Two weeks in jail for twenty murders

A shocking document has been found in Belarus. It’s a note drawn up by Alexander Voloshin, the Deputy Chairman of the personnel department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (Bolsheviks) of Belarus, concerning the unlawful execution of Polish prisoners of war after the taking of the city of Grodno by the Red Army in September 1939. The punishment for this crime was two weeks imprisonment for the perpetrators.

Document signed by Alexandr Voloshyn, courtesy of A. Poczobut

The document states that during the capture of Grodno (the author writes about “the military actions of the Red Army to liberate the fellow nations of Western Belarus from the Belarusian occupiers”) many Polish soldiers and officers were taken prisoner. They were interrogated by the head of the 4th Department of the Special Division of the NKVD in the Belarusian Special Military District, A. Ivanov, and the prosecutor of the 52nd Military Prosecutor’s Office, T. Dupachov.

The Belarusian Special Military District was a part of the Red Army located on the territory of the Belarusian SSR. The Belarusian Front, which was formed from it, attacked Poland on September 17; (the Ukrainian Front was located to the south). In turn, as part of the Front, the 15th Armoured Corps operated with nearly five hundred tanks and over one hundred armoured cars. Ivanov was delegated to this corps. The tanks of the 15th Corps were the first to reach Grodno on September 20th.

But let’s get back to the document. It states that during the interrogation the POWs were divided into three groups. The first was sent to be shot, the second – to labour camps, and the third – to be released into their homes.

“On September 22, 1939, a group of about 100 prisoners of war was sent from the town of Grodno to be shot. The shooting was carried out in the cruellest manner. During the day, in front of the population and Red Army soldiers, 300-400 metres from the town of Grodno, they took one man, brought him 5 metres out from the main group of those sentenced to be shot, and shot them here. In this way, 20 people were shot and the remaining group of about 80 people, it is not known on the basis of what order, was sent again to the town of Grodno.”

NKVD officer. Photo: public domain

The document states that for the unlawful decision to shoot the prisoners and for not carrying out the commander’s order to stop the execution, Ivanov was sentenced to 15 days in prison.

We received the document from Andrzej Poczobut, an activist of the Union of Poles in Belarus and a journalist. He, in turn, got it from the Belarusian historian and archivist Dzmitryi Drozd. Drozd found it in the National Archives of Belarus, in the document file of the Central Committee of the CP(b)B. Unfortunately, more information could not be obtained – it may be somewhere in the secret part of the archive. Drozd is a co-founder of the Belarusian Documentation Centre, which collects materials on human rights violations in the USSR and today’s Belarus. The centre is registered in Lithuania.

It is estimated that after the capture of Grodno on September 22, 1939 and in the following days, the Soviets murdered about 600 people.

Piotr Kościński

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