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Another Katyn
Material posted: Publication date: 24-04-2017

In the years 1919-1922 in Polish captivity died about 30 thousand soldiers.

As previously reported, Poland's foreign Ministry expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that the Russian side placed in the military cemetery in Katyn, information stands with information about the red army soldiers who died in Polish captivity in the years 1919-1922. According to Warsaw, the number of dead prisoners is several times higher than the actual figures confirmed by Polish and Russian historians. "" addressed to the head of the Department of history of southern and Western Slavs of the historical faculty of Moscow state University named after M. V. Lomonosov, Professor, doctor of historical Sciences Gennady Matveyev, specially studied the fate of red army soldiers in Polish captivity.

18 October 1920, after 20 months setiasih, unfolding with a new force fighting on the Soviet-Polish front, the truce. March 18, 1921 in Riga, was signed peace Treaty between the Russian Federation (representing the interests of the Byelorussian SSR) and SSR on the one hand and Poland on the other. But even earlier, on 24 February 1921, Riga, negotiators signed an agreement on repatriation, which applies to prisoners of war. And in March through the border station in Baranovichi, Belarusian and Ukrainian Zdolbuniv went first echelons of prisoners by the red army. During the evacuation, the main phase of which lasted until mid-October 1921, returned home, according to Soviet sources, 75 699 prisoners of the camps.

Information stands with information about the red army soldiers who died in Polish captivity


Captivity is slavery (this is in Polish and the sound of that word), and every bondage is a tragedy for deprivation of liberty of a person. In 1907 in the Hague concluded a Convention "On the laws and customs of war", recommending standards of treatment of prisoners of war, that somehow this tragedy to soften. I must admit that during the First world war, the participants are more or less complied with voluntarily assumed obligations in relation to prisoners. So, in a German pow camp in Strzalkowo in 1915-1918 years died 506, although at that time in Germany there was a great shortage of food.

absolutely otherwise looked the situation in the same camp when, starting in may 1919, it was used by the poles. Two and a half years, according to the Polish sources, died in 7,5 thousand prisoners of war. Polish sources explain the high mortality rate of epidemic typhus. But then the question arises of how, according to the same sources, the prisoners would be free to leave the camps to earn money from the surrounding farmers. Indeed, in this case they would be carriers of the disease far beyond the camp. Given the presence in the Polish army sanitary service, dealing with threats of epidemics, it is somehow not hard to believe. So, there were other reasons for the mass is Mora prisoners of this and other institutions for prisoners.
In my own experience I know that any attempt to understand the causes and the scale of the disaster immediately cause accusations of Polish colleagues, officials and the media in seeking to downplay the scale of the Katyn crime. To do this, in Poland, even coined the term "anti-Katyn". And to clarify the fate of prisoners of war is necessary, and for this there are open sources in 2004 published a solid volume of documents and materials "Red army soldiers in Polish captivity in the years 1919-1922", compiled mainly from documents in the Polish archives.


1916. Brandenburg. A camp for Russian prisoners of war
Photo from the collection of P. Kamenchenko

During the First world war in German camps Convention "On the laws and customs of war" has mostly adhered to
Many died on the way

To understand the scale of the tragedy of Polish captivity is impossible without knowledge of how red it was. The range of opinions is great: from 110 to more than 200 thousand.

On the basis of daily reports of the operations Department of the Polish General command of the us it is estimated that in Polish hands during the war, was no less 206 877 red army soldiers. But not all of them really become prisoners. Someone was lucky to escape immediately after capture, someone released not to allocate soldiers for their protection and escort to the rear. Others included in the so-called "wild" (i.e., established without the permission of the Ministry of war) teams and left in the front parts, their fate is vague. But there were those who were shot without trial. Often shot Commissars, commanders, Communists, Chinese, and Jews, but also other categories of "prisoners of war" could not feel safe. The most notorious case, the execution of 199 prisoners on the orders of General Sikorski 24 August 1920 under McAvoy. And the wounded soldiers were left on the battlefield. Some of them survived, but many, especially in August and September, 1920, was killed by Polish self-defense units. Therefore, specialized institutions were not all caught in the hands of the poles, the red army, according to our calculations, these could not be less than 157 thousand.

The way prisoners from the front to the stationary camp was also difficult. First, they are pre-stripped and robbed, were sent to collection points for registration, as well as cash and food allowance. Then distributed to transit points in the front line. Conditions in them were heavy. Here is how he described in 1919, the situation in the team of the station Molodechno Deputy chief of the medical service of the Lithuanian-Byelorussian front, major Hanbal: "None of these accidents did not care, no wonder people unwashed, undressed, feeding poorly and improperly placed as a result of infection was doomed only to death..."

In the report of the Poznan military district command, dated 29 November 1920 noted that "transporting prisoners is not adjusted properly... Time traffic is usually calculated in two or three days, but in reality it lasts about six days. Prisoners get rations of food, typically bread, beans, two, maximum three days, and then starve. Hunger, cold, lack of warm clothing to the General weakening of prisoners leads to such exhaustion that during the way you die several prisoners. The same takes place after arrival in camp and in the first days of quarantine."

So, the train from Kovel in puławy in November 1920, with 700 prisoners was in transit for four days, and all this time they are not fed at all, although the train trip is intended for their food meat. "Meat was brought in frozen, and at the same time people are so hungry that a considerable part of them independently could not get out of cars and 15 people on the first day after his arrival, died." In going along the same route the other tier of the 300 prisoners had died 37.


1920. Poland. A column of prisoners of war
Photo from the collection of P. Kamenchenko
In the case of a sharp rise in the number of prisoners (in April-may and August 1920) created a temporary concentration camps without dwellings, kitchens, food and clothing supply, etc. It could be a normal area of the field, fenced with barbed wire where the prisoners were forced out into the rain and cold to sleep on the bare ground. In these camps there is a massive disease, typhus and relapsing fever, dysentery, influenza, cholera and even because of this high mortality rate.

The camp was a necropolis

Prisoners of war were housed in stationary camps Strzalkowo, Dąbie, Tuchola, Deblin, Brest-Litovsk, Wadowice. According to the accepted norms relied in each day by 500 grams of bread, 150 grams of meat, 700 grams of potatoes, 150 grams of raw vegetables or flour, various seasonings, as well as two 100-gram serving of coffee.

Assess the actual soldering contemporaries alike. The camp commander in Wadowice: "the Food of prisoners, raises doubts about its adequacy, but experience shows that for people who are not working either physically or mentally, it is enough..." More definitely on this subject were expressed by the authors of the report on the situation in Strzalkowo: "... prisoners Food is inadequate, especially during the winter months due to cold and lack of warm clothing. Lack of proper nutrition is one of the causes of poor health..."

A similar assessment of the ration given the prisoners the Communist barracks in Strzalkowo, which is not used in the work: "If the total power of the Communists can be regarded as satisfactory, this is not to say the power of the red army in the departments. Having in mind that they work, — a portion sufficient barely for us, too small for them. In addition, they mercilessly steal kitchen administration, due to poor production control... Prisoners of war, of course, are starving".

How they starved, evidenced by the story of the chief distribution station in puławy major Khlebovskoe about "bad prisoners" who are constantly choose from a dunghill "potato peelings to eat them: he was therefore forced to put manure near the guard. However, this is not enough... you will need this dung heap surrounded by barbed wire to protect there discarded peelings. Mr. major believes that the Bolsheviks specifically to do so, to spread unrest and ferment in Poland."


August 1920. Poland. Prisoners of war
Photo from the collection of P. Kamenchenko

The conditions of detention almost everywhere not met the requirements of normative documents of the Ministry of war, published in 1919. Prisoners were kept in damp, poorly heated, ill-ventilated barracks and huts, there was no straw mattresses and blankets, not to mention the bed linen, fed irregularly and from hand to mouth, including because of theft workers camp services. The rough and sometimes brutal treatment of prisoners, lack of clothing and shoes, low capacity baths, Laundry, disinfection plants are not allowed to provide normal sanitary conditions, and lack of essential drugs and insufficient number of places in the camp infirmaries led to epidemics of infectious diseases ranging from flu to typhoid and cholera. Often sick and healthy prisoners were kept together, leading to epidemics.

Commission of the International Committee of the red cross, examined in October, 1919 sanitary condition of the camp at Brest-Litovsk, stated: "... because of uninhabitable areas closely together to stay healthy prisoners of war and contagious patients, many of whom immediately died; of malnutrition, as evidenced by numerous cases of exhaustion; swelling, hunger (...) camp in Brest-Litovsk was a real necropolis".

It is better not to take prisoners at all

That camp in Brest-Litovsk was no exception, evidenced by the description of the Polish military physician Habita provisions in Bialystok: "Again the same criminal neglect of duties of all existing in the camp bodies... a Few hundred people paid for it with their lives and several hundred more will have to die ... In the camp at every step, the dirt, the untidiness, which is impossible to describe, neglect and human need crying out to heaven for retribution... You the barracks are overcrowded, among the "healthy" full of patients. In my opinion, among those 1,400 prisoners healthy just yet. Covered with rags, they huddle to each other, mutually warming. The stench of dysentery patients and affected with gangrene, swollen from hunger feet..."

Knowing the situation in the camps, the chief of the sanitary Department of the war Ministry, General Z. Hordinsky concluded: " is better not to take prisoners at all, than to let them die by the thousands from starvation or infection."

Even the war Minister, General K. Sosnkowski was forced in December 1920 to recognize in his order: "Order Inventel... concerning the proper treatment of prisoners, on their proper food, accommodation, clothing, as well as creating a tolerable sanitary conditions in the camps and at distribution stations the prisoners were not given till this day the desired result..."

Harsh living conditions, hunger, cold, illness was the reason for the high mortality rate in General young men. It is known that only in Strzalkowo and Tuchola died more than 11.5 thousand prisoners. But the prisoners died in other camps.

To obtain an accurate picture of mortality rates should take into account of the epidemic, when the mortality is increased four to five times, reaching 30 percent or more. Such epidemics had three in August-September 1919, in the winter of 1920 and winter of 1921. And each lasted two to three months. By simple arithmetic calculations we can determine that in total could die from 25 to 28 thousand people, that is, the mortality rate was approximately 18 percent. In the literature there are other data (Z. Karpus — 16-18 thousand, I. V. Michurina — 60 thousand).

October, 1920. A concentration station for prisoners of war
Photo from the collection of P. Kamenchenko
Who is to blame

The fate of the prisoners who did not return for the repatriation not dead in captivity, were different. The piece was captured from the poles during the Soviet counteroffensive in June-August 1920. About 30 thousand different motives joined the anti-Soviet formations on the side of Poland (P. Balakhovich, Petliura, B. Savinkov, etc.). Some of them moved to the Soviet side, came back under the Amnesty, announced in late 1921, was killed in the battle or remained in exile. Some of the prisoners mobilized in the Red army ceded to Poland, Western Belarus and Volhynia, they returned home. There are many testimonies about the shoots, including a good. And about one thousand just did not want to return.

Quite naturally the question of who was to blame for the inhumane conditions of captivity. On the one hand, blame the high command and the war Ministry, who were unable to create an effective system of detention of prisoners and did not provide monitoring of compliance with its instructions and orders. Here is what the above-mentioned Z. Hordinsky: "the Cause of evil, and where significant, and may the perpetrators will repent of is the sluggishness and indifference, neglect and failure to perform their duties..."

But even worse is that the fate of the prisoners of war were in the hands of the people, neither psychologically, nor professionally ready to perform their duties. Many of the officers who led the camps and work teams were convinced of their civilizational superiority of the "Asian barbarians" infected with xenophobia, were not always clean the hands, by stealing the products themselves and not interfering with subordinates to do it.

Of course, there were objective difficulties in the supply of food and clothing, fuel and medicines. But Poland did not survive the pandemics of infectious diseases and General hunger. In the tragedy of Polish captivity is clearly the fault of those who on duty had this tragedy in every way to warn you. Instead, they actually continued with the prisoners his personal war, without remorse and sense of relief leaving the defenseless wards of the cold, hunger, disease and painful dying.

Gennady Matveev

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