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Written by Luddite Online author Thomas Langtry as part of the 2020 Historical Essay competition for the Polonia Institute, “The Katyn Massacre: Causes and Consequences of Russian Impunity” first tracks the history of this less-well-known World War II-era crime against humanity, then deconstructs the seemingly irresolvable series of obstructions that have been placed in the path of those still seeking justice.
The World War II history of the genocide of 6,000,000 European Jews by the Nazi German state under Adolf Hitler is familiar to most of us. The attempted extermination of an entire segment of human civilization ultimately characterized the entire conflict and gave rise to the Geneva Convention and other international institutions, which many of us assumed would prevent such abuses from ever occurring again.
Unfortunately, World War II’s greater significance may have been that it exposed the capacity for hatred, destruction, betrayal, corruption, abuse, and genocide as far more enduring human qualities than most of us would like to admit. The Nuremberg Trials at the end of World War II provided something of a cathartic resolution to the horrific crimes of the Nazi German state against the Jewish people. However, analogous crimes against the Polish people by the Soviet Russian government under Josef Stalin were largely ignored during the aftermath of World War II. The perpetrators of the Katyn Massacre and their privies evaded accountability during the Nuremberg Trials. Their efforts to obstruct justice continue to involve American, European, and Russian courts and governments to this day.
“The Katyn Massacre: Causes and Consequences of Russian Impunity” was a winner in the Polonia Institute's 2020 historical essay competition on the international significance of the denial of justice to the victims of Katyn. You may read more about the competition and view the results here. A pre-publication version of Langtry's essay is also available on Academia.edu.
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