Re: Katyn -- the IMT spat
David Thompson wrote:
Here is how the issue of Katyn was argued at the IMT proceedings, prior to the witness testimony:
From IMT proceedings vol. 7:
COL. POKROVSKY: I should now like to turn to the brutalities committed by the Hitlerites towards members of the Czechoslovakian, Polish, and Yugoslavian Armies. We find, in the Indictment, that one of the most important criminal acts for which the major war criminals are responsible was the mass execution of Polish prisoners of war, shot in the Katyn Forest near Smolensk by the German fascist invaders.
I submit to the Tribunal, as a proof of this crone, official documents of the special commission for the establishment and the investigation of the circumstances which attended the executions. The commission acted in accordance with a directive of the Extraordinary State Commission of the Soviet Union. In addition to
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members of the Extraordinary State Commission-namely Academicians Burdenko, Alexis Tolstoy, and the Metropolitan Nicolas- this commission was composed of the President of the Pan-Slavonia Committee, Lieutenant General Gundorov; the chairman of the Executive Committee of the Union of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, Kolesnikov; of the People's Commissar for Education in the R.S.S.F.R., Academician Potemkin; the Supreme Chief of the Medical Department of the Red Army, General Smirnov; and the Chairman of the District Executive Committee of Smolensk, Melnikov. The commission also included several of the best known medicolegal experts.
It would take too long to read into the record that precise and detailed document which I now submit to you as Exhibit Number USSR-54 (Document Number USSR-54), which is a result of the investigation. I shall read into the record only a few comparatively short excerpts. On Page 2 of the document, which is Page 223 in your document book, we read-this passage is marked in your file:
"According to the estimates of medico-legal experts, the total number of bodies amounts to over 11,000. The medico-legal experts carried out a thorough examination of the bodies exhumed, and of the documents and material evidence found on the bodies and in the graves. During the exhumation and examination of the corpses, the commission questioned many witnesses among the local inhabitants. Their testimony permitted the determination of the exact time and circumstances of the crimes committed by the German invaders."
I believe that I need not quote everything that the Extraordinary Commission ascertained during its investigation about the crimes of the Germans. I only read into the record the general conclusions, which. summarize the work of the commission. You will find the lines read into the record on Page 43 of Exhibit Number USSR-54 if you turn to the original document, or on Page. 264 of your document book:
"On perusal of all the material at the disposal of the special communion, that is, the depositions of over 100 witnesses questioned, the data of the
medico-legal experts, the documents and the material evidence and belongings taken from the graves in Katyn Forest, we can arrive at the following definite conclusions:
"1. The Polish prisoners of war imprisoned in the three camps west of Smolensk and engaged in railway construction before the war, remained there after the occupation of Smolensk by the Germans, right up to September 1941.
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"2. In the autumn of 1941, in Katyn Forest, the German occupational authorities carried out mass shootings of the Polish prisoners of war from the above-mentioned camps.
"3. Mass shootings of Polish prisoners of war in Katyn Forest were carried out by German military organizations disguised under the specific name, 'Staff 537, Engineer Construction Battalion,' commanded by Oberleutnant Arnes and his colleagues, Oberleutnant Rex and Leutnant Hott.
"4. In connection with the deterioration, for Germany, of the general military and political machinery at the beginning of 1943, the German occupational authorities, with a view to provoking incidents, undertook a whole series of measures to ascribe their own misdeeds to organizations of the Soviet authorities, in order to make mischief between the Russians and the Poles.
"5. For these purposes:
"a. The German fascist invaders, by persuasion, attempts at bribery, threats, and by barbarous tortures, endeavored to find 'witnesses' among the Soviet citizens from whom they obtained false testimony, alleging that the Polish prisoners of war had been shot by organizations of the Soviet authorities in the spring of 1940.
"b. The German occupational authorities, in the spring of 1943, brought from other places the bodies of Polish prisoners of war whom they had shot, and laid them in the turned up graves of Katyn Forest with the dual purpose of covering up the traces of their Own atrocities and of increasing the numbers of 'victims of Bolshevist atrocities' in Katyn Forest. "
c. While preparing their provocative measures, the German occupational authorities employed up to 500 Russian prisoners of war for the task of digging up the graves in Katyn Forest. Once the graves had been dug, the Russian prisoners of war were shot by the Germans in order to destroy thus all proof and material evidence on the matter.
"6. The date of the legal and medical examination determined, without any shadow of doubt:
"a. That the time of shooting was autumn 1941.
"b. The application by the German executioners, when shooting Polish prisoners of war, of the identical method-a pistol shot in the nape of the neck-as used by them in the mass murders of the Soviet citizens in other towns, especially in Orel, Voronetz, Krasnodar and in Smolensk itself."
THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will now recess.
[The Tribunal recessed until 1400 Hours.]
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COL.POKROVSKY: Point 7 of the general conclusions of the Extraordinary State Commission of the Soviet Union, on which I reported in the preceding session, states:
"The conclusions reached, after studying the affidavits and medico-legal examinations concerning the shooting of Polish military prisoners of war by Germans in the autumn of 1941, fully confirmed the material evidence and documents discovered in the Katyn graves.
"8. By shooting the Polish prisoners of war in Katyn Forest, the German fascist invaders consistently realized their policy for the physical extermination of the Slav peoples."
Here follow the signatures of all the members of the Commission.
from vol. 9
Another supplementary request is concerned with the following: In the session of 14 February 1946 the Soviet Prosecution submitted that a German military formation, Staff 537, Pioneer Battalion, carried out mass shootings of Polish prisoners of war in the forests near Katyn. As the responsible leaders of this formation, Colonel Ahrens, First Lieutenant Rex, and Second Lieutenant Hodt were mentioned.
As proof the Prosecution referred to Document USSR-64. It is an official report of the Extraordinary State Commission of the Soviet Union which was ordered to investigate the facts of the well-known Katyn case. The document I have not yet received. As a result of the publication of this speech by the Prosecution in the press, members of the staff of the Army Group Center, to which Staff 537 was directly subordinate and which was stationed 4 to 5 kilometers from Staff 537, came forward. These people stated that the evidence upon which the Prosecution have based the statement submitted was not correct.
The following witnesses are mentioned in this connection:
Colonel Ahrens, at that time commander of 537, later chief of army armament and commander of the auxiliary army; First Lieutenant Rex, probably taken as a prisoner of war at Stalingrad; Lieutenant Hodt, probably taken prisoner by the Russians in or near Konigsberg; Major General of intelligence troops, Eugen Oberhauser, probably taken prisoner of war by the Americans; First Lieutenant Graf Berg -- later ordnance officer with Field Marshal Von Kluge -- a prisoner of war in British hands in Canada. Other members of the units which are accused
are still to be mentioned. I name these
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witnesses to prove that the conclusion as to the complicity of Goering drawn by the Prosecution in the above-mentioned statement is not justified according to the Indictment.
This morning I received another communication bearing on the same question, which calls for the following request: Professor Naville, professor of forensic medicine at the University of Geneva, carried out, with an international commission at Smolensk, investigations of the bodies at that time. He established from the state of preservation of these corpses, from the notes found in the pockets of their clothes, and other means of evidence, that the deed must have been committed in the year 1940.
Those are my requests.
THE PRESIDENT: If you will put in those requests in writing, the Tribunal will consider them.
from vol. 13
COL. POKROVSKY: The Defendant Goering is applying, My Lord, for the calling of supplementary witnesses in connection with the Katyn Forest shootings to clarify the matter from the point of view of the Wehrmacht. That is to say he intends to prove that German Armed Forces were not in any way concerned with this Hitler provocation. The Prosecution of the Soviet Union categorically protests.
THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Pokrovsky. we have this matter fully in our mind as we have already had to consider it; therefore, it is not necessary for you to deal with it in detail, for I understand that these are new witnesses who have not before been applied for.
COL. POKROVSKY: I had in mind the fact that the new witnesses have been called and I would like to inform the Tribunal of our exact point of view with regard to the calling of the new witnesses, without going into detail about the Katyn Forest incident. The Soviet Prosecution, from the very beginning, considered the Katyn Forest incident as common knowledge. The Tribunal can see, by the limited space allotted to this crime in the Indictment and by the fact that we found it possible to limit ourselves to reading into
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the record only a few short excerpts from the report of the Commission, that we consider this episode to be only an episode. If the question mentioned by Sir David should be raised, that is, the fact that the Tribunal may have doubts about the credibility of certain witnesses or certain documents accepted as evidence - then, once again, we would be forced to present new evidence in order to discredit the new material again presented by the Defense.
Thus, if the Tribunal considers it necessary to admit two new witnesses relative to the Katyn Forest shootings, the Soviet Prosecution will find itself obliged to call about ten more new witnesses who are experts and specialists, and to present to the Tribunal new evidence put at our disposal and which we have recently received - new documents.
Furthermore, we shall have to return to the question of reading into the record all of the documents of the Special Commission, excerpts from which were read before the Tribunal. We think that it will greatly delay the proceedings, and it will not be a matter of hours but of days. So far as we are concerned, there is no necessity for doing this, and I think that this request should be refused, since there is absolutely no basis or reason for it. That, My Lord, is what I wanted to say in regard to the Defendant Goering's application.
from vol. 15
GENERAL R. A. RUDENKO (Chief Prosecutor for the U.S.S.R.): Members of the Tribunal, the Soviet Prosecution have several times expressed their view respecting the application of Defense Counsel to call witnesses with regard to the mass shooting of Polish officers by the Fascist criminals in Katyn Forest.
Our position is that this episode of criminal activity on the part of the
Hitlerites has been fully established by the evidence presented by the Soviet Prosecution, which was a communication of the special Extraordinary State Commission investigating the circumstances of the mass shooting of Polish officer prisoners of war by the German Fascist aggressors in Katyn Forest. This document was presented by the Soviet Prosecution under the Document Number USSR-54 on 14 February
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1946, and was admitted by the Tribunal; and, as provided by Article 21 of the Charter, it is not subject to argument.
Now the Defense once again are putting in an application for the calling of
three supplementary witnesses-a psychiatrist, Stockert; a former adjutant of the Engineer Corps, Bohmert; and a special expert of the staff of the Army Group Center, Eichborn.
We object to the calling of these three witnesses for the following reasons:
The calling of the psychiatrist Stockert as a witness must be considered
completely pointless as the Tribunal cannot be interested in the question of how the commission drew its conclusion-a conclusion which was published in a Hitlerite White Book. No matter how this conclusion was drawn, the fact of the mass shooting of Poles by Germans in Katyn Forest has been unequivocally established by the Soviet Extraordinary State Commission.
Stockert himself is not a doctor of forensic medicine but a psychiatrist-at that time a member of the Hitlerite commission, not on the basis of his competence in the field of forensic medicine, but as a representative of the German Fascist military command.
The former adjutant, Captain Bohmert, is himself a participant in the crimes of Katyn Forest, having been a member of the Engineer Corps which carried out the executions. As he is an interested party, he cannot give any useful testimony for clarifying the circumstances of this matter.
Third, the expert of the staff of the Army Group Center also cannot be admitted as a witness because he, in general, knew nothing at all about the camp of the Polish prisoners of war, and could not have known all that pertained to the matter. The same reasons apply to his potential testimony to the fact that the Germans never perpetrated any mass shooting of Poles in the district of Katyn.
Moreover, Eichborn cannot be considered an unprejudiced witness.
Regardless of these objections which express the opinion of all the prosecutors, the Soviet Prosecution especially emphasize the fact that these bestial crimes of the Germans in Katyn were investigated by the special authoritative State Investigating Committee, which went with great precision into all the details.
The result of this investigation has established the fact that the crimes in
Katyn were perpetrated by Germans, and are but a link in the chain of many bestial crimes perpetrated by the Hitlerites, a great many proofs of which have previously been submitted to the Tribunal.
For these reasons the Soviet Prosecution categorically insists on the rejection of the application of the Defense Counsel.
I have finished my statement.
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DR. OTTO STAMMER (Counsel for Defendant Goering): May I make a brief statement with reference to General Rudenko's motion?
General Rudenko wishes to reject my application for evidence, referring to Article 21, I believe, of the Charter. I do not believe that this regulation opposes my application. It is true of course, that government reports are evidence...
THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Stahmer, I think the Tribunal has already ruled that that article does not prevent the calling of witnesses; but General Rudenko, in addition to an argument based upon Article 21, also gave particular reasons why he said that these particular witnesses were not witnesses who ought to be called. He said that one of them was a psychiatrist, and the other one could not give any evidence of any value. We should like to hear you upon that.
DR. STAHMER: In the report submitted by the Soviet Union, the charge is made that members of the engineer staff which was stationed near Katyn carried out the execution of these Polish officers. They are mentioned by name, and I am bringing counter-evidence-namely members of the same staff-to prove that during the whole time that this staff was stationed there no killings of Polish officers occurred. I consider this is a pertinent assertion and a presentation of relevant evidence. One cannot eliminate a witness by saying that he was involved in the act. With reference to these people, that is not yet settled, and it is not mentioned at all in the record.
Neither are these people, whom I have now named, listed in the Russian record as having taken part in the deed. Apart from that, I consider it out of the question to eliminate a witness by saying that he committed the deed. That is what has to be proved by hearing him.
THE PRESIDENT: About the psychiatrist, was he a member of the German commission?
DR. STAMMER: Yes.
THE PRESIDENT: He was a member of it?
DR. STAMMER: Yes. He was present at the unloading, and he ascertained from the condition of the corpses that the executions must have been carried out at some time before the occupation by the German Army.
THE PRESIDENT: But he does not actually say in the application that he was a member. He said he was present during the visit of the military commission; he knows how the resolution of the commission was produced.
DR. STAMMER: I do not think he was an appointed member, but he took part in this inspection and in the duties connected with it.
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As far as I know, he was a regimental doctor in some regiment near-he was a regimental doctor of a regimental staff in the vicinity.
THE PRESIDENT: Very well, we will consider your argument.