Smolensk 2010 and Katyn 1940 - Conspiracy of Silence
An interview with Dr. Wojciech Roszkowski, Ph.D.
SCND: April 9, 2015
The international response once surrounding the Katyn Murders, is analogous to today’s situation with Smolensk Crash - some parallels undoubtedly exist.
There are also significant differences. The Polish Government in Exile at that time, sought tirelessly to investigate the Katyń case, but found refusals at every turn. In April 2010, we experienced a different situation, whereby the Polish government itself refused to investigate the Smolensk case, - says historian and political scientist Professor Wojciech Roszkowski, in an interview with wPolitice.pl
wPolityce.pl: To many Poles observing reaction of the West, its silence about Smolensk Crash seems eerily similar to the silence surrounding the Katyń Forest Massacre in 1940. Is this indeed the case? These are, after all, two distinct events, albeit sharing close geographic proximity.
Prof. Wojciech Roszkowski: This is a difficult question. During the times of the Communist Polish People’s Republic, the average Polish citizen, who lacked access to information, had much greater difficulty in understanding what Katyn was. Those who knew about the Massacre were forced to remain silent, lest they face grave consequences. While the Radio Free Europe existed, the evidence about Katyń was more difficult to ascertain due to the prevailing censorship and media monopoly resting with the communist regime. Now, the situation is a little different. There is more information about the Smolensk Crash, and it is more accessible to the Polish people. Here, however, we must underscore that there is no such thing as a statistically average Pole. A part of our society takes interest in this event and looks for information related to it, while the other is satisfied with the official version - even the one originating from Russia. As a result, if we talk about the phenomenon of a “Smolensk Cover-up,” it is in general a more pliable term than “Katyń Cover-up;” there is no similar punishment for asking questions about the Smolensk Crash.
In certain circles, however, there is the threat of being ostracized.
Let’s refer to this threat as a certain social pressure. This is to say that, in some social circles, one is better off not admitting that he considers an assassination as a cause of the crash, as this can be met with a severe reaction. The “Katyń Cover-up” was the official, state-sanctioned version of the events. It was impossible to oppose this official version at the time. With Smolensk, on the other hand, there were many people who saw how the investigation was carried out, and how the evidence was treated. They reflect upon the causes of this, but are afraid to attach a broader meaning to this. Not because somebody prohibits them from doing so, but simply because they themselves don’t want to. They suppress certain thoughts.
There is a reason I asked you to compare the Smolensk Crash with the Katyń Forest Massacre: recently we learned that the Brits knew early on who committed these crimes in Katyń. But, they hid this from us along with their de facto allies, the Soviets. Americans did not become interested in Katyń until 1952, when they established a Senate committee to investigate these crimes.
Yes. The international situation once surrounding the Katyn Murders, is analogous to today’s situation with the Smolensk Crash - certain analogies undoubtedly exist. The case of Katyń saw the light of day in 1943, and it was then that Poles began to attempt to interest the international public opinion about this issue. For the Polish émigré circles, it was clear that the Soviets have perpetrated this crime, but nothing came of their efforts. The allies and the rest of the world didn’t want to hear anything about it. Apart from few witnesses to the exhumation (a Belgian, an American, and a Norwegian), and despite knowing the truth, everyone else in the West, came to the conclusion that it wouldn’t be advantageous to reveal it openly; because, the Soviet Union was an important ally at that time.
In this sense there is an analogy between the relationship of the West with Russia in 2010 and the West’s relationship with the USSR in 1943. But there are also significant differences. Back then, the Polish government in Exile sought tirelessly to investigate the case of Katyń, but found refusals at every turn. In April 2010, we had a different situation, since it was the Polish government itself that refused to investigate the Smolensk case. This turned out to be convenient for the West, and as a result, they haven’t moved a finger. Why would they? After all, Poland itself doesn’t show any interest in an impartial investigation of these events. This is nevertheless, a very interesting historical moment, and I myself struggle to make sense of why all of this is happening the way it is. For instance, I ask myself, what role does Jürgen Roth, and his sensational book on the subject play in these events?
Just like Russia, the Germany benefitted politically from the Smolensk Crash.
The crash allowed strongly pro-German parties to win the elections in Poland.
Well, yes, this is true. One can say that from the Berlin’s vantage point, Poland no longer poses any threat. I’m unable to say whether anything has changed now, in light of Roth’s forthcoming book. This indicates some sort of change in the attitude, but perhaps it is too early to conclude whether a significant change in public perception will occur, and in what direction.
Will the Polish government take up some sort of action to interest itself in the case, if Roth’s book publishes damning evidence, photocopies of documents, reports, etc?
I think that it would be very inconvenient for the current Polish government. This government will face a dilemma, i.e., should they remain silent? This silence is also some sort of a solution, even though it will result in a fairly peculiar situation. Or should they, on the other hand, begin a dialogue, for example with the German intelligence services, but to what end? I don’t know. One way or the other, the ball is in Germany’s court. I myself am very curious to see where these developments will lead us.
Interviewer: Sławomir Sieradzki
Source: Wpolityce.pl, April 5, 2015
Translation: Marcin List
Photo: www.wasewo.pl; Wąsewo
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