Thursday, May 2, 2013


Among the many reports/notes/commentaries which had been prepared both within the Polish military structure, by the Polish diplomatic  corps, the US Army liaison officers and others, was one prepared by Ambassador Owen O’Malley and submitted to Anthony Eden.
We have in fact perforce used the good name of England like the murderers used the little conifers to cover up a massacre; and in view of the immense importance of an appearance of allied unity and of the heroic resistance of Russia to Germany, few will think that any other course would have been wise or right…

The little conifers were of course the saplings which had been planted by the Soviets to conceal the mass graves among the woods of Kozie Gory.  One of the issues which had been raised was that of the age of the trees.  One cannot in attempting to transplant a nursery tree, transfer it until it is of an appropriate age. The issue of the conifers and their age was raised during the Madden Hearings:

Dr. Tramsen. Yes ; I remember seeing quite a lot of lines of young  fir trees about the height of one-and-a-half foot, and I saw them stretching out from the graves because they had been removed when those graves had been opened possibly.

However  it was not only General von Gersdorff who noted that there had been a personality conflict among the members of the IMC. Dr. Zietz noted that although the other specialists had delegated Dr. Orsós to speak in their name, the process was not without some contention.
It was very interesting to notice, during that discussion as well as during all of the previous discussions, that all of the participants of the committee were unanimous as to a recognition of the international reputation of Dr. Orsos. But even in the course of this issue here there was a clear political difference between the Hungarian and the Rumanian. The Rumanian guest was a lecturer of the Institute of Forensic Medicine at Bucharest, which enjoyed a very good reputation.
His name was Dr. Birkle. He emphasized, however, that he was no German but a full-blooded Rumanian. Dr. Birkle frequently objected to the findings of Dr. Orsos, and frequently found them to be too far reaching or of a too dictatorial nature. All of us frequently smiled at these bickerings, because it was our opinion that this was clearly manifested in former differences about Sienburgen and other parts of the country. This was expressed particularly when the question of these fir trees arose. Birkle said, in essence, as follows:
Professor Orsos, you may be* a really competent doctor of forensic medicine, and you might also be a very good artist, but that you, however, wish to be a very competent botanist, that is going too far."

Yet the fact was that Dr. Orsos was correct and as General von Gersdorff noted, when the group arrived in Smolensk, Dr. Orsos had pulled one of the conifers from his bag and had requested a microscope.   He presented his thesis – the trees were five years old, but had actually been transplanted three years earlier.  Dr. Palmieri from Naples, confirmed the discussion about the trees, and also detailed the issue of brain calcification.

When a certain time has passed from the time of death, the possibility of determining the time of death becomes always more difficult. Therefore one must study the corpse.
Generally, two conclusions may be reached by the magistrate on the time of death and can be determined in two ways : Firstly, when did the person die; secondly, between the two dates which we are giving you which is the most probable. The first question is far more difficult to answer if it is a question of establishing dates which are very near to each other when much time has passed. It is much easier to reach a conclusion on the second question, and this is what was done.
Two dates are possible—April 1940 or October 1941. Between the twoa conclusion on the second question, and this is what was done. Two dates are possible—April 1940 or October 1941. Between the two dates there are 18 months, this allows precise orientation. The answer to the question (1940-41) was influenced by two circumstances: (1) The state of the corpses, and (2) the plant life which had been planted over the bodies. In the bodies, or at least in many of the bodies, Professor Orsos observed the presence of growths (corns)— in the inside of the cranium pseudo-gi"owths in the internal part of the skull which are due to manifestations of reduction of the mineralization of the brain—of the cerebral tissues and of the other substances contained in the skull. In a special publication of Professor Orsos in 1934 he had called attention to the fact that these cerebral growths are noticeable on bodies which have been dead for at least 2 years. Orsos had been a prisoner of the Russians during the First World War and had been in Siberia and there had made these special studies which he published in 1934.
Secondly, the question of the plants concerns the age of these plants. It is a fact that one notes when a tree is cut that each year a circle is noted for its age. There was this coincidence and led to the conclusion from a technical point of view, and there were others which are not technical arguments, for instance, material found in the pockets—letters, newspapers, diaries—none of these had a date later than April 1940. This was not a medical question.

Thus there were two external scientific determinations made by the group, in addition to the circumstantial evidence of the diaries, letters and newspapers which were found on the corpses.  No other conclusion was possible, but that the Soviets were guilty.

© Krystyna Piórkowska