Stalin’s Duplicity and Perfidy during WW2

Stalin played a very cynical and cunning game during WW2. Having deliberately killed millions of kulaks in Russia what more could the West expect when dealing with this brute of a man, a murderer of more people – his own Russians – than the Germans in total.

The full extent of Stalin’s duplicity and perfidy during WW2 was purposely understated or even whitewashed during WW2 by the British and the Americans. The reason for attaching little importance to these heinous crimes, for that is what they were, was the need to defeat the Nazis.

As the maxim states, “A leopard never changes his spots” which the western allies were to discover to their chagrin on numerous occasions.

In August 1939, immediately prior to the invasion of Poland by the Germans, the Nazis had entered into a pact with the Russians whereby they would invade eastern Poland. In terms of this treaty, the Russians would be entitled to this half of Poland in perpetuity. This part of Poland included the great culture centre of Lwow – now Lviv in the Ukraine – and Brest-Litovsk.

Molotov and Ribbentrop after signing their notorious pact to dismember Poland

Molotov and Ribbentrop after signing their notorious pact to dismember Poland

 

Sixteen days after the German invasion in the west of Poland, Russia invaded eastern Poland. Churchill was in a quandary. After declaring war on Germany for their invasion of Poland what action could Churchill take against Russia for committing the self-same offence?

Without further ado and not wanting to be at war with Germany & Russia simultaneously, he elected to ignore Russia’s invasion as if it never occurred.

This was to set the pattern of the western allies’ response during WW2. Instead of castigating Stalin for his inhuman or perfidious actions, they swept them under the carpet.

Katyn Massacre

Then one of the most treacherous actions of the war was taken on Stalin’s personal orders: the execution of 22 000 Polish military & police officers and other intelligentsia. This has become known as the Katyn massacre perpetuated mainly in the Katyn forest outside Smolensk in Belorussia. A series of mass executions of Polish nationals was carried out by the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD), the Soviet Secret Police, during April and May 1940.

 

Katyn Massacre

Katyn Massacre

The massacre was prompted by NKVD chief Lavrenti Beria‘s proposal to execute all captive members of the Polish Officer Corps, dated 5 March 1940, approved by the Soviet Politburo, including its leader, Joseph Stalin. The victims were murdered in the Katyn Forest in Russia and also the Kalinin and Kharkov prisons, and elsewhere in batches of 20 to 30. Of the total killed, about 8,000 were officers taken prisoner during the 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland, another 6,000 were police officers, and the rest were arrested Polish intelligentsia the Soviets deemed to be “intelligence agents, gendarmes, landowners, saboteurs, factory owners, lawyers, officials and priests”.

Lavrenti Beria - in charge of the NKVD

Lavrenti Beria – in charge of the NKVD

 

In early 1943 the government of Nazi Germany announced the discovery of mass graves in the Katyn Forest. When the London-based Polish government-in-exile asked for an investigation by the International Red Cross, Stalin immediately severed diplomatic relations with it. The Soviet Union claimed the victims had been murdered by the Nazis in 1941.

When the Russians recaptured Smolensk in 1944, they commenced an elaborate cover-up. The NKVD forged letters and other paraphernalia which served to indicate that in fact people could not have been murdered in 1941 as was claimed but rather in 1942 after the Germans had invaded Russia.

Katyn Massacre#2

Neither the British nor the Americans were mollified by these documents as many of the inhabitants of the area were aware of the truth and information had been spread by the Germans. Both however elected to ignore the facts in spite of evidence and memoranda being produced to substantiate Stalin’s perfidy in this heinous crime.

The Russians continued to deny responsibility for the massacres until 1990, when it officially acknowledged and condemned the perpetration of the killings by the NKVD, as well as the subsequent cover-up by the Soviet government. An investigation conducted by the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Soviet Union (1990–1991) and the Russian Federation (1991–2004) confirmed Soviet responsibility for the massacres, but refused to classify this action as a war crime or an act of genocide. The investigation was closed on the grounds that the perpetrators of the massacre were already dead, and since the Russian government would not classify the dead as victims of Stalinist repression, formal posthumous rehabilitation was deemed inapplicable.

 

Copy of document signed by Stalin authorising the slaying of the Poles

Copy of document signed by Stalin authorising the slaying of the Poles

Finally in November 2010, the Russian State Duma approved a declaration blaming Stalin and other Soviet officials for having personally ordered the massacre thereby bringing this treacherous saga to a conclusion.

The only solace that the Polish people can extract from this admission is that the fate of these Poles is definitively known for posterity rather than being in abeyance in perpetuity.

Warsaw Uprising

With the Russian forces rapidly approaching from the east, the Polish Home Army in Warsaw mounted an operation to liberate Warsaw from Nazi German control.

Warsaw Uprising

Warsaw Uprising

 

The Uprising was timed to coincide with the Soviet Union’s Red Army approaching the eastern suburbs of the city and the retreat of German forces. However, the Soviet advance stopped 100kms short of Warsaw, enabling the Germans to regroup and demolish the city while defeating the Polish resistance, which fought for 63 days with little outside support.

The Uprising was the largest single military effort taken by any European resistance movement during World War II. The Uprising began on 1 August 1944, as part of a nationwide plan, Operation Tempest, when the Soviet Army approached Warsaw. The main Polish objectives were to drive the German occupiers from the city and help with the larger fight against Germany and the Axis powers. Secondary political objectives were to liberate Warsaw before the Soviets, to underscore Polish sovereignty by empowering the Polish Underground State before the Soviet-backed Polish Committee of National Liberation could assume control.

Warsaw_Uprising#2

Also, short-term causes included the threat of a German round-up of able-bodied Poles, and Moscow radio calling for the Uprising to begin. Initially, the Poles established control over most of central Warsaw, but the Soviets ignored Polish attempts to establish radio contact and did not advance beyond the city limits. Intense street fighting between the Germans and Poles continued. By 14 September, Polish forces under Soviet high command occupied the east bank of the Vistula river opposite the resistance positions; but only 1,200 men made it across to the west bank, and they were not reinforced by the bulk of the Red Army. This, and the lack of Soviet air support from a base 5 minutes flying time away, led to allegations that Joseph Stalin tactically halted his forces to let the operation fail and allow the Polish resistance to be crushed.

Winston Churchill pleaded with Stalin and Franklin D. Roosevelt to help Britain’s Polish allies, to no avail. Then, without Soviet air clearance, Churchill sent over 200 low-level supply drops by the Royal Air Force, the South African Air Force and the Polish Air Force under British High Command. Later, after gaining Soviet air clearance, the US Army Air Force sent one high-level mass airdrop as part of Operation Frantic. The Soviet Union refused to allow American bombers from Western Europe to land on Soviet airfields after dropping supplies to the Poles. This meant that these planes would have to fly another 1500kms back to their bases in Italy.

Warsaw_Uprising#3

Together with earlier damage suffered in the 1939 invasion of Poland and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943, over 85% of the city was destroyed by January 1945, when the course of the events in the Eastern Front forced the Germans to abandon the city.

A final example will illuminate Stalin’s scruples.

Poland’s Government-in-Exile

By the start of 1945 and the end of WW2 in sight, the Great Powers held the second of three meetings, this time in the Livadia Palace near Yalta in the Crimea. The ultimate purpose of this meeting was to discuss Europe’s post-war reorganisation.

With Poland now firmly under Soviet control, and seeing that this issue was the casus belli of WW2, it was a significant point in the agenda. Churchill sought to obtain some form of assurance from Stalin that free and fair elections would be held in Poland.

The Russians already held all the aces in this regard.

 

Poland's new borders with the east being ceded to Russia and the west becoming part of Poland

Poland’s new borders with the east being ceded to Russia and the west becoming part of Poland

Firstly they had constituted a central authority comprising Communists only ignoring the fact the Poland’s Government in Exile was resident in London. Secondly the Russians had established some Polish Divisions from Russian officers. These imposter Poles were masqueraded as genuine Poles in spite of their poor command of the Polish language.

Where Stalin’s mendacity still rankles is that he agreed that the Polish Government in Exile be allowed to participate in the supposedly free elections in Poland. On landing in Warsaw, the delegation was peremptorily arrested and transported 800kms to the Lubianka Prison in Moscow.

Not even castigating diplomatic notes were sent to Stalin with Roosevelt being the most conciliatory as he required the Soviet Forces to invade Manchuria after the destruction of the Nazis.

 

War creates many strange bedfellows and Allies. This is one such example. It is not that the Western Allies were unaware of Stalin’s murderous tendencies but without Stalin neither would have defeated Germany which they viewed as the greater threat.

 

Stalin never minced his words during the meetings with diplomats or Churchill or Roosevelt.

 

When questioned by Churchill what he [Stalin] had done with the kulaks, Stalin without hesitation replied, “We killed them.”

 

How could the Allies deal with such a sociopath but through denial and not pressing the issue?

 

They supped with the Devil but the spoons were not long enough for Churchill and Roosevelt to be held accountable especially by the Poles who still do not hold Churchill in high regard for his decision to cede the eastern half of Poland to Russia after the war.

 

 

 

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