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Behind the Headlines: Research Reveals Jewish Officers Among Katyn Massacre Victims

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At least 262 Jewish officers were among the over 4,000 Polish officers whom the current Polish government now states were massacred by the Soviet Union in World War II.

This was reported by Harvey Sarner of Chicago and London, an independent researcher, who is writing a book on Polish World War II General Wladyslaw Anders.

The Polish government recently reopened the issue on which their Soviet colleagues have thus far made no public comment.

When the Nazis discovered the victims of the Katyn massacre near Smolensk in 1943, they blamed the action on the Soviets, who in turn blamed the Nazis.

A major source of Sarner’s information is a 1988 periodical, “Niepodleglosc” (Independence) of the Pilsudski Institute of London, dedicated to the most recent information on Polish history. It includes several chapters by Simon Shochet about Jews in the World War II Polish military.

Shochet explains that Jewish victims of Katyn were identified by documents found on the bodies and by comparison with records of the London Polish Officers Association.

There is no listing of religion, but Jews are also identified by typical Jewish names, together with occupations.

Jewish Katyn victims included a colonel, two majors, 173 lieutenants and sub-lieutenants, and other ranks. In civilian life many were doctors, pharmacists, lawyers and diplomats.

One of the Katyn Jewish victims was Mieczyslaw Birnbaum, newspaperman and writer, who served in the IVth Division of General L. Zeligowski. He was the recipient of the Cross “Virtuti Military” (5th class), Cross of Valor, Gold Cross of Merit and the medal of “10th year of Polish Independence.”

A prominent victim of the Soviets was Chief Rabbi Major Baruch Steinberg.

TESTIMONY ON JEWISH VICTIMS

In November 1939, shortly after the German and Russian invasions of Poland, Steinberg spoke to a Polish unit, also addressed by the chief Catholic and Lutheran chaplains.

All three were taken to Moscow, imprisoned, and subsequently deported by the Soviets to an “unknown destination.”

Shochet refers to the “hearings before a Select U.S. Congress Committee on the Katyn Massacre” in 1952, where testimony was given about Jewish victims, apparently overlooked by most observers up to now.

The committee conducted extensive hearings in Washington, Chicago, London and Frankfurt.

It had not previously been widely known that significant numbers of Jews were among the Polish officer victims at Katyn.

In recent years, the Polish Jewish Former Combatants Association has participated in the annual ceremony at the Polish World War II monument in London, commemorating the Katyn tragedy.

Jews are represented by a Polish war veteran, Stanley Damazer, a layman, who recites the Kaddish at what was previously only a Catholic ceremony.

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