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Exhuming Secrets: Why the Truth About the 1940 Katyn Massacre Won’t Stay Buried

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Publication Date: January 2008

Publisher(s): Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace

Author(s): Maciej Siekierski; Paul R. Gregory

Series: Hoover Digest

Topic: Government (Foreign relations)

Keywords: Russia; Katyn Massacre; Soviet Union

Type: Report

Coverage: Poland Soviet Union


The Katyn forest massacre remains a bitter memory for Poles and a major irritant in Russian-Polish relations. When Nazi soldiers found the graves in 1943 near Smolensk, Nazi propaganda czar Joseph Goebbels blamed Stalin’s troops, but the Soviets denied it, turning the blame back on the Germans.

Poland’s parliament continues to demand justice for the victims of Katyn and punishment for the perpetrators. Russian courts respond by minimizing Katyn as a rogue operation and insisting that the case is closed. Since April 1943, the successive regimes have pursued the same strategy: deny Russian responsibility for Katyn outright until denial was no longer possible, and then admit as little as possible.