Official Ceremony Honors Massacre Victims But Does Not Assign Guilt
Apr. 19, 1989
WARSAW, Poland (AP) _ An official ceremony honored the more than 4,300 Polish officers killed in the World War II Katyn massacre and a new inscription didn't blame either the Nazis or the Soviets for the atrocity.
Instead, the tablet that was unveiled Tuesday at Warsaw's Powazki Cemetery said only: ''To Polish officers killed in Katyn.'' The previous inscription blamed ''Hitlerite fascists.''
Polish generals speaking at the ceremony indicated the issue of determining guilt for the massacre - a highly emotional issue in Polish-Soviet relations - has not yet been resolved to Poland's satisfaction.
After the ceremony ended, some people among the several thousand spectators placed a sign on the granite memorial reading: ''Soviet murder.''
Up until this year, Poland's Communist governments officially accepted Soviet claims that the Polish officers shot at Katyn, near the Soviet city of Smolensk, and buried in mass graves were killed by the Nazis after Germany invaded Russia in 1941.
Western historians have concluded that the massacre was committed by Soviet secret police on Josef Stalin's order in 1940.
The officers, the cream of Polish society called up from the reserves, were among about 15,000 interned by the Soviets when they occupied eastern Poland in 1939. The fate of the other 11,000 is not known.
Polish members of a joint Polish-Soviet commission investigating the massacre say they have tentatively concluded that the Soviets were to blame, but the Soviets have not acknowledged that account.
Speakers at the ceremony did not speak of Soviet culpability but made it clear the issue remains open.
''This event indicates a victory of new thinking in Poland,'' said Gen. Roman Paszkowski, who led the official delegation. ''Although you know your husbands and sons are not alive, please remember they will stay forever in our hearts and minds.''
Gen. Franciszek Skibinski said: ''It is not possible to change the course of history, but it is necessary to reveal the whole truth. I hope the Polish- Soviet commission will soon complete its work and the whole truth will be made public.''
During the ceremony an urn of soil from the graves of the massacred officers was embedded in the monument.
An official delegation that included relatives of the victims had gone to Katyn and brought back two urns. On Tuesday, one urn was brought to the cemetery and the other placed at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Soldiers lined the cemetery walkways and an honor guard of boy scouts stood at the flower-covered memorial.
A woman whose husband and brother-in-law were killed at Katyn said she expected ''the whole truth will come out now.''