When Did The Murders Happen, 1940 or 1941?
No investigation would change the fact that so many Polish officers had disappeared. Family members wanted to know what had happened to their husbands, fathers, and sons. They knew that over 4,000 men were dead, but what happened to them between the time they were taken into Soviet custody in 1939 to the finding of the grave in 1943? The relatives of the bodies found in Katyn had letters that abruptly ended in April 1940 when letters were returned unopened with a stamp that read, “address unknown.”
When the Second World War ended, the United States Defense Department made the Res Cross report on the Katyn Murders in 1951. The report had identified many of the men, detailed the state in which they were found, and stated that the Soviet Foreign Minister had refused to assist in the investigation. The report went on to state that the Soviet Union viewed any investigation into the Katyn Murders by any other Allied force as an act of aggression. This threat became very serious as the Cold War intensified.
Polish-Americans were furious. They began making demands upon their elected representatives to support a resolution that would open a United Nations investigation. In 1953 it seemed as if they would get their wish. The United States House of Representatives voted to begin a congressional investigation into Katyn in 1951. To do so, the US had obtain all information related to the crime from Germany, the Soviets, and Allied governments. Then UN would hold hearings and begin an official investigation.
In 1953, for unknown reasons, the United States “decided to shelve the resolution.” Members of the Polish-American community were furious. The abrupt shelving of the resolution confirmed what many Poles believed from the first time that they had become aware of Katyn in that President Franklin Roosevelt had intimate knowledge of the murders. While there has never been proof that this was the case, it did not change the sentiment that many Poles had in regards to the overlooking of wartime atrocities in the hope of victory.
The Polish communities in the United States and Britain continued to push for an investigation into Katyn. Pressured by the international Polish community and by the 25th anniversary commemorating the end of the war, members of Britain’s Parliament called for another United Nations resolution into Katyn in 1971. Memorials honoring the dead required dates. The date of Katyn was still contested. Polish army officers murdered in 1940 by the Soviets or in 1941 by the Germans?