Friday, April 12, 2013


The first group of Polish representatives had returned from Katyn, and because they were from Kraków (then known as Krakau), which the Germans had designated as the capital of the General Gouvernement, they were under greater pressure than the Warsaw (then called Warschau) group.  Some of them would later be roundly criticized for participating in the visit as it was viewed as almost a collaborationist act.    Nonetheless, the visit was important, if only for the fact that one of the first Poles at the site, decided to contact the Warsaw HQ of the Red Cross upon his return. Ferdynand Goetel had landed in Warsaw and contacted Skarzyński since it was
                …his duty to report to the Polish Red Cross as the last remnant of Polish sovereignty…From this point it seemed…that there are the bodies of a thousand Polish officers over there; and that the crime seemed to him to be committed by Russia…
This, then appeared to be an extremely serious allegation, from a fellow Pole and in light of that Skarzyński began to make additional preparations – a plan developed to leave at least a skeleton Polish crew in place that would conduct exhumations of all the victims and identify them.  Skarzyński fully realized that the Germans would demand a report – which the Poles would not want to produce as it would become propaganda fodder – and the Red Cross began to plan for an extensive and lengthy preparation for the report.   In the meantime, they expected to conduct an operation which would, pursuant to the Underground’s instructions produce a detailed victim’s name list, so that the families could finally know the truth.  Additionally, they would prepare information for the Underground, which would be transmitted to London.  Once there, presumably, it was hoped that it would reach not only the Government in Exile – but also the British and the Americans.
The Underground regularly sent shortwave messages to London – however, the significance of the Katyn discovery was such that starting no later than the 16th of April, there were messages sent on a daily basis, on some days multiple messages consisting not of a few sentences, but entire name lists – Wanda I and Wanda 6 (cryptonyms for the radio sources) were operating at full speed.  Reports from Kazimierz Skarzyński were verified by the information received from Górczycki and from others and this material was compiled and radioed out.
The German HQ was located in Bruhl’s Palace, set in a corner of Saski Park, while past the bombed out ruins of the Teatr Wielki – the Opera and National Theatre, and down Krakowskie Przedmieście, it was a short distance to the Red Cross Hospital just north of the Aleje Jerozolimskie, which is where the Red Cross was headquartered, but from anywhere in this part of the city it was but a few yards to the walls of the Ghetto.  Warsaw had been compartmentalized by the Nazis and short distances could appear to be impenetrable. 
Yet, Poland was in a unique situation among the countries of occupied Europe, the only government representing the Poles was located in London, there was no Vichy in Poland, and the military structure of the Polish Underground reported to Military HQ in London.  Thus, in situations that could be deemed collaborationist, there were trials and verdicts, with designated executions or other forms of punishment as necessary. It was for that reason that the Red Cross, which was one of the last vestiges of a pre-war institutional organization, wanted to ensure that it had the approval of the Underground before it undertook a trip to Katyn.

©Krystyna Piórkowska