Wednesday, May 1, 2013


It is amazing when one considers what efforts and material resources were allocated by both the Germans and the Soviets to their propaganda efforts.  When Stalin decided it was appropriate books were published during the siege of Leningrad and the battle of Kursk that made the materials published in Britain under the “Wartime Economy Standards” provision look positively poverty stricken.

But the Germans continuously published Signal in color and despite the difficulties involved in preparing the bi-weekly magazine in a multitude (25) languages they used a complex layout which differed on each page of the publication and which included photos, charts and other images in addition to text.  In the issue of June 2, 1943 was the second issue to carry information about Katyn. That issue contained sixteen photographs from Katyn, including images of the IMC members.

That issue also contained an image of the signed page of the protocol.  The protocol itself had been produced in three languages (German, Polish and English) and had been reproduced so rapidly that it was delivered to the IMC members in Białystok, where they signed it.  The page with their signatures did not simply remain as part of the record, it too was reproduced, photostatically, so that each and every signature was viewable by all those who received a copy of the report.  This was a way of documenting that the scientists had truly agreed and supported the opinions contained therein.

Prof. Dr. Orsós clearly did take on much of the responsibility and did function as chair and secretary, as he noted he had noted all the remarks of the members of the IMC – unfortunately no copy of those notes has yet been located. The Germans must have assigned a secretary to the group, since he states that he dictated the report to a person who must have typed it.

I would like to add something. We discussed all the matters the whole afternoon in every detail after we had finished with the post mortems. I wrote down every remark made by all the members of the commission. Then I dictated the medical part of the protocol.
We finished up at 3 o'clock in the morning. Then we went to the mess hall. Some of my colleagues had already gone to bed. And very early in the morning we left on our return flight in three planes. The protocol had been read out to us in this mess hall, in this canteen, the manuscript, the draft, and when we reached the town of Bialystok on our return flight, a military plane caught up with us with mimeographed copies of the protocol. There, at that place, we had about one and a half hours to read through the protocols and to sign them, and then we continued our return flight to Berlin.

Prof. Dr. Ferenc Orsós of Budapest, who was born in 1879, was not the oldest in the group; that distinction belonged to Dr. Reimond Speelers of Ghent University, who was three years older.  However, the professor’s experience and fame were such that in the absence of the Germans first choice, it was Orsós whom they described as chairing the commission.  However, Orsós was a man of principle and he did not officially assume the mantle of chairmanship despite being described as such, with his concern apparently arising from his desire to avoid publicity.  However, during their testimony, Dr. Tramsen noted that Orsós had been chair, not only because of his knowledge, but also because he knew Russian.  (Surprisingly, Tramsen omitted the fact that the Rumanian, Dr. Aleksandru Birkle had been born in Russia.)  In fact, Dr. Orsós did speak to the local witnesses in Russian. 

However, more importantly, Prof. Orsós was the source for several of the most significant of the conclusions which the commission agreed to-  the first was the process of brain calcification, which was an extremely new methodology used to determine the time of death.  It primarily dealt with process of changes which occurred to the brain when the body lay in sandy soil, which is precisely the type of soil found in Kozie Gory.  Dr. Tramsen had been aware of this methodology for setting the date of death, but it was under Dr. Orsós’ guidance that the group began to examine the skulls that they had removed from the grave site.

Yes. We examined several of the insides of the skulls which were brought to Smolensk from the tombs after the post mortems, and Professor Orsos of Budapest, who is a specialist in doing post mortems in regard to deciding the time of death, had instructed us as- to a new manner of examining the inside of a skull which has been interred for a long time. I had read about this method but had never practiced it before.

Dr. Zietz described the second issue in which Dr. Orsós was most instrumental in having the group decide about.  This other aspect that the professor dealt with was the age of the conifers which had been planted on the grave site.  These were of course the conifers

"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."
Now, Professor Orsos demanded that his theory be adopted. I mean, the theory about the 3 and 2 years, respectively. Then one of the participants asked whether or not there was a forestry expert of the army group present. Professor Buhtz replied in the affirmative, and called up from the very same room that a forestry expert should report at once. He actually appeared within a few minutes, and he had no inkling as to what he was supposed to say.

The young forester’s presence was also described by General von Gersdorf.

© Krystyna Piórkowska