German propaganda in Katyn
(WARNING – material contains disturbing scenes)
On April 13, 1943, Nazi Germany announced the discovery of the place where the bodies of Polish officers murdered by the NKVD on the order of the highest state authorities of the Soviet Union were buried near Smolensk. The decision to do so was purely propagandist. The disclosure of the Katyn Massacre was supposed to lead to a rift between the Western Allies and the USSR. Following their defeat at Stalingrad, it was also supposed to show the German soldiers what surrendering to the Soviets could lead to. With this in mind, the German propaganda machine used all methods and means available to them at that time: the press, radio, newsreels, gramophone records, exhibitions, meetings with the inhabitants of cities and workers, and so on.
The exhumation works carried out by the Germans and the Technical Committee of the Polish Red Cross in the Katyn Forest were accompanied by excursions. They were specially organized for visitors, who were transported by buses from Smolensk to see the exhumation site. Politicians, scientists, writers, journalists and commercial delegates from Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, Romania, Slovakia, Turkey, Italy and many others were all brought to Katyn with the sole aim show the world "the enormity of Jewish-Bolshevik crimes".
It is estimated that the Katyn mass graves were visited by more than 30 thousand people (mainly soldiers from Germany and other Axis powers serving on the eastern front). The Germans even encouraged the visitors to take "souvenirs" with them, i.e. buttons, military decorations, fragments of uniforms, or objects found by the exhumed bodies...
The German propaganda film Im Wald von Katyn (English: In the Katyn Forest) was made in the spring of 1943 by Fritz Hippler, known for directing the extremely anti-Semitic film, The Eternal Jew. The Katyn movie was screened as a newsreel in Germany and in other countries, including occupied Poland.
The first frames of the black-and-white film show the idyllic transdnistrian landscape, which conceals the truth about the Soviet Crime. Viewers see first exhumation works carried out in the Katyn Forest: mass graves with the bodies of Polish officers, Soviet prisoners of war excavating the corpses, and the examination of their remains – including that of General Smorawiński.
The film features members of the International Medical Committee established by Germany and the Technical Committee of the Polish Red Cross, including PRC Secretary General Kazimierz Skarżyński. The film shows also Polish soldiers brought to Katyn from German POW camps for propaganda purposes and Leon Kozłowski (who was the Polish Prime Minister in 1934-1935). The journalists' conversation with Parfen Kiselev, a Russian peasant and one of the witnesses of the Katyn Massacre, was also filmed.
The film culminates in a scene recorded on 16 April 1943, during which a funeral mass is held over mass graves by canon Stanisław Jasiński. Kazimierz Skarżyński (visible in the film, standing next to the canon) remembered this moment as follows: “Father Jasiński, terribly pale and about to faint, wore liturgical robes and prayed for the dead; sprinkled the graves with holy water and dusted some soil brought from Poland. We kneeled and prayed with him while the Germans and a group of Russians looked on at us in silence. As soon as the priest fulfilled his duty, he got up, but immediately fainted.”
WARNING – the film contains disturbing scenes