exchange