Tuesday, April 23, 2013


The Red Cross had definitively refused to send forensic scientists to Katyn and the Nazis were scrambling to find appropriate individuals who would be qualified and hopefully would not subvert their plan in agreeing to serve on the International Medical Commission.  In truth, Leonardo Conti (1900 Lugano-1945 Nuremberg), Head of the Reich Health Services (Reichsgesundheitsführer), Secretary of State for Health Affairs in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, head of the Nazi League of German Physicians or his subordinates were sending telegrams to various cities seeking either forensic specialists who were Polish or other nationals. The actual formation of the commission was delegated to Dr. Wilhelm Zietz, as a representative of Reichsgesundheitsführer Conti and in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
To be precise, the science of forensic medicine was just developing and the foremost specialists in the world were located in Europe.
Two of the (currently) best known members of the IMC fact is that both Dr. Naville and Dr. Miloslavich (Miloslavić) volunteered to serve on the International Medical Commission, while most of the other members were appointed; and Dr. Helge Tramsen discussed this issue in his testimony to the Madden Committee:
The very first invitation had come to my chief, Professor Sand, and he was a very old man…So he pointed me out because at that time, I was a military doctor… And may I add there that I had official orders from the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the Admiralty, to join the commission.

On the one hand, it could not be said of the remaining members that they sought out this journey to Katyn; conversely, the Germans did make an effort.  Dr. Tramsen noted (as did other members of the IMC, that:
(…) I took part in the commission of my own free will and have never been under any stress [sic] during those days by the Germans, the Danish government or any other authority… Yes. I had the absolutely free allowance [sic] to move about, take pictures with my own camera (It should be noted that generally when a group arrived at Katyn, their cameras were taken from them.), and was assisted by the Germans in any way during my scientific examinations and autopsies of the bodies (Tramsen also noted that by 1943, he had been a member of the Danish underground for about half a year).
The members arrived at the Hotel Adlon in Berlin, where they overnighted prior to their departure for Smolensk.  The Commission consisted of fifteen individuals; there was no one present from among the Allies, as the Germans were in a state of war with them, there was one German (Dr. Zietz) and the remainder came from the occupied countries or the few neutral nations.
Almost every one of the IMC members was a respected specialist in forensic medicine, generally a professor or docent.  The only exceptions were Dr. Costedoat, whom Dr. Tramsen, in his testimony, described as a psychologist (Dr. Tramsen discussed the French doctor: He was only as the Germans say, a, “Völkischer Beobachter.” Questioned by Rep. Machrowicz, he explained: That is a German joke because, “Völkischer Beobachter” is the name of an official Nazi paper and means public observer), as well as Professor Dr. Speleers.
In a detailed reading of the Testimony we learn how much evidence was given to the Committee by individual witnesses.  Dr. Tramsen brought a number of photographs on which not only Tramsen but individual graves are visible, but also the officer’s diaries, ‘ID books’, Polish currency, and ever a handwritten poem.  These materials were photographed and are included in the Hearings. Almost each one of the forensic specialists confirmed that he had taken an officer’s skull from the site – each of these acts being completely foreign to the contemporary follower of CSI.


©Krystyna Piórkowska