Gestapo–NKVD conferences

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Gestapo–NKVD conferences
location
Location of the 3rd Gestapo–NKVD conference inside the German torture house in the Polish mountains, the 'Palace' villa in Zakopane today
Time
Duration 1939–1940
Type Nazi–Soviet bilateral planning for population exchange and the persecution of Polish nationals in occupied territories
Theme Security police talks
Cause 1939 Invasion of Poland

The Gestapo–NKVD conferences were a series of security police meetings organized in late 1939 and early 1940 by Germany and the Soviet Union, following their joint invasion of Poland in accordance with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.[1] The meetings enabled both parties to pursue specific goals and aims as outlined independently by Hitler and Stalin, with regard to the acquired, formerly Polish territories.[3] The conferences were held by the Gestapo and the NKVD officials in several Polish cities. In spite of their differences on other issues, both Heinrich Himmler and Lavrentiy Beria had similar objectives as far as the fate of the prewar Poland was concerned.[2][3][4]

The attack on Poland ended with the Nazi–Soviet victory parade in Brześć, which was held on 22 September 1939.[6] Brześć was the location of the first Nazi-Soviet meeting organized on 27 September 1939,[1] in which the prisoner exchange was decided prior to the signing of mutual agreements in Moscow a day later.[7] In the following month, the Gestapo and the NKVD met in Lwów to discuss the fate of civilian populations during radical reorganization of the annexed territories.[2] They met again in occupied Przemyśl at the end of November, because Przemyśl was a border crossing between the two invaders.[1] The next series of meetings began in December 1939, a month after the first transfer of Polish prisoners of war. The conferences were held in occupied Kraków in the General Government on 6–7 December 1939; and continued for the next two days in the resort town of Zakopane in the Tatra Mountains of southern Poland (100 km from Kraków) on 8–9 December 1939. The Zakopane Conference is the most remembered. From the Soviet side, several higher officers of the NKVD secret police participated in the meetings, while the German hosts provided a group of experts from the Gestapo.[3]

Background[edit]

German and Soviet military forces parade in Brześć side by side after their joint attack on Poland in 1939. Their secret Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact required Heinz Guderian to hand the city over to the Red Army

After the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact on 23 August 1939, Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939,[8][9] and the Soviet Union invaded Poland on 17 September,[8][10] resulting in the occupation of Poland by the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.[11] The first Gestapo–NKVD meeting took place in Brześć nad Bugiem (Brest) reportedly on 27 September 1939,[1] while some units of the Polish Army were still fighting (see: Invasion of Poland) resulting in mass internment of soldiers and their extrajudicial shootings on both sides of the Curzon Line. At the meeting, the German and Soviet officials reached a mutual agreement about the fate of Polish infantry soldiers captured by the Red Army. Between 24 October and 23 November 1939 a total of 42,492 Polish prisoners of war were transferred from Kozelsk and Putyvl camps across the Nazi-Soviet demarcation line and handed over to the Germans.[11] Both Gestapo and NKVD expected the emergence of Polish resistance and discussed ways of dealing with the clandestine activities of the Poles. In the immediate aftermath of the meeting, the Soviet NKVD began the collection of data leading to the Katyn massacre committed in the spring of 1940.[1][4]

Conferences[edit]

Dark gray: the Third Reich in 1939 after the conquest of Poland, with the Nazi-Soviet demarcation line (centre), and locations of German colonisers from the Soviet "sphere of influence" brought in Heim ins Reich into the annexed territories of Poland. Genuine Nazi German propaganda poster, superimposed with red outline of Poland missing from the original, as if the country vanished from the map of Europe even though borders of all other countries have been marked by the publisher with dotted white lines.

The next meeting took place some time at the end of November 1939 in Przemyśl,[1] shared by the German and the Soviet occupational forces between September 1939 and June 1941. 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.[2] It is also claimed a meeting was held in December.[4][12]

Kraków–Zakopane[edit]

The German–Soviet Frontier Treaty: "Both parties will tolerate in their territories no Polish agitation which affects the territories of the other party. They will suppress in their territories all beginnings of such agitation and inform each other concerning suitable measures for this purpose."[13]

This one is the best known, and took place in Zakopane,[14] starting on 20 February 1940[4] in the villa "Pan Tadeusz", located at the Droga do Białego street close to the Dolina 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 territory. The Soviet delegation was headed by Grigoriy Litvinov with—among others—Rita Zimmerman, director of a Kolyma gold mine.[1]

According to several sources, one of the results of this conference was the German Ausserordentliche Befriedungsaktion (see: German AB Action operation in Poland),[15] elimination of Krakow intelligentsia Sonderaktion Krakau and the Soviet Katyn massacre[4][16] 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 of 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.[17][18] 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 mass graves were analysed by the Katyn Commission.[11]

The fourth and last meeting took place in March 1940 in Krakow.[5] 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.[19][20]

Bor-Komorowski′s description is disputed by Russian historian Oleg Vishlyov, who claims, based on the original Soviet documents, that the conference was not between NKVD and Gestapo, but between Soviet and German commissions dealing with refugees in both occupied territories and that the topic of discussion was allegedly the 'refugee exchange'. According to that author the conference had nothing to do with repressions against Poles or with the Katyn massacre.[7] Meanwhile, some historians (including Wojciech Materski) point out that there is evidence of clandestine murder operations conducted by both Soviet and German forces in 1939–1940 across occupied Poland, however, there is no evidence of direct connection between the NKVD prisoner massacres and the German AB-Aktion in Poland leading to massacre of several thousand prominent Poles in the same time-frame.[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Józef Dębiński (2007). "Decyzja władz sowieckich z 5 marca 1940 r. o zagładzie polskich jeńców wojennych" [Soviet decision on the murder of Polish prisoners of war]. Voskresenie - Catholic Magazine. Niedziela.pl. Archived from the original on April 29, 2007. Retrieved 2017-01-05 – via Internet Archive. Pierwsza konferencja, dotycząca współpracy niemieckich i sowieckich służb bezpieczeństwa, miała miejsce 27 września 1939 r. w Brześciu n. Bugiem. Druga konferencja odbyła się w końcu listopada 1939 r. w Przemyślu, a dotyczyła wymiany jeńców i przemieszczeń ludności. Trzecia konferencja NKWD i Gestapo miała miejsce 20 lutego 1940 r. w Zakopanem. 
  2. ^ a b c d Rees, Laurence (2008). "An alliance in all but name". World War Two Behind Closed Doors. BBC Books. p. 54. ISBN 978-0-563-49335-8. The Gestapo and the NKVD met in Lwów in October 1939. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Kalbarczyk (2015). Zbrodnia. p. 19 (33 / 266 in PDF). Earlier historical assessments of the two winter conferences in Kraków and Zakopane suggesting that they might have been devoted to coordinating plans for joint destruction of Polish nationhood as well as discussing ways of dealing with the Polish resistance during World War II have been ruled out in contemporary research in favour of a more probable subject of a mass population transfer. Nowsze badania przekonująco dowodzą, że hipotezy tego typu nie znajdują potwierdzenia w faktach. Sowiecko-niemieckie konferencje w Krakowie (6–7 grudnia 1939 r.) i Zakopanem (8–9 grudnia 1939 r.), na których – jak uważano w dawniejszej literaturze przedmiotu – uzgadniano antypolskie represje o charakterze policyjnym, były w istocie poświęcone wymianie ludności między ZSRS a III Rzeszą.[page 19] 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Mark Paul (2006). "Foreword (cooperation between the NKVD and the Gestapo)". Neighbours on the Eve of the Holocaust. Polish-Jewish Relations in Soviet-occupied Eastern Poland, 1939-1941. Electronicmuseum.ca. Archived from the original on September 26, 2007. Retrieved 14 September 2015 – via Internet Archive. While the Soviets had undertaken the extermination of captured Polish officers, the Germans carried out (starting March 31) a parallel 'Operation AB' aimed at destroying Poland's elites. — Mark Paul.  See also: Commentary from Wojciech Materski. [in:] Katyn: A Crime Without Punishment. (cited), about the lack of documentary evidence connecting the conferences to the advent of genocidal policies in Poland, which indicates that the mass murder operations were carried out by both sides independently. 
  5. ^ a b Stenton, Michael (2000). Radio London and Resistance in Occupied Europe. Oxford. p. 277. ISBN 978-0-19-820843-3. 
  6. ^ Janusz Magnuski, Maksym Kolomijec (1994). Czerwony Blitzkrieg. Wrzesien 1939: Sowieckie Wojska Pancerne w Polsce [Red Blitzkrieg. September 1939: Soviet armoured troops in Poland]. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Pelta. ISBN 83-85314-03-2. Scan of page 72 of the book, archived. 
  7. ^ a b Олег В. Вишлёв (Oleg Vishlyov), Накануне 22 июня 1941 года, М.: Наука, 2001, pages 119-123 (with links to chapters). Глава I: Один из параграфов соглашения предусматривал "очищение" городов и местечек, передаваемых Красной Армии немцами, от "саботажников", а также помощь Красной Армии немецким подразделениям в уничтожении (фернихтунг) "вражеского", то есть польского сопротивления.[74] Translate.
  8. ^ a b Zaloga, Steven J. (2002). Poland 1939: The birth of Blitzkrieg (Campaign). Osprey. ISBN 1841764086 – via Kindle. Look inside. 
  9. ^ "1 September - This Day in History". Thehistorychannel.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-05-05. 
  10. ^ Davies, Norman. God's Playground. Volume II. Oxford University Press. p. 437. ISBN 0-19-821944-X. 
  11. ^ a b c d Sławomir Kalbarczyk (2015) [2010]. Zbrodnia Katyńska po 70 latach: krótki przegląd ustaleń historiografii [Katyn massacre 70 years later] (PDF). Zbrodnia Katyńska. W kręgu prawdy i kłamstwa. Warszawa: Instytut Pamięci Narodowej. Komisja Ścigania Zbrodni przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu. pp. 18–19 (32/266 in PDF). ISBN 978-83-7629-771-2.  [See also:] Witold Wasilewski, "Współpraca sowiecko-niemiecka a zbrodnia katyńska" [in:] Pamięć i Sprawiedliwość, 2009, nr.1.; [Also in:] О.В. Вишлёв, Накануне 22 июня 1941 года, М.: Наука, 2001, с.119-123; [And:] N. Lebedeva, A. Cienciala, W. Materski (2007). Katyn: a crime without punishment. Yale University Press. p. 143 (not in preview). ISBN 0300151853 – via Google Books. 
  12. ^ "Timeline of World War II – Poland". PolandsHolocaust.org. 2005. Archived from the original on August 18, 2005 – via Internet Archive. 
  13. ^ "Secret Supplementary Protocol". Nazi-Soviet Relations 1939-1941. Moscow: The Avalon Project. 28 September 1939. 
  14. ^ "Warsaw Uprising Witnesses: Dr. Jan Moor-Jankowski". Warsawuprising.com. Retrieved 2012-05-05. 
  15. ^ Peter Jambrek, ed. (January–June 2008), Crimes committed by Totalitarian Regimes (PDF). Reports and proceedings; the European Commission. Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Retrieved 14 September 2015 via Internet Archive.
  16. ^ Conquest, Robert (1991). Stalin: Breaker of Nations Phoenix ISBN 1-84212-439-0 Page 229
  17. ^ Louis Robert Coatney, M.A. (1993). "The Katyn Massacre: an assessment of its significance". Western Illinois University, Department of History. Retrieved 14 September 2015. 
  18. ^ George Watson. "Rehearsal for the Holocaust?". Available for purchase, from Commentary Magazine. Archived from the original on 17 December 2012 – via Archive.is. 
  19. ^ Bór-Komorowski, Tadeusz (2011) [1950]. The Secret Army: The Memoirs of General Bor-Komorowski. Frontline Books. p. 46. ISBN 1848325959. 
  20. ^ "Nazi-Soviet complicity in Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact especially blatant in NKVD-Gestapo co-operation - EWR". Eesti.ca. Retrieved 2012-05-05. 

Further reading[edit]