Count Potocki de Montalk and the Katyn Manifesto
At the time when the USSR was fighting alongside the Allied powers against the Axis, any mention of the atrocities and aggression of the Soviet Union was considered to be seditious and liable to place the exponent of such ideas on the black list of suspected ‘collaborators’ and ‘fifth columnists’. Hence, what eventually became the most infamous of the Soviet atrocities during World War II, the so-called ‘Katyn Massacre’ of 15,000 Polish Army officers at Katyn Forest by the Soviet invaders in 1940,1 was prohibited from discussion. Among the first in an Allied state to defy this censorship and risk the consequences was a highly eccentric New Zealand-born poet and claimant to the throne of Poland, Geoffrey Potocki de Montalk, who was residing in England during the war.2
Potocki was, in contrast to most of the others of the New Zealand literati, decidedly of the ‘Right’, and in particular he was a Royalist.3 His opposition to Communism brought him closer to sympathy for Germany during World War II, and although his loyalty was to the Poland of his noble ancestors, from whence his claim to the Throne, he demanded a negotiated peace with Germany with the expectation that a result might be the return of Poland’s territorial integrity. Despite this pro-German orientation, Potocki enjoyed the confidence of Poles in exile in England during the war.Allied Cover-Up
When on April 13, 1943 German radio announced the finding of mass graves of Polish officers in Katyn forest, near Smolensk, the Allies knew the Soviets were responsible. Prime Minister Churchill had believed from the start that the Russians had been guilty at Katyn, and wrote of his feelings long afterward.4 The British ambassador to Poland, Owen O’Malley, reported when the discovery was first made, his view of Soviet guilt, writing in a report that ‘we have, in fact, perforce used the good name of England to cover up the massacre’.5 ‘But such views could not be admitted to the people in wartime, and O’Malley’s messages were kept secret until the official records were opened thirty years later. The governments of Britain and the United States proclaimed at the time of the German discovery that it was all a monstrous lie’.6 The British ambassador in Moscow also considered Katyn to be Russia’s responsibility, and that the Soviet break with the Polish government-in-exile over the matter had been done to cover up their guilt.7 The only Allied newspaper to carry the story about Katyn from the start and to doubt the Soviet protests of German guilt was the Chicago Tribune. The other major press ignored the story as far as possible, before adopting the line that it was German propaganda.8 On April 20, 1943, the Allied press took up the Soviet line that the Polish Government-in-exile was in collusion with Germany in blaming the USSR for Katyn. Time claimed that the Poles had ‘promptly remembered’ that the Polish officers had been missing for three years, and that the Germans had ‘planted’ the story.9 The USSR made this a pretext for breaking off diplomatic relations with the Polish exile government based in England.10
French Ambassador Fernand de Brinon visits the place of the mass murder in the forest of Katyn accompanied by German officers. April 1943.
Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-J15385 / CC-BY-SA [CC-BY-SA-3.0-de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons
Churchill had pressured General Wladislaw Sikorski, prime minister of the Polish government-in-exile, to withdraw a request for a Red Cross inquiry into the massacre.11 However the Germans established their own commission of inquiry, which included representatives from the Polish underground, a Polish medical team, and scientists and medical men from twelve occupied and neutral countries, including Switzerland.12
Despite the high-level Allied pressure, the Polish government-in-exile charged that 15,000 Polish soldiers and civilians captured by the Russians were missing.13 The Washington Post even ridiculed the Polish government-in-exile as being composed of ‘reactionary and feudal’ individuals, although most, states Colby, had working class or peasant backgrounds.14
On Easter Day 1983, Geoffrey Potocki de Montalk, writing from Switzerland, reissued his 1943 ‘Katyn Manifesto’, with a preface, and entitled these combined documents the ‘Second Katyn Manifesto’,15 in reaction to a letter that had been published in The Press, Christchurch, New Zealand, stating that Katyn had been committed by the Germans.
The Polish government-in-exile in regard to Katyn was only permitted to publish the facts about Katyn in Polish, therefore leaving the English-speaking public unaware of the Soviet responsibility for the massacre. It fell to Potocki to correct this.
Writing his preface in 1983 to the ‘Katyn Manifesto’ that Potocki had distributed forty years earlier, he recounted that he was ‘the only person during the war to print and publish the facts in England in English, in Our Katyn Manifesto on 13th May 1943…’16 Potocki held the ‘English government of the time and their Polish lackeys, the so-called Polish government in exile’, to have been complicit in the Katyn cover-up. ‘The English authorities did everything in their power to prevent the Poles from hiring a hall to discuss the situation’, but the Roman Catholic Church ‘broke this boycott’ and permitted the use of Westminster Cathedral for a public meeting. The authorities were also unable to prevent the hire of Caxton Hall, where a meeting on Katyn was attended by Potocki in ‘velvet cap and silver white Eagle’, ‘scowling’ because of the failure of the meeting to have played the Polish anthem’.17 Potocki continues:
No one in the Kingdom except Ourself18 printed anything of the truth about Katyn in English: but the Poles were allowed to print all details in Polish (that is, after Dr Goebbels’s broadcast, 13 April, not before) because the English government, being as cunning as they are unwise, could realize that no one could read it except Poles (who knew the truth only too well) and a few spies: and it would and did give the numerous Poles in exile the totally false impression that their so-called government in exile was genuine from a Polish point of view, when in reality they were nothing but a group of highly paid lackeys of the English Secret Service.19
Potocki continued in his scathing attitude towards the compliance of the Polish government-in-exile, calling them ‘slaves’, ‘who had sold their souls for money and for prestige’, for not having printed a word in English about Katyn ‘to alert the more honest English’.20 He was contemptuous of their cowardice, asking ‘what of it’ if they might have been jailed for publishing an expose, as he – ‘the Claimant of the Polish Throne’ - and his ‘inoffensive French wife’ had been. As for the possibility of a Katyn expose prejudicing the war, ‘what of it?’ he asked again.
Potocki had a lifelong involvement with printing limited edition booklets of his poetry and manifestos on many issues, including a journal called Right Review, which he continued to print sporadically for decades after the war. Just as he had circumvented censorship on some of his more risqué poetry, he printed the ‘Katyn Manifesto’ on his own press, thereby, ‘not asking the permission of any English nobody to publish anything’.21
In May 1943 Potocki printed thousands of copies of the ‘Katyn Manifesto’, addressed as a ‘Proclamation to the English, the Poles, the Germans and the jews’ (sic).22
Potocki had shortly before sought out the opinion of the Duke of Bedford, a proponent of a negotiated peace with Germany, in regard to rumours circulating among Polish exiles about the execution of thousands of Poles by the Soviet invaders, which had allegedly taken place in 1940. Bedford replied:
At the moment I am not quite sure where, by reason of my unpopularity, I should really be able to do much to help the Polish cause… What you say is confirmed by what more than one friend has told me of conversations with Poles in the Country. Very many seem to hate and fear Russia, even more than they hate and fear Germany, and consider that the Russian treatment of Polish prisoners has been more ruthless. Considerably more than a year ago a Polish officer told a friend of mine that the Russians had kept alive the private soldiers among the prisoners captured, but all the officers had disappeared and he believed that they had been murdered. The statement in the German propaganda seems now to confirm his supposition in a rather sinister fashion.
Yours very truly, Bedford.23
Stephanie de Montalk , writing the biography of her cousin sixty years later, recounts in a chapter entitled ‘Katyn’ that the Count had told her that, ‘On 4 May 1943, Poles in London had requested Potocki’s help in exposing the atrocity’.24 Stephanie de Montalk states that on May 13th thousands of copies were run off Potocki’s platen press and he went up to London and handed out the manifesto, with the help of Poles.25
Potocki was soon placed under surveillance, questions were asked in Parliament, and he was attacked by the press, including the Communist Party’s Daily Worker, which described the manifesto as ‘poisonous filth’,26 calling Potocki a ‘crazy Fascist Count’. It was at this time that Potocki was jailed for ‘insufficient black-out’,27 recalling that he arrived at the jail ‘dressed like Richard II’.28 After release he was ordered by the Ministry of Labour to serve six months in an agricultural camp in Northumberland, which he attended as a preference to conscription, adorned with his royal attire. After a month he told the camp manager he was leaving, and went.Katyn Manifesto
Potocki’s ‘Katyn Manifesto’ shows the extent to which the facts were known by the Poles in exile. Potocki in printing the manifesto for wide distribution also took the opportunity to announce his plan for a post-war settlement. This served as a preamble to the Katyn material, beginning:
We have consulted a fair number of Poles in London including some of considerable importance and our finding is that they are unanimous in holding that the Bolsheviks29 and not the Germans, murdered the Polish officers at Katyn (and many other Poles as well). We have been asked by certain of the Poles we have talked with, to use our influence as a half English Pole to insist that the English look at the facts in the face and recognize that it was the Bolsheviks who committed this loathsome crime.30
Potocki was irritated by the insistence of Poles - presumably the government-in-exile – that he should not publish anything that would ‘annoy the soviets’, (surely an impossible task if one is exposing the Katyn Massacre) or to ‘harm the cause of Poland’, Potocki explaining: ‘by which they plainly mean (“the cause of Poles in England”) and in particular we have been begged 1. not to claim any soviet territory and 2. not to demand severance of diplomatic relations with the USSR’.31 To Potocki the requests were short-sighted and cowardly, and failed to take account of the ‘30,000,000 Poles in Poland, beside the generations of Poles yet unborn!’, stating:
We cannot see how the soviets can be regarded otherwise than as the worst possible, and most irreductible enemy of Poland; a soviet Poland would be the same as no Poland and a Poland with a powerful soviet neighbour would live in misery and fear and would be in perpetual risk of ultimate liquidations.
Not only the English, but the Poles in England, must look the facts in the face. We wish to know why the bolsheviks may claim Polish lands, while the Poles may not claim lands formerly stolen from Poland by Russians and why the bolsheviks may break off diplomatic relations with Polish officials and these Poles may not retaliate’.32
Potocki next listed his plan for the post-war reorganisation of Europe as it related mainly to Poland and the USSR, reflecting primarily his Royalist principles, beginning with the declaration that there is ‘no such thing as soviet land. Russian land belongs to the Tsar’. The lands that are claimed as ‘soviet’ are ‘fundamentally Polish’, including those further East, which are ‘fiefs of the Polish crown’. Potocki stated that diplomatic relations with the USSR are unacceptable for any ‘civilized government’ and doubted the ‘sanity’ of the Germans in regard to the former Russo-German Pact. His final point was that the defeat of England and Poland in the war would be better ‘from every point of view, whether spiritual or material’, than a victory over Germany won ‘in common with the USSR’. 33 After this four-point plan he listed the ‘facts about Katyn’, which follow verbatim:
- Though the USSR occupied half Poland on the pretence of “saving” the Poles from the Germans, they took away vast quantities of the population, terrorised the remainder, and, according to the “Red Star” (17th Sept. 1940) treated 181,000 soldiers as prisoners of war, including about 10,000 officers.
- According to proofs in the hands of the Polish administration in London, in November 1939 the great concentration camps were organised. At the beginning of 1940, the soviet authorities informed the prisoners that the camps were to be liquidated, so that they would be able to return home. For this purpose lists were made. At the time there were in the camps:-
- At Kozielsk 5000, of whom 4500 were officers.
- At Starobielsk 3920, all officers except about 100 civilians. Nearly 400 were doctors.
- At Otaszków 6570, of whom 380 were officers, the rest largely police.
- On the 5th April 1940 the liquidation of the camps began, and every few days from 60 to 300 persons were taken away. From Kozielsk they were taken in the direction of Smolensk.
- According to the Polish-soviet pacts of 30th July 1941 and 14th August 1941, a Polish army was to be formed and it was taken for granted that the above-mentioned officers would form the cadres. By the end of August no officers had turned up from Kozielsk, Starobielsk, or Otaszków, except 400 prisoners who had been removed to Griazowiec, and some who had been removed to common prisons. In all 8300 officers were missing, besides 7000 petty officers, soldiers, and civilians from these three camps.
- On the 6th October 1941 the Polish Ambassador Kot and General Anders applied to the soviet authorities to know what had become of them, and were informed by Wyszinski, Deputy People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs, that all prisoners of war had been liberated and therefore were free.
- In October and November Ambassador Kot repeatedly took up with “Stalin”, Molotoff, and Wyszinski, the question of these prisoners and demanded copies of the lists, which had been carefully prepared by the soviets.
- On the 3rd December General Sikorski took up the matter at Moscow in conversation with “Stalin”, and in view of the failure of the soviet officials to supply copies of their lists. Handed to “Stalin” a partial list of 3845 names put together by some of their fellow-prisoners. “Stalin” assured Sikorski that they had all been set free. An additional list of 800 names was handed to “Stalin” by General Anders on the 18th March 1942, but not a single one of these men reached the Polish Army.
- Count Raczynski also took the matter up with “Ambassador” Bogomolow, who, in a note dated 13th March 1942, once more assured that all the prisoners, whether civil or military, had been freed.
- Neither the Polish administration in London, nor the Polish ambassador in Russia, has ever received any answer as to the whereabouts of the officers and other prisoners removed from these three camps aforementioned.
These facts were mainly translated from the Dziennik Polski, and were confirmed to us personally by a high Polish official. In these circumstances how can any person in his right mind accept the Bolshevik version, to the effect that “the Germans did it”?
We are not aware that the Germans have ever, in their history, done such a thing, whereas the soviets have printed boasts of equally wicked crimes.
How is it the USSR have only now discovered, after the German announcement, that these prisoners were sent to work at Smolensk and were captured by the Germans?
Neither Poland, nor England, have any right to be allied to such a government.
It is high time for a negotiated Peace, in which we hope the Germans will be persuaded to display a proper regard for the rights of Poland. Poland and Hungary to be united according to our map34 (with possible concessions to the Germans); the jews to be helped if they will even at this late hour repent and behave themselves; the Tsar to be restored in Russia and the King in France.35
The betrayal of Poland by the USA and Britain to the USSR was a standing embarrassment and the public could not be permitted to compare this to the acclaimed war aims of the Allies, and specifically Britain’s ostensible reason for declaring war on Germany over the Polish issue. Katyn had to be put down the ‘Memory Hole’.
One of the most ignoble actions of Britain towards Poland came after the war when the official Victory Parade was held in London on June 8th 1946. Bernard Smith, (whose book carries a foreword by Irena R Anders, widow of Lieutenant General W Anders, commander of the free Polish Army) states that ‘the Polish forces, who had been the first in Europe to fight the Germans, were not asked to take part’ in the Victory Parade. Twenty-five airmen, representing the Polish crews who had played a significant part in the Battle of Britain, were invited to take part, but refused, because of the ban on the participation of the Polish Army.36 Even in 1976, the British Government would not send a representative to attend the unveiling of the Katyn Memorial in London and, moreover, members of the armed forces were forbidden to attend in uniform.37 Such an enduring attitude towards the Poles and Poland by Britain begs the question, which vested interests do not want asked: was the declaration of war on Germany in 1939, supposedly in defence of Poland, no more than a pretext for going to war, and was intended to hide wider issues?
The facts bought out by Potocki to the English-speaking public in 1943 were not conceded by the USSR until 1990. Stephanie de Montalk, in writing the biography of her cousin, states that when he told her about the Katyn Massacre in 1983, i.e., the year that he republished the ‘Katyn Manifesto’, she had ‘regarded his account with some scepticism’, stating that her own efforts at finding out about Katyn were ‘inconclusive’. 38 She writes, citing what Potocki told her in 1983:
It was not until June 1995 that I discovered from reports in the press the wartime intelligence reports, sealed for fifty years after the war, confirmed not only the full horror of the atrocity, but also Potocki’s belief at the time that the British Government had been aware of the massacre. The official line had been ‘to pretend that the whole affair had been a fake’ and that the Government had believed: ‘this is obviously the most convenient attitude to adopt, and, if adopted consistently enough, will doubtless receive universal acceptance’. The reason was that ‘any other view would have been most distasteful to the public since it could be inferred that we were allied to a power guilty of the same sort of atrocities as the Germans’. The Soviet Union had also emphatically denied Germany’s assertions that it was responsible for the massacre, and continued to do so until 1990, when KGB archives revealed irrefutable evidence that it had been carried out on the direct orders of Stalin.39
While British reluctance to disclose the facts seems to have been as persistent as that of the USSR, the US Congress initiated an enquiry in September 1951. The US authorities had known of the Katyn Massacre in 1943, as two American prisoners of war had been among the team taken by the Germans to inspect the execution site at Katyn Forest. The senior officer, Colonel John H Van Vliet, handed a report on the matter to Major General Clayton Bissell, assistant chief of staff in charge of Army Intelligence, in May 1945. This was suppressed and Van Vliet was ordered to stay quiet. Van Vliet prepared a second report in 1950. The Congressional enquiry concluded that the report had been removed or destroyed. The Congressional investigation took two years, heard 81 witnesses, and unanimously found that the Poles had been murdered by the Soviets in the spring of 1940. The number of bodies found at Katyn Forest only amounted to 4,143, who had been prisoners at the Kozielsk camp, yet the committee concluded that the total number of Poles taken from the camps and executed amounted to approximately 15,400.40 Potocki’s publication in 1943 of the estimate of ‘8300 officers … besides 7000 petty officers, soldiers, and civilians from these three camps’,41 had been accurate.
Why had the USA reversed its position on the Katyn cover-up from 1950 while the British authorities remained mute? Firstly, the primary reason advanced for Britain’s having declared war on Germany was over the issue of Polish sovereignty, and the myth had to be maintained that the USSR had been invading ‘liberators’, otherwise British duplicity would become apparent. Secondly, the USA had entered the war for reasons other than Poland, and in the post-1945 world Stalin had become the ‘new Hitler’, much like today any number of US obstacles to global hegemony – such as Saddam Hussein or Milosevic – are transformed into ‘new Hitlers’. Rather than a ‘new world order’, as it is now called, emerging in the aftermath of World War II, in which the old empires would be eliminated in the spirit of ‘free trade’,42 and the USSR would serve as a junior partner in a US-dominated post-war world, Stalin rebuffed the USA’s overtures and he ceased being ‘Uncle Joe.’ Specifically, the USSR had rejected the two foundations for a US-dominated world order:
- The USSR rejected the American plan for the United Nations General Assembly to serve as a world parliament, in which the USSR would be out-voted, and instead insisted that authority be vested with the UN Security Council, with member states having the right to veto any decision; thereby making the United Nations Organization null and void as a potential basis for a world government, and
- The USSR rejected the ‘Baruch Plan’ for the ‘internationalisation’ of nuclear energy under UN auspices, which the USSR again regarded as giving de facto authority to the USA.43
As Benjamin Colby comments in relation to Katyn and the new post-war world situation: ‘It was not until the United States found itself fighting a war in Korea against an army trained, equipped and supplied by Russia, that an official effort was made to reveal the facts of Katyn. At long last the whitewash was to be stripped away’.44 Katyn could now be used as Cold War propaganda against the USA’s former wartime ally. As for the Soviet Union’s eventual admission of guilt in 1990, this was a time when the new rulers of Russia embarked on an altogether different path: that of de-sovietising the USSR,45 dismantling the Warsaw Bloc, and bringing Russia into the type of ‘brave new world’46 that Stalin had rejected in 1945. The release of the facts about Katyn was serving a new political agenda in Russia, just as their suppression had served an agenda of a different type during World War II. Katyn shows that, like the recent and present allegations of ‘war crimes’ in Kosovo and Syria respectively, such allegations are publicized or suppressed selectively, in the cynical pursuit of political agendas, and seldom have any regard for truth.
1 Joseph Bishop, ‘Katyn: Unanswered Questions’, Inconvenient History, Vol. 3, No. 2, http://www.inconvenienthistory.com/archive/2010/volume_2/number_3/
2 K R Bolton, ‘Geoffrey Potocki de Montalk: New Zealand Poet, Polish King and “Good European”’, Counter-Currents, August 2010, Three Parts, http://www.counter-currents.com/2010/08/count-potocki-de-montalk-part-i/
4 Benjamin Colby, ‘Twas a Famous Victory: Deception and Propaganda in the War with Germany (New York: Arlington House Publishers, 1974), p. 65.
5 Time, July 17, 1972, cited by Colby, ibid.
6 Colby, ibid.
7 Ibid., p. 68.
8 Ibid., pp. 70-74.
9 Time, April 26, 1943, cited by Colby, ibid., p. 71.
10 Colby, ibid.
11 Ibid., p, 68.
13 Ibid., p. 71.
14 Ibid., p. 72.
15 Geoffrey Potocki de Montalk, ‘Second Katyn Manifesto’, Switzerland, 1983.
16 Ibid., p. 2.
18 Potocki capitalized references to himself as the claimant to the Polish throne and that of Hungary and Bohemia, and used the ‘Royal We’.
19 Geoffrey Potocki de Montalk, ‘Second Katyn Manifesto’, op. cit., p. 2.
22 ‘Jews’ lacked capitalization; an idiosyncrasy that Potocki also later adopted toward the ‘english’.
23 Bedford to Potocki, April 29, 1943; cited by Stephanie de Montalk, Unquiet World: The Life of Count Geoffrey Potocki de Montalk (Wellington, New Zealand: Victoria University Press, 2001), p. 229.
24 Stephanie de Montalk, ibid., p. 232.
25 Stephanie de Montalk states that Potocki was helped by the Polish government-in-exile, although this seems unlikely, considering what Potocki wrote of the matter in 1983.
26 Stephanie de Montalk, op. cit., p. 232.
27 Ibid., p. 234.
28 Geoffrey Potocki de Montalk, ‘Second Katyn Manifesto’, op. cit., p. 2.
29 Potocki always distinguished between ‘Bolsheviks’ and the Russian people.
30 Geoffrey Potocki de Montalk, ‘Second Katyn Manifesto’, 1983, op. cit.; citing the first Katyn Manifesto, 1943.
34 Included in the original 1943 edition of the ‘Katyn Manifesto’, but not included in the 1983 reprint.
35 Geoffrey Potocki de Montalk, ‘Second Katyn Manifesto’, 1983, op. cit.; citing the first Katyn Manifesto, 1943.
36 Bernard Smith, Poland: A Study in Treachery (West Sussex, 1984), p. 26.
37 Ibid., p. 18.
38 Stephanie de Montalk, op. cit., p. 231.
40 Benjamin Colby, op. cit., pp. 75-77.
41 Geoffrey Potocki de Montalk, ‘Katyn Manifesto’, 1943, point 4.
43 K R Bolton, ‘Origins of the Cold War and how Stalin Foiled a New World Order’, Foreign Policy Journal, May 31, 2010, http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2010/05/31/origins-of-the-cold-war-how-stalin-foild-a-new-world-order/all/1
44 Benjamin Colby, op. cit., p. 76.
45 Mikhail Gorbachev, as the architect of Russia’s subjugation to oligarchy, plutocracy and globalisation – albeit short-lived – handed the Soviet archives on Katyn over to Polish president Wojciech Jaruzelski in 1990, stating that the documents showed ‘indirectly but convincingly’ the Soviet responsibility. See: Esther B Fein, ‘Upheaval in the East; Gorbachev Hands Over Katyn Papers’, New York Times, April 14, 1990, http://www.nytimes.com/1990/04/14/world/upheaval-in-the-east-gorbachev-hands-over-katyn-papers.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm
46 K R Bolton, ‘Mikhail Gorbachev: Globalist Superstar’, Foreign Policy Journal, April 3, 2011, http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2011/04/03/mikhail-gorbachev-globalist-super-star/