World War II in Ukraine:

Katyn and Vinnytsia

Andrew Gregorovich

Katyn and Vinnytsia

World War II, itself a source of immense crimes, revealed two Soviet crimes of hideous mass murder which might never have been discovered without German intervention. Ironically, the methodical Germans fully documented these two crimes perpetrated by Stalin's Soviet Union.

The better known one was in the forest near Katyn, a Russian village, where the Germans in 1943 reported finding the graves of 4,250 Polish army officers. They had been captured by the Soviet Army in 1939-40 during the occupation of Galicia and shot in 1940. Another 8,000 were killed elsewhere by the Russians. In 1989 the USSR formed a Commission to investigate and partly admitted this war crime was committed by the Soviet NKVD.

Vinnytsia is a Ukrainian city 120 miles south-west of Kiev which had a population of about 100,000 in 1939. On May 25, 1943 a large German team of professors of forensic science and international experts started excavating three mass murder sites of 1937 and 1938 in Vinnytsia. The local population thought that about 20,000 people who had disappeared had probably been murdered there by the Soviet NKVD secret police on orders from Moscow.

Procedures were systematically followed by the German investigators and everything was carefully documented. The victims had their hands tied behind their backs and were shot in the back of the head. From May to October 1943 there were 9,432 corpses, including 169 women, found in three burial places. Of these 679 were identified from their documents and garments by relatives. The Soviet government had hidden the graves in a pear orchard and by building a Public Park on top of the mass graves with swings and playground equipment. (Kamenetsky; Zayas p. 240-44, 204.)

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Copyright © 1995 Andrew Gregorovich

Reprinted from FORUM Ukrainian Review No. 92, Spring 1995

since March 1st 1997