Resources on the Katyn Massacre - Non-Fiction


Kaczorowska, Teresa.  Children of the Katyn Massacre (McFarland and Company, Inc., 2006).

World War II was—and remains—one of the bloodiest wars in history. Not only did millions of soldiers die in combat but millions of civilians lost their lives—some for no greater crime than their religious heritage or their nationality. The Soviets, at first allied with the Germans, incarcerated thousands of Polish military officers and reservists in the pre-established Soviet camps of Ostashkov, Starobelsk and Kozelsk. On March 5, 1940, Joseph Stalin and his lieutenants signed an execution order for 25,700 Polish prisoners of war. After months of hardship and interrogation, 14,700 prisoners from these camps were taken to remote areas, murdered with a shot to the back of the head and buried in mass graves. Later, when Germany turned its sights on the Soviet Union, the USSR allied itself with the West. With the discovery of the first of the mass burials by the Germans in the Katyn Forest (the area from which the entire massacre gets its name), the Soviets attempted to place the blame for the atrocities on the Germans in spite of a plethora of evidence to the contrary. Only in 1990, with the fall of communism, did President Mikhail Gorbachev admit Soviet responsibility for the Katyn murders. Compiled from a series of interviews, this emotionally moving account records the stories and fates of 18 men and women, 16 of whom lost their fathers in the Katyn massacre. The author traveled to Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine, Canada and the United States to talk extensively with the 18, recording their thoughts, feelings, memories and experiences of the hardships during and after the war. Photographs and maps are included.

Materski, Wojciech.  Katyn: a Crime without Punishment (Yale University Press, 2008).

The 14,500 Polish army officers, police, gendarmes, and civilians taken prisoner by the Red Army when it invaded eastern Poland in September 1939 were held in three special NKVD camps and executed at three different sites in spring 1940, of which the one in Katyn Forest is the most famous. Another 7,300 prisoners held in NKVD jails in Ukraine and Belarus were also shot at this time, although many others disappeared without trace. The murder of these Poles is among the most monstrous mass murders undertaken by any modern government.

Three leading historians of the NKVD massacres of Polish prisoners of war at Katyn, Kharkov, and Tver—now subsumed under “Katyn”—present 122 documents selected from the published Russian and Polish volumes coedited by Natalia S. Lebedeva and Wojciech Materski. The documents, with introductions and notes by Anna M. Cienciala, detail the Soviet killings, the elaborate cover-up, the admission of the truth, and the Katyn question in Soviet/Russian–Polish relations up to the present.

Montefiore, Simon Sebag.  Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar (Vintage, 2005).

This widely acclaimed biography provides a vivid and riveting account of Stalin and his courtiers—killers, fanatics, women, and children—during the terrifying decades of his supreme power. In a seamless meshing of exhaustive research and narrative--Simon Sebag Montefiore gives us the everyday details of a monstrous life.

We see Stalin playing his deadly game of power and paranoia at debauched dinners at Black Sea villas and in the apartments of the Kremlin. We witness first-hand how the dictator and his magnates carried out the Great Terror and the war against the Nazis, and how their families lived in this secret world of fear, betrayal, murder, and sexual degeneracy. Montefiore gives an unprecedented understanding of Stalin’s dictatorship, and a Stalin as human and complicated as he is brutal.


Zaslavsky, Votor.  Class Cleansing: The Massacre at Katyn (Telos Press, 2008).

Revisiting the events of the 1940 Katyn Massacre, in which some 25,000 Polish prisoners of war were shot by the Soviet secret police on Stalin's orders, Victor Zaslavsky explores a paradigmatic and terrifying example of the policy of class cleansing practiced in the Soviet Union and its occupied territories during World War II. By blaming the Katyn Massacre on the Nazis, the Soviets constructed one of the greatest historiographical falsifications of the twentieth century. Based on secret documents of the Soviet regime that became available only after its collapse, Zaslavsky unearths the methods used to create and maintain the Soviet "official version" of what happened at Katyn, a process involving the complicity of Western governments and left-leaning historians, which resulted in the upholding of this falsification until the fall of the Soviet Union.

Class Cleansing was awarded Honorable Mention in the 2008 London Book Festival.