Katyn: A Dubious Qualification
The Polish Quarterly of International Affairs, 2011, No. 4
20 Pages Posted: 24 Aug 2019
Date Written: 2011
Article argues that Katyń massacre cannot be qualified as crime of genocide. For Katyn to be qualified as genocide, it is necessary to establish that the Polish officers, non-commissioned military personnel and civilians were murdered by the Soviets with the intent to destroy a national group. This is not an easy task given the specific nature of the communists’ crimes which, as a matter of principle, targeted social or political rather than national groups, with victims chosen according to an ideological class criterion. Those killed at Katyn and other death sites belonged to precisely those social groups being persecuted on every piece of the territory controlled by the USSR. They were exterminated because they posed a threat to the building of a new political system in Poland and held no promise of succumbing in full to indoctrination.
As for an attempt to establish the intent to eliminate in part the Polish national group, this could also fail because of the dispute about the interpretation of the “in part” wording. If a numeric criterion is held to be more important, it could well transpire that the ratio of the victims to the whole nation is insufficient to warrant speaking of genocide. The thesis that this was a case of genocide within a limited geographic area will not stand either, for at the time when Katyn was committed there were in the USSR many Poles who had not been sentenced to annihilation. However, if the qualitative criterion is adhered to, it could transpire that the exterminated individuals had not been essential to the survival, in the biological sense, of the Polish nation.
Keywords: II World War, genocide, crime against humanity, war crime, individual responsibility
JEL Classification: K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation