During their period in the camps, the officers were all subject to lengthy interrogations, as the NKVD attempted to determine who of them could be coopted, who would possibly agree to work with and for the Communists, additionally, the repeated questionings allowed the Soviets to create a more complete database about the prisoners. The questioning period ended on March 5, 1940 when Stalin and the members of the Politburo signed the order calling for the liquidation of the intransigent enemies of the Soviet State.
It was during the period of November to mid-March 1940, that the officers in Kozielsk were questioned by Kombrig Zarubin (AKA Zublinin), he was described as being extremely cultured, well read, multi-lingual and knowledgeable about Polish culture, customs and history. His questioning process was therefore (from the victim’s viewpoint) even more insidious or (from the NKVD viewpoint) more effective – he was courteous and elicited trust. The earlier questioners had only evoked contempt in the majority of the officers.
Yet, presumably, his reports on the individual men, more than any else’s, since they were the final ones, decided on whether they would be sent to Malachowka (Villa of Bliss near Moscow) or to Kozie Gory. Zarubin left just before the transports started. Shortly after Kozielsk was liquidated, Zarubin and his wife (also an agent) were sent to the United States, where he served as Station Chief in Washington of the NKVD illegals in the United States. His is one of the names linked to the Venona Files and his cable from Washington confirms the level of anxiety, nay hysteria that the Rezident was in as a result of the German announcement.
It is shortly after that when the liquidations in all three camps began to occur. Because of a number of exceptional circumstances more is known about the immediate Kozielsk to Katyn (or actually Kozie Gory – which is where the massacre site is located) process than is known about the other two sites. Three of the factors are that:
· individual officers, whom the Soviets thought to be malleable were separated from the main group during the questioning process and brought to Malachowka near Moscow, and they survived;
· for some reason the Soviets did not remove pen and pencil from the officers, who kept mini-diaries, in some cases until they arrived at the very site of Kozie Gory and these materials were not stripped from the bodies. The most famous of these diaries was written by Major Solski, and it was secured from his body in the early days of the German exhumation, the paper was treated and stabilized (to be precise, in the body’s decomposition process fats are produced and they destabilize the readability of the pencil lead on paper) and finally;
· one man, who was brought on April 29, 1940, as part of a group to the very station of Gniezdowo, lying only several kilometers from Kozie Gory, and was separated off from the group, was able to peer through a crack in the railroad cars walls and observe how the off-loaded officers were loaded into lorries and transferred away from the station, with the lorries returning for additional victims. That was Stanisław Swianiewicz, an extremely well known economist, specializing in the German economy, who had not disclosed this aspect of his identity during questioning. Clearly, his fellow officers had also not disclosed this secret, and presumably, since victim lists were prepared, it was only during a final check in Moscow, that someone determined who this individual was and the message was sent to separate him from the group. In this case, despite Stalin’s oft quoted blindness to German preparations to attack Soviet Russia, someone else must have opined that it was better to hold onto this economist, since he could always be liquidated at a later time, and in the interim his knowledge might prove useful. Stanisław Swianiewicz testified in front of the Madden Committee in 1952.
Although, many of the first group never accommodated the Soviet desire for collaboration and joined the Polish Army in Russia (as it was then known), they could not present any testimony about the last days or hours, nonetheless, they submitted witness statements which were collected by the Polish Army – these were not, for obvious reasons available to the Germans. Similarly, Prof. Swianiewicz’s statements were not available to the Germans.
However, the notebooks and diaries of the victims proved invaluable to not only the Germans, but to the Technical Committee of the Polish Red Cross and they were quoted in various wartime reports prepared by the Polish Underground for the Polish Government in Exile.
In the interim the ICRC had attempted to propose an alternative, given that it appeared clear that the Soviets did not appear to be moving towards agreement for an investigation, and similar responses were sent to both the Polish and German Red Cross representatives in Berne
The Int. Red Cross suggests that we endeavour to obtain the consent of the Soviet Union either directly or through the intermediary of one of the Allied States and the possibility of a direct intervention is not ruled out. In my opinion the latter would be most advisable. The Commission would be under the Chairmanship of a Swiss and would include members of Swedish, Portuguese and Swiss nationality.By now the Soviet Union was now placing pressure on its British and US Allies to silence the Polish Government, yet to be clear its ultimate intent was not controlling the Poles about the Katyn Massacre, rather, this was a test by Stalin to see how maleable the Western Allies would be when it came to betraying the interests of their Central European Allies, among whom the Poles formed the largest fighting contingent.