Legislative Branch

Guide to House Records: Chapter 22: 1947-1968 Facts, Evidence, and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre

Chapter 22. Records of the Select Committees of the House of Representatives

Table of Contents

Records of the Select Committees of the House of Representatives (1789-1988) from Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States, 1789-1988

Committee records described in this chapter:

Select Committee to Investigate and Study the Facts, Evidence, and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre (1951-52)

Select Committee on:VolumeCongress (dates)
the Katyn Forest Massacre10 feet82d (1951-52)

22.170 In April 1943, in the Katyn Forest near Smolensk in the Soviet Union, German troops discovered several mass graves containing the remains of thousands of Polish Army officers and intellectual leaders captured by the Soviets during their invasion of Poland in September 1939. The Soviets blamed the Germans, but a medical commission organized by the Germans determined that the massacre occurred at a time when the area was under Soviet control.

22.171 On September 18, 1951, the House established the Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation and Study of the Facts, Evidence, and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre. Ray J. Madden of Indiana was appointed chairman.

22.172 The committee assembled records relating to the Katyn massacre and its aftermath from the files of the State Department, the War Department, and elsewhere. In addition, the committee heard extensive testimony from witnesses, took depositions from others not appearing at the hearings, and interviewed numerous other individuals whose appearance as witnesses was not deemed necessary.

22.173 The committee undertook to determine which Nation was guilty and whether any American officials had engaged in a coverup regarding the massacre. With regard to the first issue, the committee laid the blame for the massacre on the Soviet NKVD and recommended that the Soviets be tried before the International World Court of Justice. The question of an American coverup was less clearcut. In its final report, the committee concluded that U.S. officials failed to properly evaluate and act upon clear danger signals available as early as 1942 that the Soviets had imperialist intentions (H. Rept. 2505, 82d Cong., 2d sess., Serial 11578). In addition, the committee found that American policy toward the Soviet Union might have been different if information deliberately withheld from the public had been disseminated. The committee mentioned the possibility, without elaboration, that lower level governmental officials with Communist sympathies might have attempted to cover up such reports.

22.174 Records of the select committee include correspondence with individuals, organizations, and Federal agencies. Some of the letters received are written in German or Polish, and these are accompanied by typewritten English translations. Other records include memorandums, depositions, affidavits, summaries of interviews, transcripts of hearings, exhibits, notes, and copies of the committee reports, as well as sound recordings and stenographer's notes of committee hearings in London and Frankfurt. A note among the records indicates that documents the committee obtained from the Department of State and the Department of War were returned to the agencies.

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Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to the Records of the United States House of Representatives at the National Archives, 1789-1989: Bicentennial Edition (Doct. No. 100-245). By Charles E. Schamel, Mary Rephlo, Rodney Ross, David Kepley, Robert W. Coren, and James Gregory Bradsher. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1989.