June 21, 2024
Poles Under Communism Polish Experience

One of them killed 10,000 people by himself. Who were the killers from Katyn?

Fragments of the article by Piotr Zychowicz, in superhistoria.pl

Intoxicated sadists, professional NKVD enforcers, prison guards and ordinary drivers. For shooting thousands of Poles in the back of their heads, they received praise and 800 rubles.

The killers came from Moscow to Kalinin – before the revolution called Twer – by special vehicles. The group was headed by Vasily Blokhin, the most famous executioner in the history of the Soviet Union. He was accompanied by Nikolai Siniegubov and Mikhail Kriwienko. They brought with them a suitcase full of Walther pistols, ammunition and a few boxes of vodka. The work they were supposed to do required a large amount of alcohol to be consumed. The work involved murdering 6.3 thousand people.

It made an amazing impression on me when they first came to my office. Blochin, Siniegubow and Kriwienko. “come on, let’s go, let’s go!” – in 1991 Dmitry Tokarev, the head of the NKVD in Kalinin, testified. – So, we went. And then I saw all this horror. Blokhin put on his special clothing: brown leather hat, long leather brown apron, brown leather gloves with cuffs above elbows. It made a huge impression on me. I saw the executioner. ”

That night, it was April 1940, in the NKVD building at 6 Sowiecka Street the murders began. The killers acted methodically, calmly, as if on the production line. Poles, soldiers of the PEC, policemen and gendarmes, were individually called out of prison cells and brought to the so-called Leninist lounge. It was a place where a Soviet propaganda publication hung on the wall, there was a bust of the first commander of the revolution and some communist literature.

There, the victims were asked for their surnames, their fathes’ names and dates of birth. The guard handcuffed them. They were led out, one by one, to the neighboring cell where the executioner was waiting. As soon as they entered the room, the killer placed the pistol’s barrel against the back of the head and pulled the trigger. The Pole fell to the ground, and at the same time the next convict was already being led to the waiting room. For the shots not to be heard, Blokhin ordered the door and the walls of the execution chamber to be covered with a thick layer of felt.

The murders in Kalinin took place at night, about 250 people were killed during a single night.

On the first night 343 Poles were delivered to the facility, but it turned out that it was too much. The last victims of the contingent had to be murdered in a hurry in the daylight. So, the “daily norm” was reduced by 100. The whole operation lasted about a month. In total, about 30 people pulled the triggers in Kalinin, the three professional NKVD killers – Blokhin, Siniegubow and Kriwienko – and employees of the local NKVD with the help of investigators, prison guards and drivers, but also ordinary office workers. They were selected by the head of the NKVD in Kalinin-Borisov.

Although murdering people was formally not “in their job description”, according to Tokariev, it was practically impossible for them to refuse. “There should not be a single living witness [this instruction came from Moscow]. One of the drivers, I do not remember his name – refused. I was afraid that an order would be given to shoot him as a harmful witness. So, I called him in and said: “Misha, you are a communist …”. I put some sense into him, to save him from imminent death, said Tokarev.


If this story is true, then this attitude was rare. Most of the employees of the Kaliningrad NKVD did not have much qualms about murdering Poles, at least not when committing the murder. The reason could be fanatical communism or inherent sadism, but above all the promise of financial gratification and libations taking place after the murder of each contingent.
Shortly before dawn, when the last Pole was murdered, Blokhin collected guns from the killers and checked their technical condition. The weapon would be quickly worn out, which is why the executioners brought a large load of Walther pistols. Then – as a reward for a well-done task – Blokhin handed out vodka and a luxurious appetizer. Most probably, plenty of alcohol was also drunk before and during the killings. Alcohol provided the necessary anesthesia and allowed to ease the horror of terrible murders carried out in the cellars. In the morning, everyone taking part in the murders was engaged in the removal of the bodies.

They were carried out to the prison yard, where five or six trucks covered with tarpaulins were waiting (this tarp was later made to burn, and the lumps of trucks were carefully scrubbed from the blood and fragments of the brain). The bodies were taken to the suburban summer resort Miednoje. There, they were dropped to a mass grave, dug up earlier by the Komsomolec backhoe.
Two backhoe operators were brought by Blokhin from Moscow. After the operation, these people closed the pits and tampered the soil. Then on that ground, the NKVD created a bogus jamming station to have an excuse to keep people out. There were security officers’ summer houses in the area. When one of them years later wanted to dig a cellar for potatoes, he was denied permit for an obvious reason.

It is also worth noting that after the end of the murders of the Poles, Blokhin and the rest of the executors celebrated with a banquette featuring cold vodka and caviar.

How did the Kalinin’s killers fare the murders? The most famous of them: Vasily Blokhin was a man who personally murdered at least 10-15 thousand. people. Most likely, he is still the world record-breaker.
In addition to the hundreds of Polish prisoners of Błochin, he shot, among others, Lew Kamenev, Grigory Zinoviev, Mikhail Tukhachevsky, Nikolai Yezhov, and writer Isaac Babel during internal Soviet purges. In recognition of his 20th anniversary, he was given a M-20 Pobieda passenger car. After Józef Stalin’s death, Blokhin retired. He died in 1955 of heart attack.

His two helpers made great careers. Nikolai Siniegubov became deputy minister of the Soviet Union railways, and Mikhail Kriwienko served as the head of the staff of the NKVD Conviction Army and the head of the Central Board for Prisoners of War and Interior of the NKVD. Dmitry Tokarev was successively the minister of security in the Soviet republics of Tajik and Tatar.

However, not all murderers could sleep well. Tokarski’s driver Nikolai Suchariev received a TT pistol as a reward for participating in the murder of Poles. He soon shot himself with this weapon. The deputy head of the Kaliningin NKVD Vasily Pavlov committed suicide, and another high-ranking officer, Andrei
Rubanov, lost his mind. Many of the killers became alcoholics, which resulted in their expulsion from the communist institutions and ultimately death.

Identity of criminals

We know the identity of almost all victims of the Katyn massacre. Officers, policemen, officials and other representatives of the elite of the Second Republic of Poland. We know almost everything about the high up architects of the killing – Józef Stalin, Ławrentij Beria, Wiaczesław Mołotowie, Klimencie Woroszyłów, Łazarze Kaganowicz, Michaile Kalininie and Anastas Mikojanie. They were those who signed an ominous order to murder Poles on March 5, 1940.
However, we still have very little information about the executioners, that is the people who followed the orders issued by Stalin and other members of the Soviet Politburo.

Until recently, we only knew the names of some of them. Researchers located the order number 001365 issued by Beria after the Katyn operation, under which 125 NKVD officers were awarded “for successful execution of special tasks”.

An excellent Russian historian, employee of the Memorial organization, accomplished a gargantuan task and identified almost all of them. Short biographies prepare by Petrov were compiled in the excellent book “Psy Stalina”, recently published in Poland (Dematr 2012). Looking through them, it can be concluded that there is no regularity. Some of the executioners after 1940 ascended the career ladder in the Soviet apparatus of terror, while some others fared differently. the opposite was quite the opposite. They vegetated in inferior positions or after Stalin’s death were subjected to repression by a new Soviet ruling class.

Among the murderers are people of various education, a variety of professional positions, various nationalities – Russians, Ukrainians, Belarussians, Jews, Poles, representatives of the nations of the Eastern USSR – and of various ages. The eldest on the list is Ivan Stelmach, commander of the NKVD prison in Smolensk, who was 58 years old at the time of the murders. He commanded executions in Katyn. According to unconfirmed information, he died in agony due to “terrible pain that consumed his internal organs”.
The youngest on the list is Anna Ivanovna Razorienova. In 1940, she was only 21 years old. She was the typist who prepared the death lists. An ideological communist, she only left the party in 1990.

Back in the 1990s, when the Soviet Union collapsed, many Katyn torturers lived on. Oleg Zakirow, a KGB officer from Smolensk, reached Oran Zakirow, who during a perestroika period conducted a private investigation of the crimes against the Poles He was removed from the service and had to flee to Poland. Here is how Zakirov described the meeting with Kiryłem Borodenka, which took place in December 1989:
“The old man opened me, with watery, cold and hostile eyes. He took me for an employee who came in connection with his application for improving housing conditions. He let me into the room. I felt such a stench that a public toilet would lose compared to it. I noticed a rubber tube in the lower part of his abdomen, which urine ran down to the mayonnaise jar fixed below. I had an NKVD veteran abandoned by everyone (including Chekist colleagues).
– Polish officers in 1940 were shot by my colleagues: Ivan Stelmach, Gribow, Gwozdowski, Silczenkow.
The other names he forgot. Then he said:
– When we fired …
– Did you shoot too? – I asked.
He corrected himself immediately.
– When they were shooting at the Polish officers, they were paid money from a special secret account, they were given vodka. There were also good appetizers: smoked sturgeon, luxurious meats.
It was evident that he was afraid to talk about himself. About colleagues – no problem. He added on his own initiative:
– In 1943, when I was evacuated to Zielenodolska, I heard on the radio a lie about the shooting of Polish officers, that the perpetrators were Germans, I sneered at this untruth. ”

Thanks to Tokariev’s detailed testimony quoted above, we have a rather extensive knowledge of the extermination of Polish prisoners in Kalinin. Most questions remain in the case of the murder of officers of the Polish Army, who were found in mass graves in Katyn, a summer resort of the NKVD officers located near Smolensk.
Most probably, some of the victims were shot over death pits, and some in the underground of the Smolensk NKVD compound at 13 Dierżyńskiego Street. It is possible that murder in Katyn itself was abandoned after one of the victims broke away and ran through the forest for a long time, calling for help. It was in Katyn that bodies punctured with bayonets were found, and the torturers also tied Polish officers with a complicated loop tightened around the neck and hands. Any movement of the hands resulted in strangulation.

According to one version, some officers were killed in the NKVD dacha in Katyn. At the time of the execution, to drown out the sound of shots, the tractor engine was turned on. Other than that, everything looked just like in Kalinin. After the “dirty work”, the executioners – NKVD officers from Smolensk and Minsk – received large amounts of vodka and luxurious appetizers.

In Smolensk, and also in Kharkov, the third place of murder on prisoners of war in 1939, in addition to Walther pistols, traditional Bolshevik revolvers of the nagant type were also used in the beginning. This weapon, however, proved to be impractical. It was necessary to designate a special man to take out used scales and load new cartridges, which substantially delayed the operation.

There were also some differences in the way of killing. While the killers in Smolensk / Katyn and Kalinin were shooting the victims in the back, in Kharkov they shot at the neck – at the height of the first two vertebrae. This was done at an angle – in such a way that the sphere, breaking the vertebrae, went out of the eye, nasal cavity or mouth. The “advantage” of this method of extermination was the smaller amount of blood that flowed from the wound.
Syromiatnikow revealed in his testimony a blood-curdling thing. Unlike Kalinin in Kharkiv, Poles were moved out of the cells in groups of a few. They stood in the hallway with their hands tied up, waiting for their turn. They heard the shots of their friends being murdered. Everything was performed very efficiently. On the special command of commander Timofeyeva Kuprija, while one of the guards brought in another Pole, others dragged the body from the torture chamber.

It is hard to imagine what torments the prisoners had to endure. Interestingly, Kuprij, who was the main executioner in Kharkiv, was later transferred to the position of the director of the oil company in Poltava.

While from the available sources we are able to get some information about killers from Kharkiv, Katyn, Smolensk and Kalinin – that is, those who murdered Polish prisoners of war in 1939, we know almost nothing about the killings of Polish prisoners in Soviet Ukraine and Belarus, people who the Soviets arrested after the end of hostilities and whose names were on the so-called Ukrainian (3435 people) and Belarussian (3870 people) lists.

About 22 thousand Poles were murdered as part of the Katyn massacre. There were well over a hundred killers. They were various people, various nationalities, various professional positions and various motives. They also reacted differently to the crimes they committed. On some the murders did not make a big impression. They continued to pursue career and held key positions in the Soviet power apparatus. Others crumbled. They suffered from schizophrenia, or committed suicide.

All of them, however, share one thing – none of the Bolshevik executioners of the Poles were brought to justice for participating in the 1940 crimes. Katyn remained a crime without punishment.

The original article can be found here:

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