The Gestapo–NKVD conferences were a series of meetings organized in late 1939 and early 1940, whose purpose was to enable the Soviet and German security forces to share information regarding their operations in Poland. In spite of their differences on other issues, both Heinrich Himmler and Lavrentiy Beria had common purposes as far as the fate of Poland was concerned, and the conferences discussed coordinating plans for occupation of the Polish nation and in fighting the Polish resistance movement, which was an irritant to both Nazi and Soviet occupiers of Poland.
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Out of four conferences, the third took place in the famous Tatra Mountains spa of Zakopane in south Poland, and is the most remembered (the Zakopane Conference). From the Soviet side, several officers of the NKVD participated in these meetings, and the Germans brought a group of experts from the Gestapo.
In 1939, after the signing of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact in August, the German invasion of Poland on 1 September and Soviet invasion of Poland on 17 September resulted in the country being occupied by the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.
Little is known about this meeting. It reportedly took place on September 27, 1939 in Brześć nad Bugiem, while some units of the Polish Army were still fighting (see: Invasion of Poland). As both sides correctly expected that Polish resistance would start soon, they discussed ways of dealing with the possible activities of such resistance.
This meeting took place some time at the end of November 1939, probably in Przemyśl — a city which—between September 1939 and June 1941—was divided into two parts, German and Soviet. Apart from talks of fighting Polish resistance, the Soviets and the Germans discussed ways of exchanging Polish POWs. Also, first discussions about the occupation of Poland were started. Some historians claim this meeting took place in Lwów. It is also claimed a meeting was held in December.
This one is the best known, and took place in Zakopane, starting on February 20, 1940 in the villa "Pan Tadeusz", located at the Droga do Białego street close to the entry to the Białego Valley. The German side was represented by Adolf Eichmann and an official by the name of Zimmermann, who later became chief of the Radom District of the General Government. The Soviet delegation was headed by Grigoriy Litvinov and —among others—Rita Zimmerman (director of a gold mine in Kolyma) and a man named Eichmans, creator of an efficient way of killing in the back of the head.
According to several sources, one of the effects of this conference was the German Ausserordentliche Befriedungsaktion (see: German AB Action operation in Poland), elimination of Krakow inteligentia Sonderaktion Krakau and the Soviet Katyn massacre In his 1991 book Stalin: Breaker of Nations, British historian Robert Conquest stated: "Terminal horror suffered by so many millions of innocent Jewish, Slavic, and other European peoples as a result of this meeting of evil minds is an indelible stain on the history and integrity of Western civilization, with all of its humanitarian pretensions". Also, Professor George Watson from Cambridge University concluded in his "Rehearsal for the Holocaust?" commentary (June 1981) that the fate of the interned Polish officers may have been decided at this conference. This is however disputed by other historians, who point out that there is no documentary evidence confirming any cooperation on that issue, that the existing Soviet documentation actually makes such a cooperation improbable and that it is reasonable to say that Germany did not know about the Katyn massacre until the corpses were found.
The fourth and last meeting took place in March 1940 in Krakow (according to some historians, it was part of the Zakopane Conference). This event was described by General Tadeusz Bór-Komorowski, commander of Armia Krajowa in his book “Armia Podziemna” (“The Secret Army”). In it, he describes how a special delegation of NKVD came to Krakow, which was going to discuss with Gestapo how to act against the Polish resistance. The talks lasted for several weeks.
Bor-Komorowski′s description is disputed by Russian historian Oleg Vishlyov, who, based on the original Soviet documents, points out that the conference was not between NKVD and Gestapo, but between Soviet and German commissions dealing with refugees. The topic of discussion was refugee exchange. The conference has nothing to do with repressions against Poles or with the Katyn massacre. In fact, numerous historians point out that there is no evidence of German-Soviet cooperation in the Katyn massacre.
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- О.В. Вишлёв, Накануне 22 июня 1941 года, М.: Наука, 2001, с.119-123.
- See e.g. Slawomir Kalbarczyk, "Zbrodnia Katynska po 70 latach: krotki przeglad ustalen historiografii" (in Zbrodnia Katynska. W kregu prawdy i klamstwa, IPN, Warszawa, 2010, pp. 18-19); Witold Wasilewski, "Współpraca sowiecko-niemiecka a zbrodnia katyńska" in Pamięć i Sprawiedliwość, 2009, nr.1.; N. Lebedeva, A. Cienciala, W. Materski, Katyn: a crime without punishment, Yale University Press, 2007, p. 143.
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