S.

Starved Polish refugee child brought from Russia

Support Silenced Refugees

Lieutenant Colonel Henry I. Szymanski was a U.S. Army Liaison Officer to the Polish Army created under the command of General Władysław Anders during the Second World War II which fought the Germans alongside American and British troops in North Africa and Italy. On November 22, 1942, Lt. Col. Szymanski sent a report on Polish-Russian relations to the Military Intelligence Division, War Department General Staff (G-2), in Washington, DC. 

In August 1942, he saw and took photos of many starved and dying Polish refugees, including children, who had been evacuated with the Anders Army from Soviet Russia to Iran. In his lengthy report, which was classified as secret and not published until 1952, he made several observations about the deplorable condition of former Polish prisoners and slave laborers who had managed to escape from the Soviet Union.

The children had no chance. It is estimated that 50% have already died from malnutrition. The other 50% will die unless evacuated to a land where American help can reach them. A visit to any of the hospitals in Teheran will testify to this statement. They are filled with children and adults who would be better off not to have survived the ordeal.[efn_note] Eighty-Second Congress, Second Session On Investigation of The Murder of Thousands of Polish Officers in The Katyn Forest Near Smolensk, Russia; Part 3 (Chicago, Ill.), March 13 and 14, 1952, The Katyn Forest Massacre: Hearings Before The Select Committee to Conduct An Investigation on The Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1952), 455.[/efn_note]

Photo by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Szymanski, U.S. Army. Six-year-old boy, Polish refugee evacuated from Soviet Russia, August 1942.

  • Source: The Katyn Forest Massacre: Hearings Before The Select Committee to Conduct An Investigation on The Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre; Eighty-Second Congress, Second Session On Investigation of The Murder of Thousands of Polish Officers in The Katyn Forest Near Smolensk, Russia; Part 3 (Chicago, Ill.); March 13 and 14, 1952 (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1952), pp. 459-461.
  • Link

Support Silenced Refugees


Notes

U.

U.S. Government propaganda photo: Polish refugee boy

U.S. Government Propaganda Photo, 1943

Support Silenced Refugees

This U.S. Government propaganda photo showing a Polish refugee boy was taken by the Office of War Information (OWI) photographer in Iran in 1943. To protect Stalin and the anti-Germany military alliance with Moscow, pro-Soviet propagandists in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration did not publish photos of Polish children who were starved, ill and near death when they were evacuated from Soviet Russia to Iran in 1942. Such photos taken earlier by a U.S. Army officer, Lt. Col. Henry I. Szymanski, remained classified until 1952 and still cannot be easily found online. Likewise, OWI’s early Voice of America (VOA) radio broadcasts did not mention the Soviet mass murder of Polish prisoners of war and intellectual leaders in 1940. VOA did not report on inhuman mistreatment of Polish deportees, including women and children, in the Soviet Gulag camps and collective farms, to which they had been sent as slave laborers and where thousands had died from back-breaking work, malnutrition, illnesses and other forms of abuse.

VOA’s radio broadcasts for foreign audiences and a broadcast by OWI Director Elmer Davis targeting Americans spread instead Soviet propaganda lies about the mass executions of Polish prisoners in Soviet Russia known collectively as the Katyń Forest massacre by blaming it falsely on the Germans. Americans and foreigners alike were misled by Roosevelt administration’s propaganda about Stalin and the Soviet regime–a point highlighted in congressional criticism after the war.

There are thousands of public domain photographs online showing the victims from Nazi extermination and concentration camps and scenes of other German atrocities, but finding even a single photo of a former Polish adult male prisoner in the Soviet Gulag or a Polish mother and child as they really looked shortly after coming out of Russia during World War II is nearly impossible. In an incredible affront to historical truth. The no longer intentional but still real legacy of silence and disinformation about these Polish children refugees, many of them orphans, their mothers and fathers, and most other victims of Soviet communism–the deception which the Roosevelt administration propaganda agency had initiated during the war in support of Soviet disinformation, continues largely unchallenged to this day. It is a worrisome testimony to the lasting effects of even decades-long attempts to manipulate public opinion, in this case in U.S. government’s collusion with a foreign power ruled by a totalitarian regime.

The bipartisan Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation and Study of the Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre, also known as the Madden Committee, strongly implied that Roosevelt administration officials hid, suppressed and censored information about Soviet atrocities. The committee blamed it in 1952 on “a strange psychosis that military necessity required the sacrifice of loyal allies and our own principles in order to keep Soviet Russia from making a separate peace with the Nazis.” The committee pointed out that “this psychosis continued even after the conclusion of the war.”

In a warning about a corrupting effect of foreign and domestic propaganda combined with censorship, the Madden Committee noted that “most of the witnesses testified that had they known then what they now know about Soviet Russia, they probably would not have pursued the course they did.”[efn_note]The bipartisan Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation and Study of the Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre, also known as the Madden Committee after its chairman, Ray Madden (D-IN), said in its final report issued in December 1952: “In submitting this final report to the House of Representatives, this committee has come to the conclusion that in those fateful days nearing the end of the Second World War there unfortunately existed in high governmental and military circles a strange psychosis that military necessity required the sacrifice of loyal allies and our own principles in order to keep Soviet Russia from making a separate peace with the Nazis.” The committee added: “For reasons less clear to this committee, this psychosis continued even after the conclusion of the war. Most of the witnesses testified that had they known then what they now know about Soviet Russia, they probably would not have pursued the course they did. It is undoubtedly true that hindsight is much easier to follow than foresight, but it is equally true that much of the material which this committee unearthed was or could have been available to those responsible for our foreign policy as early as 1942.” The Madden Committee also said in its final report in 1952: “This committee believes that if the Voice of America is to justify its existence, it must utilize material made available more forcefully and effectively.” A major change in VOA programs occurred, with much more reporting being done on the investigation into the Katyń massacre and other Soviet atrocities, but later some of the censorship returned. Also U.S. funded Radio Free Europe (RFE), never resorted to such censorship, and provided full coverage of all communist human rights abuses. See: Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation and Study of the Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre, The Katyn Forest Massacre: Final Report (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1952), 10-12. The report is posted on the National Archives website: https://archive.org/details/KatynForestMassacreFinalReport.[/efn_note]

To prevent abuses similar to deceptive Office of War Information press releases and the Voice of America broadcasts about Stalin, war prisoners in Russia and Polish war refugees, the 1948 Smith-Mundt Act passed by the U.S. Congress significantly restricted use of tax dollars to target Americans with news and political commentary produced by the U.S. government. Some of these restrictions were later lifted. The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012, which was contained within the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (section 1078 (a)) and signed by President Obama, amended the 1948 Smith-Mundt Act and subsequent legislation, allowing for materials produced by the State Department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which included the Voice America, to be made available within the United States.

Support Silenced Refugees


Photo Credits

U.S. Government Propaganda Photo

US Government Propaganda Photo, OWI. Teheran, Iran, 1943.
  • Title: Teheran, Iran. Teheran, Iran. Polish youngster carrying an armload of loaves of bread made from Red Cross flour at an evacuation camp
  • Creator(s): Parrino, Nick, photographer
    Date Created/Published: 1943.
  • Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 
  • Link

Photos by Lt. Col. Henry I. Szymanski, U.S. Army

  • Twelve-year-old boy, Polish evacuee from Russia, August 1942
  • Six-year-old boy, Polish evacuee from Russia, August 1942
  • Three sisters, ages 7, 8, and 9, Polish evacuees from Russia, August 1942
  • Photos by: Lieutenant Colonel Henry I. Szymanski, U.S. Army
  • Source: The Katyn Forest Massacre: Hearings Before The Select Committee to Conduct An Investigation on The Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre; Eighty-Second Congress, Second Session On Investigation of The Murder of Thousands of Polish Officers in The Katyn Forest Near Smolensk, Russia; Part 3 (Chicago, Ill.); March 13 and 14, 1952 (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1952), pp. 459-461.
  • Link

Notes

H.

How U.S. Lied About Polish Refugee Children to Protect Stalin

How the Roosevelt Administration Shipped Polish Refugee Orphans to Mexico In Locked Trains and Lied About It to Protect Stalin

The Untold Story of Polish Refugee Children from Soviet Russia: “A Group Lost in History”


Support Silenced Refugees

The current crisis at the U.S. southern border and the Trump administration’s efforts to keep migrants in Mexico, some of them children, while their asylum applications are reviewed by U.S. courts, is a reminder of a different and now almost completely forgotten episode of World War II history involving refugee children, the Roosevelt administration and U.S. government propaganda. It is a story of illegal secret censorship of domestic media by the U.S. government. It has Americans being deceived about Russia by their own government. It is about secret collusion with a foreign power ruled by a totalitarian regime which resulted in millions of people in East Central Europe being forced to live under communism and without freedom for several decades. It describes Polish orphans who had escaped from Russia being kept behind a barbed wire fence of a former detention center for Japanese Americans and being transported in 1943 under U.S. military guard to Mexico in locked trains.[efn_note]Lipien, Ted. “A State Secret.” Cold War Radio Museum, December 9, 2018, http://www.coldwarradiomuseum.com/how-u.s.-shipped-polish-refugee-orphans-from-russia-to-mexico-in-locked-trains-and-lied-about-it-to-protect-stalin/.[/efn_note] It is a story that was never honestly reported by the Voice of America (VOA), the U.S. government’s official radio station established in 1942 to broadcast news to the world.

READ MORE: A State Secret

Support Silenced Refugees


Photo Credit

  • Photo by Lieutenant Colonel Henry I. Szymanski, U.S. Army. Twelve-year-old boy, Polish evacuee from Russia, August 1942.
  • Source: The Katyn Forest Massacre: Hearings Before The Select Committee to Conduct An Investigation on The Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre; Eighty-Second Congress, Second Session On Investigation of The Murder of Thousands of Polish Officers in The Katyn Forest Near Smolensk, Russia; Part 3 (Chicago, Ill.); March 13 and 14, 1952 (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1952), pp. 459-461.
  • Link

Notes

P.

Polish refugee families in Iran

Support Silenced Refugees

This U.S. Government propaganda photo showing Polish refugee families awaiting evacuation was taken by the Office of War Information (OWI) photographer in Iran in 1943. To protect Stalin and the anti-Germany military alliance with Moscow, pro-Soviet propagandists in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration did not publish photos of Polish children who were starved, ill and near death when they were evacuated from Soviet Russia to Iran in 1942. Likewise, OWI’s Voice of America (VOA) radio broadcasts did not mention mistreatment of Polish deportees, including women and children, in the Soviet Gulag camps and collective farms, to which they had been sent as slave laborers. VOA’s radio programs for foreign audiences and a broadcast by OWI Director Elmer Davis targeting Americans spread instead Soviet propaganda lies that mass executions of Polish prisoners in Soviet Russia in 1940 at the hands of the NKVD secret police, known collectively as the Katyń Forest massacre, were carried out by the Germans after they had occupied the area in 1941. Americans and foreigners alike were misled by Roosevelt administration’s propaganda about Stalin and the Soviet regime — a point highlighted in bipartisan criticism after the war.

The bipartisan Madden Committee of the House of Representatives blamed it in 1952 on “a strange psychosis that military necessity required the sacrifice of loyal allies and our own principles in order to keep Soviet Russia from making a separate peace with the Nazis.” The committee pointed out that “this psychosis continued even after the conclusion of the war.” In a warning about a corrupting effect of foreign and domestic propaganda combined with censorship, the Madden Committee noted that “most of the witnesses testified that had they known then what they now know about Soviet Russia, they probably would not have pursued the course they did.”

The 1948 Smith-Mundt Act passed by the U.S. Congress significantly restricted use of tax dollars to target Americans with news and political commentary produced by the U.S. government. Some of these restrictions were later lifted. The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012, which was contained within the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (section 1078 (a)) and signed by President Obama, amended the 1948 Smith-Mundt Act and subsequent legislation, allowing for materials produced by the State Department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which included the Voice America, to be made available within the United States.

Support Silenced Refugees


Photo Credits

U.S. Government Propaganda Photo

US Propaganda Photo, OWI. Teheran, Iran, 1943.
  • Title: Teheran, Iran. Polish refugee families awaiting evacuation
  • Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540
  • Link 

Photos by Lt. Col. Henry I. Szymanski, U.S. Army

  • Twelve-year-old boy, Polish evacuee from Russia, August 1942
  • Six-year-old boy, Polish evacuee from Russia, August 1942
  • Three sisters, ages 7, 8, and 9, Polish evacuees from Russia, August 1942
  • Photos by: Lieutenant Colonel Henry I. Szymanski, U.S. Army
  • Source: The Katyn Forest Massacre: Hearings Before The Select Committee to Conduct An Investigation on The Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre; Eighty-Second Congress, Second Session On Investigation of The Murder of Thousands of Polish Officers in The Katyn Forest Near Smolensk, Russia; Part 3 (Chicago, Ill.); March 13 and 14, 1952 (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1952), pp. 459-461.
  • Link
U.

U.S. Army officer on Polish children in Russian captivity

By Ted Lipien

Support Silenced Refugees

Lieutenant Colonel Henry I. Szymanski was a U.S. Army Liaison Officer to the Polish Army created under the command of General Władysław Anders during the Second World War II which fought the Germans alongside American and British troops in North Africa and Italy. On November 22, 1942, Lt. Col. Szymanski sent a report on Polish-Russian relations to the Military Intelligence Division, War Department General Staff (G-2), in Washington, DC., in which he discussed Polish-Soviet relations. Henry Ignatius Szymanski was a non-graduating member of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Class of 1919. He came from a Polish American family and was a fluent Polish speaker. He retired as a U.S. Army Colonel. He was awarded the Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States with the American Military Mission to Egypt from 1942 to 1943. He retired as a U.S. Army Colonel.[efn_note]The Hall of Valor Project, Henry Ignatius Szymanski, https://valor.militarytimes.com/hero/96891[/efn_note]

In August 1942, Lt. Col. Szymanski saw and took photos of many starved and dying Polish refugees, including children, who had been evacuated with the Anders Army from Soviet Russia to Iran. In his lengthy report, which was classified as secret and not published until 1952, he made several observations about the deplorable condition of former Polish prisoners and slave laborers who had managed to escape from the Soviet Union.

The children had no chance. It is estimated that 50% have already died from malnutrition. The other 50% will die unless evacuated to a land where American help can reach them. A visit to any of the hospitals in Teheran will testify to this statement. They are filled with children and adults who would be better off not to have survived the ordeal.[efn_note] Eighty-Second Congress, Second Session On Investigation of The Murder of Thousands of Polish Officers in The Katyn Forest Near Smolensk, Russia; Part 3 (Chicago, Ill.), March 13 and 14, 1952, The Katyn Forest Massacre: Hearings Before The Select Committee to Conduct An Investigation on The Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1952), 455.[/efn_note]

To protect Stalin and the anti-Germany military alliance with Moscow, pro-Soviet propagandists in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration did not publish photos of Polish children who were starved, ill and near death when they were evacuated from Soviet Russia to Iran in 1942. Likewise, OWI’s Voice of America (VOA) radio broadcasts did not mention Soviet executions of Polish prisoners of war and mistreatment of Polish deportees, including women and children, in the Soviet Gulag camps and collective farms, to which they had been sent as slave laborers. VOA’s radio programs for foreign audiences and a broadcast by OWI Director Elmer Davis targeting Americans spread instead Soviet propaganda lies that mass executions of Polish prisoners in Soviet Russia carried out by the NKVD secret police in 1940, known collectively as the Katyń Forest massacre, were carried out by the Germans after they had occupied the area in 1941. Americans and foreigners alike were misled by Roosevelt administration’s propaganda about Stalin and the Soviet regime — a point highlighted in bipartisan criticism after the war. 

The bipartisan Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation and Study of the Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre, also known as the Madden Committee, strongly implied that Roosevelt administration officials hid, suppressed and censored information about Soviet atrocities. The committee blamed it in 1952 on “a strange psychosis that military necessity required the sacrifice of loyal allies and our own principles in order to keep Soviet Russia from making a separate peace with the Nazis.” The committee pointed out that “this psychosis continued even after the conclusion of the war.”

In a warning about a corrupting effect of foreign and domestic propaganda combined with censorship, the Madden Committee noted that “most of the witnesses testified that had they known then what they now know about Soviet Russia, they probably would not have pursued the course they did.”[efn_note]The bipartisan Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation and Study of the Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre, also known as the Madden Committee, said in its final report issued in December 1952: “In submitting this final report to the House of Representatives, this committee has come to the conclusion that in those fateful days nearing the end of the Second World War there unfortunately existed in high governmental and military circles a strange psychosis that military necessity required the sacrifice of loyal allies and our own principles in order to keep Soviet Russia from making a separate peace with the Nazis.” The committee added: “For reasons less clear to this committee, this psychosis continued even after the conclusion of the war. Most of the witnesses testified that had they known then what they now know about Soviet Russia, they probably would not have pursued the course they did. It is undoubtedly true that hindsight is much easier to follow than foresight, but it is equally true that much of the material which this committee unearthed was or could have been available to those responsible for our foreign policy as early as 1942.” ”See: Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation and Study of the Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre, The Katyn Forest Massacre: Final Report (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1952), 10-11. The report is posted on the National Archives website: https://archive.org/details/KatynForestMassacreFinalReport.[/efn_note]

U.S. Government institutions responsible for false propaganda about Polish and other deportees in the Soviet Union, the Katyń lie, and misleading information about wartime refugees from Russia never admitted that they had done anything wrong and have insisted through even the most recent statements of their officials that the Voice of America was created during the Second World War to broadcast only truthful news. Radio Free Europe, also funded by U.S. tax dollars, however, never lied about Katyń or censored information about the plight of Polish and other prisoners in the Soviet Gulag. During most of the Cold War, especially in later years, VOA Polish Service broadcasters also played a positive role of bringing uncensored news and offering moral support to the victims of communism.

Americans had been lied to and were misled by Soviet propaganda being served to them by their own propaganda agency run by strongly pro-Soviet Roosevelt administration officials. But not all Americans were so devious or naive. Many, including members of Congress and some independent journalists, saw through the coordinated propaganda effort of Soviet and U.S. governments and tried to expose it.

The United States eventually took steps to oppose Soviet post-war expansion and to counter Soviet disinformation during the Cold War. It took several more decades before these efforts helped to restore freedom and democracy in East Central Europe.

Even in the later U.S.-led process of reversing the effects of wartime collusion to protect Stalin and to help him establish communist regimes in East-Central Europe, the story of the Polish wartime refugees who had fled from Russia and those who had already died in Soviet captivity has never truly emerged as a much needed warning about the evils of communism, the initial betrayal of faithful allies, and the insidious dangers of propaganda.[efn_note]The 1948 Smith-Mundt Act passed by the U.S. Congress significantly restricted use of tax dollars to target Americans with news and political commentary produced by the U.S. government. Some of these restrictions were later lifted. The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012, which was contained within the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (section 1078 (a)) and signed by President Obama, amended the 1948 Smith-Mundt Act and subsequent legislation, allowing for materials produced by the State Department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which included the Voice America, to be made more easily available within the United States. The Broadcasting Board of Governors is now called the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM) In its media functions, it is a successor agency to the wartime Office of War Information.[/efn_note]

Photos by Lt. Col. Henry I. Szymanski, U.S. Army

  • Twelve-year-old boy, Polish evacuee from Russia, August 1942
  • Six-year-old boy, Polish evacuee from Russia, August 1942
  • Three sisters, ages 7, 8, and 9, Polish evacuees from Russia, August 1942
  • Ten-year-old-girl, Polish evacuee from Russia, August 1942
  • Photos by: Lieutenant Colonel Henry I. Szymanski, U.S. Army
  • Source: The Katyn Forest Massacre: Hearings Before The Select Committee to Conduct An Investigation on The Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre; Eighty-Second Congress, Second Session On Investigation of The Murder of Thousands of Polish Officers in The Katyn Forest Near Smolensk, Russia; Part 3 (Chicago, Ill.); March 13 and 14, 1952 (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1952), pp. 459-461.
  • Link

Support Silenced Refugees


Notes

P.

Polish women enslaved in Soviet Russia

U.S. Government Propaganda Photo

Support Silenced Refugees

This U.S. Government propaganda photo showing an unidentified Polish woman with two children at a refugee camp in Iran was taken by the Office of War Information (OWI) photographer in Iran in 1943. By that time, this woman was safe and both of her children looked healthy and no longer starved. For several months with thousands of other Polish refugees she had been in Iran under the care of Polish, American and British authorities and private relief organizations, providing them with food and medical care. But before that, hundreds of thousands of Polish women, children and men had spent hellish years in Soviet Russia as slave laborers forcefully deported from their homes in eastern Poland. We don’t know whether the healthy-looking Polish woman shown in the U.S. government propaganda photo was married, and, if she had a husband, whether he might have been executed or died in the Soviet Union. We don’t know if she had any children and whether any of them had lived. We also don’t know what she had to do in Russia to survive.

Very few Americans and other Westerners knew this story then, and very few know it even today. To protect Stalin and the anti-Germany military alliance with Moscow, pro-Soviet propagandists in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration did not publish photos of Polish men, women and children who were starved, ill and near death when they were evacuated from Soviet Russia to Iran in 1942. They did not tell the real stories of these refugees. On the contrary, they did everything possible to prevent Americans and the rest of the world, including listeners to Voice of America (VOA) radio broadcasts, from getting the true story of Polish refugees evacuated from Russia. The evacuees were even told by the Polish government-in-exile not to discuss what had happened to them in the Soviet Union. Stalin was still holding hundreds of thousands of Polish citizens as hostages, and the Polish government-in-exile was still trying to reach an accommodation with Moscow. The Poles were under strong pressure from Washington and London to appease Stalin who, however, had completely different plans for Poland and the rest of East Central Europe.

Naive U.S. propagandists said nothing about what might have happened to Polish women in Soviet captivity. Many had lost their husbands, children and close family members in Russia. Whole families, both the youngest and oldest members, were deported under brutal conditions from their homes in eastern Poland which had been occupied in 1939 by the Red Army under the secret terms of the Hitler-Stalin Pact. U.S. propagandists were instead promoting an image of Stalin as a radical democrat and a guarantor of peace and security.

Lieutenant Colonel Henry I. Szymanski was a U.S. Army Liaison Officer to the Polish Army created under the command of General Władysław Anders during the Second World War II which fought the Germans alongside American and British troops in North Africa and Italy. On November 22, 1942, Lt. Col. Szymanski sent a report on Polish-Russian relations to the Military Intelligence Division, War Department General Staff (G-2), in Washington, DC. 

In August 1942, he saw and took photos of many starved and dying Polish refugees, including children, who had been evacuated with the Anders Army from Soviet Russia to Iran. In his lengthy report, which was classified as secret and not published until 1952, he made several observations about Polish women slave laborers who had managed to escape from the Soviet Union.

Ten-year-old girl, Polish evacuee from Russia, August 1942.

Ten-year-old girl, Polish evacuee from Russia, August 1942. Photo by Lieutenant Colonel Henry I. Szymanski, U.S. Army, taken in Iran and published in 1952 by the bipartisan Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation of the Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre, Eighty-Second Congress, also known as the Madden Committee after its chairman, Rep. Ray Madden (D-IN).

6. …it appears that the plan was very carefully worked out, and its purpose was the extermination of the so-called intelligentsia of Eastern Poland.

…Families were broken up and in many cases the husband shot..[efn_note] Eighty-Second Congress, Second Session On Investigation of The Murder of Thousands of Polish Officers in The Katyn Forest Near Smolensk, Russia; Part 3 (Chicago, Ill.), March 13 and 14, 1952, The Katyn Forest Massacre: Hearings Before The Select Committee to Conduct An Investigation on The Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1952), 455.[/efn_note]

8. The deportees were assigned work in coal and iron mines, on the laying of roads and railroads, on irrigation projects, in forests, on construction of building, on farms. No discrimination was shown between men and women. A woman had to cut and pile as much wood as a man, she had to carry 15 lbs. of bricks or mortar, she had to excavate 9 1/2 cubic meters twice-shifted despite the fact that the normal excavation was 6 cubic meters. … if anyone fell below the quota, he or she, was docked and consequently could not buy enough bread.[efn_note]Eighty-Second Congress,  The Katyn Forest Massacre: Hearings Before The Select Committee to Conduct An Investigation on The Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre, 455.[/efn_note]

11. Women not accustomed to hard manual labor and consequently not able to earn enough for their daily bread had a choice of starving to death or submitting to the Bolshevik or Mongol supervisor. In one sense their condition was bettered–they had something to eat. When asked by me whether they worked hard, a reluctant answer of, “I wanted to live,” would be given [to] me. The Polish military medical authorities are taking blood tests to determine the number of generals among women. The tests were not completed prior to my departure, but the results will be handed [to] me.[efn_note]Eighty-Second Congress,  The Katyn Forest Massacre: Hearings Before The Select Committee to Conduct An Investigation on The Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre, 455.[/efn_note]

  • Source: The Katyn Forest Massacre: Hearings Before The Select Committee to Conduct An Investigation on The Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre; Eighty-Second Congress, Second Session On Investigation of The Murder of Thousands of Polish Officers in The Katyn Forest Near Smolensk, Russia; Part 3 (Chicago, Ill.); March 13 and 14, 1952 (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1952), pp. 455.

To protect Stalin and the anti-Germany military alliance with Moscow, pro-Soviet propagandists in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration did not publish photos of Polish children who were starved, ill and near death when they were evacuated from Soviet Russia to Iran in 1942. Likewise, OWI’s Voice of America  radio broadcasts did not mention Soviet executions of Polish prisoners of war and mistreatment of Polish deportees, including women and children, in the Soviet Gulag camps and collective farms, to which they had been sent as slave laborers. VOA’s radio broadcasts for foreign audiences and a broadcast by OWI Director Elmer Davis targeting Americans also spread Soviet propaganda lies about the mass executions of Polish prisoners in Soviet Russia known collectively as the Katyń Forest massacre. Americans and foreigners alike were misled by Roosevelt administration’s propaganda about the true nature of Stalin and the Soviet regime — a point highlighted in bipartisan criticism after the war. 

The bipartisan Madden Committee of the House of Representatives blamed it in 1952 on “a strange psychosis that military necessity required the sacrifice of loyal allies and our own principles in order to keep Soviet Russia from making a separate peace with the Nazis.” The committee pointed out that “this psychosis continued even after the conclusion of the war.” In a warning about a corrupting effect of foreign and domestic propaganda combined with censorship, the Madden Committee noted that “most of the witnesses testified that had they known then what they now know about Soviet Russia, they probably would not have pursued the course they did.”

The 1948 Smith-Mundt Act passed by the U.S. Congress significantly restricted use of tax dollars to target Americans with news and political commentary produced by the U.S. government. Some of these restrictions were later lifted. The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012, which was contained within the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (section 1078 (a)) and signed by President Obama, amended the 1948 Smith-Mundt Act and subsequent legislation, allowing for materials produced by the State Department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which included the Voice America, to be made more easily available within the United States.

U.S. Government institutions responsible for false propaganda about Polish and other deportees in the Soviet Union, the Katyń lie, and misleading information about wartime refugees from Russia never admitted that they had done anything wrong and have insisted through even the most recent statements of their officials that the Voice of America was created during the Second World War to broadcast only truthful news.

Radio Free Europe, also funded by U.S. tax dollars, however, never lied about Katyń or censored information about the plight of Polish and other prisoners in the Soviet Gulag.

During most of the Cold War, especially in later years, VOA Polish Service broadcasters also played a positive role of bringing uncensored news and offering moral support to the victims of communism.

Support Silenced Refugees


U.S. Government Propaganda Photo

U.S. Government propaganda photo by OWI photographer Nick Parrino, Iran, 1943.
  • Title: Teheran, Iran. Baby girl at a Polish evacuee camp with her mother
  • Creator(s): Parrino, Nick, photographer, Office of War Information (OWI)
  • Date Created/Published: 1943.
  • Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
  • LINK

Photos by Lt. Col. Henry I. Szymanski, U.S. Army

  • Twelve-year-old boy, Polish evacuee from Russia, August 1942
  • Six-year-old boy, Polish evacuee from Russia, August 1942
  • Three sisters, ages 7, 8, and 9, Polish evacuees from Russia, August 1942
  • Photos by: Lieutenant Colonel Henry I. Szymanski, U.S. Army
  • Source: The Katyn Forest Massacre: Hearings Before The Select Committee to Conduct An Investigation on The Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre; Eighty-Second Congress, Second Session On Investigation of The Murder of Thousands of Polish Officers in The Katyn Forest Near Smolensk, Russia; Part 3 (Chicago, Ill.); March 13 and 14, 1952 (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1952), pp. 459-461.
  • Link

Notes

P.

Pro-Stalin Voice of America Propaganda Revealed in 1984 VOA Interview with Józef Czapski

Cold War Radio Museum Cold War Radio Museum

A recent (2017) independent study by the American Foreign Policy Council (AFPC) focusing on Voice of America (VOA) broadcasts to Iran has found that under Obama administration officials these broadcasts “perpetuated to audiences the appearance of pro-regime [Iran] propaganda, rather than objective reporting, on the part of both the VOA and Farda.” Radio Farda broadcasts to Iran are produced by Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). Both RFE/RL and VOA have been managed by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) federal agency which has been renamed in August 2018 as the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM). The AFPC study also found that “reportage on bilateral relations between the U.S. government and the Iranian regime conveyed an impression of equivalence between the parties, a position that is both surprising and improper for broadcasting that is funded by the U.S. government.” “It is also deeply misleading,” the study said, “insofar as it conflates the Iranian regime with the Iranian people, whereas the U.S. government opposes the former while supporting the latter.”

While the BBG denied that there was “systematic bias,” the independent study, which had been commissioned by the BBG, revealed a fundamental managerial and journalistic failure on the part of BBG officials as well as VOA and RFE/RL executives, editors and reporters. The study also hinted that opposing points of view on the Obama administration policy toward Iran were censored.

Such bias and censorship are not new to the Voice of America. VOA officials and journalists had embraced and promoted Soviet propaganda lies during World War II and covered up Stalin’s crimes during certain periods even after 1945. Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty generally avoided such pro-Soviet bias and censorship during the Cold War.

At certain periods, especially during its early history, some VOA officials and reporters were easily deceived by Soviet propaganda. A few of the early VOA journalists later went to work for communist regimes in Eastern Europe.

Others tried to present the truth, but their voices were silenced by Voice of America managers. One of those censored by the Voice of America during his visit to the United States in 1950 when he attempted to talk at length about the Katyn Massacre was Polish military officer, writer and artist Józef Czapski. In 1941 and 1942, he had made a futile search for thousands of missing Polish officers in Soviet Russia. They were killed on the orders of Stalin in 1940. Some of the members of the U.S. Congress spoke publicly about VOA’s censorship of Józef Czapski. VOA officials claimed there was no censorship and that Czapski agreed to the shortening of his interview. Later, under tremendous pressure from the U.S. Congress, VOA stopped its censorship of the Katyn story but resumed it partially until the Reagan administration eliminated all VOA censorship about such Soviet crimes.

In an 1984 interview with VOA Polish Service correspondent Wacław Bniński, Józef Czapski described the Soviet propaganda lies about the Katyn Massacre and the initial acceptance and promotion of such lies by U.S. government officials and propagandists.

Promoting of Soviet propaganda lies in early Voice of America broadcasts and later coverup of Stalin’s crimes in the late 1940s and early 1950s did not go unnoticed in the U.S. Congress. Congressman Philip J. Philbin (D-MA) spoke about it in the House of representatives on May 16, 1952. He mentioned VOA’s censorship of Józef Czapski’s Katyn statement and efforts by former Office of War Information (OWI) journalist Julius Epstein to expose the pro-Soviet bias in Voice of America broadcasts. VOA officials tried to discredit Epstein and his claims. One VOA official suggested that Epstein, who was a refugee from Nazi Germany, was perhaps unworthy of being a naturalized U.S. citizen and should be investigated.

The SPEAKER. Under the previous order of the House, the gentleman from Massachusetts [Mr. PHILBIN] is recognized for 30 minutes.

POLAND AND HUMAN LIBERTY

Mr. PHILBIN. Mr. Speaker, it has been my custom since I have been a Member of this body on the anniversary of Poland’s Constitution Day to join other Members of the House in commemorating that great event in world history.

I think that Poland’s Constitution Day has new significance this year, because already there are signs that the indomitable Polish people and other people similarly oppressed in Western Europe and in other parts of the world are at last, after many years of persecution and suffering, prepared to move in order to throw off the shackles that so cruelly bind them.

There is another reason this year why those of us dedicated to democratic principles of self-determination and justice should make special efforts to keep the great issues of human freedom alive in diplomatic and political circles and that is the current investigation of the outrageous massacre at Katyn.

Since this frightful mass slaughter occurred the world was led to believe that the Germans were responsible for it. Even the publicity agencies of our own Government, such as OWI and the Voice of America, either by their silence or by implication, have given the impression that the Germans perpetrated this horrible and indescribable blood bath. It is interesting for me to note that even though the OWI and later the Voice of America had, or should have had, access to the facts of this cold-blooded slaughter of 15,000 loyal Polish officers, who were massacred on Soviet soil in the spring of 1940, the evidence unhappily shows that these agencies apparently accepted the Russian version of the horrible incident, namely, that it had been perpetrated by the Germans.

All the more distressing is that after the war, when a large number of undeniable facts became available indicating that it was not the Germans, but the Russians, who massacred the Poles, the Voice of America kept silent. This silence was all the more difficult to understand in the light of the fact that that agency had available to it complete evidence in the Katyn case as assembled by a well-known writer for the New York Herald Tribune. Not only did the Voice of America fail to publish or broadcast this evidence, but it failed to protect the efforts of public-spirited citizens and good American patriots, some of them former high officials of the Government, to try to bring out the facts. Despite the fact that there was intense interest in it all over Europe, where front-page feature stories appeared in the European press concerning the incident, our own foreign publicity and propaganda agencies were as silent as the tomb.

Are we to assume, according to the views of the writer mentioned above, that the Voice therefore decided to play down Katyn because it would create too much hatred against Stalin among the Poles. It is indeed appropriate to ask, as he has. whether anyone connected with this Government desires to create love for Stalin among the Poles at the American taxpayer’s expense.

Moreover, it should be noted that the Voice censored the speech of Count Joseph Czapski, one of the few survivors of Katyn, when he was permitted to ad- dress the Polish people through the facilities of the Voice. He was not permitted to mention the mere word of Katyn. I am at a complete loss to understand such a policy. Why was it pursued?

If we are interested in helping the Polish people to liberate themselves from oppression, why was the truth about Katyn suppressed for more than 8 years? Why did the officials of this Government consider it proper to tell the truth about Katyn in May 1951 when the same truth was unfit to be produced in 1949 and 1950, not to speak of the years before that?

Now that a House committee, under the leadership of our esteemed colleague from Indiana [Mr. MADDEN] is currently investigating all aspects of the Katyn massacre, we may at least expect to get the full truth as it is available from witnesses and documentary evidence.

In order to document the foregoing remarks that I have made in behalf of Poland and especially my references to Katyn, I desire to set forth in the RECORD a portion of an article entitled “The OWI and the Voice of America,” by Julius Epstein, experienced foreign correspondent, former language editor of the OWI and a well-known newspaperman.

It is very difficult for me to understand the tenderness found in many high places for the welfare of persons who are the known enemies of this Nation and its institutions.

We are engaged in a war, call it a police action if you will, but it is one of the bloodiest wars in American history. What is happening in Korea is only a Sunday School picnic compared to what can happen elsewhere if patent instigation from the Kremlin succeeds. … FULL TEXT IN 1952 CONGRESSIONAL RECORD

During World War II, overseas radio broadcasts of the U.S. Office of War Information (OWI), which only later became known as the Voice of America (VOA), repeated and promoted Soviet propaganda lies under VOA’s first so-called director but in reality the radio program production chief John Houseman. Houseman’s extreme pro-Soviet line resulted in him being forced to resign in 1943. 1 But the real directors of these early “Voice of America” wartime broadcast and Soviet sympathizers hired by John Houseman continued their collusion with Soviet propagandists and covered up Stalin’s crimes until the end of World War II. Partial censorship of the Katyn massacre story by the Voice of America continued with interruptions until the 1980s.

One of the early contributors to OWI information programs and later a volunteer in launching first VOA broadcasts in Russian in 1947 was Kathleen Harriman, daughter of President Roosevelt’s wartime ambassador to Moscow W. Averell Harriman. She had worked for OWI as a young reporter in London and later in Moscow, where she accompanied her father. It was Ambassador Harriman who in 1944 sent his 25-year-old daughter on a Soviet-organized propaganda trip to the Katyn Forest near Smolensk, the site of the mass murder of thousands of Polish military officers and members of the Polish intelligentsia. After her trip to Katyn, she produced a report for the State Department which supported the Soviet propaganda claim that the Germans were the perpetrators of the mass murder. The Polish prisoners of war in Soviet hands were in fact executed in the spring of 1940 by the NKVD secret police on the orders of Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Politburo. As Russia was then America’s military ally fighting Nazi Germany, President Roosevelt did not want to disclose Stalin’s genocidal crimes to Americans and foreign audiences.

When the Germans announced the discovery of the Katyn graves in April 1943, the Office of War Information immediately started to broadcast and promote the Soviet propaganda lie about Katyn, even though high-level State Department diplomats, who earlier had warned the FDR White House of Soviet and communist influence at the agency in charge of “Voice of America” broadcasts, advised against blindly accepting the Kremlin’s claims of innocence. Ambassador Harriman, his daughter, and OWI’s “Voice of America” propagandists helped to boost and spread the Kremlin’s false propaganda claims. It was one of the most blatant Russian propaganda lies, or what now would be called fake news, of the 20th century.

With so many high-level U.S. government officials and the Voice of America tainted by the Soviet lie, it is no surprise that VOA’s early history has been covered up, distorted, re-written and falsely presented by friendly writers with links to the agency, now called the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) and previously known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). They have ignored and most likely purposely obscured the early collusion between the Roosevelt administration and Soviet propagandists. They never mentioned VOA’s participation in the Katyn lie. They never addressed the later cover-up of Soviet crimes which lasted until the Voice of America and State Department officials in charge of VOA were forced by Congress to change the course on Katyn reports in the early 1950s.

John Houseman is presented in these books and VOA promotional materials (even in 2018 VOA public relations materials) not as an apologist for Stalin, but as a defender of truthful journalism. His biography posted online by the VOA Public Relations Office says nothing about the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Military Intelligence preventing Houseman from traveling abroad during World War II because of his suspected pro-Soviet activities.

VOA Public Relations (2018)

“John Houseman, a Romanian-born immigrant and successful actor, author, and film producer, served as Voice of America’s first director just as World War II was entangling the Western world. In spite of a steady stream of bad news related to wartime losses, Houseman determined that VOA would tell listeners the truth, whether it was good for the U.S., or bad for the U.S. ‘Only thus,’ he explained, ‘could we establish a reputation for honesty which we hoped would pay off on that distant but inevitable day when we would start reporting on our own invasions and victories.'” 2

One will not learn from these books, online articles and promotional brochures about Kathleen Harriman as one of the early contributors to the Voice of America programs and about her defense of the Katyn lie. Even in the late 1940s and in 1950, the Voice of America was censoring witnesses of Stalin’s crimes, including statements by Józef Czapski.

One of the early VOA directors, Charles W. Thayer, who himself was described by another Foreign Service officer Chester H. Opal as not being convinced that the Soviets had murdered the Polish officers at Katyn 3 disclosed in his memoirs published in 1959 that “unpaid volunteers including Averell Harriman’s daughter, Kathleen, were recruited to help in the studios, in violation of government regulations” 4 when in 1947 the Voice of America finally launched its Russian-language broadcasts. Thayer was VOA director from January 1948 to October 1949 but before that he was in charge of launching VOA Russian broadcasts. VOA did not broadcast in Russian before 1947, most likely because U.S. officials in change of the Office of War Information during World War II did not want to offend Stalin and may have assumed also that Soviet radio propaganda in Russian was sufficient for Russian-speking listeners.

Both Charles W. Thayer and Kathleen Harriman, who later went by her married name Kathleen Mortimer, at least initially believed in the Soviet Katyn lie. When questioned by a bipartisan committee of the House of Representative which investigated the Katyn massacre, Kathleen Harriman-Mortimer admitted that she was wrong in accepting the Soviet claims but insisted that in 1944 she was convinced that the Germans were responsible for the murders.

In line with the wishes of her father and President Roosevelt, who wanted at all cost to protect Stalin’s reputation as America’s main military ally against Hitler, Kathleen Harriman embraced the Soviet propaganda lie on Katyn. She wrote a special report for for her father and the State Department supporting the Soviet claims.

Testimony of Hon. William Averell Harriman, Director of Mutual Security in “The Katyn Forest Massacre: Hearings before the Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation of the Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre, Eighty-second Congress, Second Session, on investigation of the murder of thousands of Polish officers in the Katyn Forest near Smolensk, Russia, Part 7, 1952, page 2124.

Telegram From United States Embassy,
Moscow, January 25, 1944

(Telegram)

Moscow, January 25, 1944- Secretary of State, Washington. (For President and Secretary &” strictly confidential.)
Member of Embassy staff and my daughter have returned from trip Smolensk with British and American correspondents. While there they were shown evidence being collected by special commission to investigate German shooting of captured Polish officers in Katyn Forest close to Smolensk.

None of party was able to judge scientific evidence of autopsies which were performed in their presence. Moreover, they were not permitted to make independent investigations except for formal questioning of few witnesses made available. Correspondents filed reports telling what they saw without expressing opinions, but for some reason censor has held up these stories. The general evidence and testimony are inconclusive, but Kathleen and Embassy staff member believe probability massacre perpetrated by Germans. During Kathleen Mortimer’s testimony, her report on the trip to Katyn was also presented as an exhibit. It appears on page 2132.

Embassy of the United States of America,

Moscow, February 23, 1944. No. 207

Subject : Investigation by Soviet Authorities of the Massacre of Polish Soldiers in the Katyn Forest, near Smolensk. Secret The Honorable the Secretary of State,
Washington, D.C,

Sir: I have the honor to refer to luy secret telegram No. 247 of January 25, 7 p. in., concerning the activities of the Special Commission to Establish and Investigate the Circumstances of the Shooting by the German Fascist Invaders of Captive Polish Officers in the Katyn Woods. On January 21-23, 1944, the foreign correspondents in Moscow made a trip to Smolensk to witness the pro-ceedings of the Commission. The correspondents were accompanied by my daughter, Kathleen, and Mr. John F. Melby, Third Secretary of the Embassy. I am enclosing copies of their memoranda containing their observations on this trip. I am also enclosing a copy of the January 29, 1944, Moscow News which contains an abridged version of the formal report of the Commission.

Respectfully yours,

William Anerell Harriman.

File No. 711.6. Enclosures : 1-2-3-/ as stated.

Report Written by Mrs. Kathleen Harriman Mortimer After Visiting Katyn in January 1944

(Enclosure No. 2 to Despatch No. 207 dated February 23, 1944, from American Embassy, Moscow)

On January 23, 1944 members of the foreign press were taken to Smolensk to get first hand the evidence compiled by the Commission on the Katyn incident.
The party was shown the graves in the Katyn Rorest and witnessed post mortems of the corpses. As no member was in a position to evaluate the scientific evidence given, it had to be accepted at its face value.
The testimonial evidence provided by the Commission and witnesses was minute in detail and by American standards petty. We were expected to accept the statements of the high ranking Soviet officials as true, because they said it was true.

Despite this it is my opinion that the Poles were murdered by the Germans. The most convincing evidence to uphold this was the methodical manner in which the job was done, something the Commission thought not sufficiently important to stress. They were more interested in the medical evidence as conclusive proof and the minute circumstantial evidence surrounding the crime.

These Soviet declarations of innocence were the biggest propaganda lie of the 20th century, but they were eagerly promoted in the early Voice of America broadcasts under the influence of its pro-Soviet fellow traveler sympathizers. Among them was the person later declared to be VOA’s first director, Hollywood actor and theatre producer John Houseman.

Houseman was hiring his communist friends to work on producing Voice of America broadcasts. In 1943, the State Department and U.S. Army Intelligence secretly identified him to the FDR White House as being dangerously pro-Soviet. It was an unusual accusation made by some of President Roosevelt’s closest advisors because he and the administration pursued a policy of what could be called an extreme accommodation toward Stalin. The secret accusation against Houseman and a few other OWI officials, made by FDR’s friend and confidant Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles, led to the forced resignation of the man later known as the “first Voice of America director” although Houseman was never publicly identified as a communist sympathizer. This allowed for spreading of the myth that he was a defender of truthful and honest VOA journalism. Under other officials who were even more responsible for the pro-Kremlin tone and content of early Voice of America broadcasts, VOA continued to air Soviet propaganda for the remainder of the war and even into the late 1940s, with the Katyn story still being occasionally censored as late as 1951.

In 1952, Kathleen Harriman Mortimer was called before a bipartisan investigative committee of the House of Representatives and admitted that she had been wrong in blaming the Katyn mass murder on Nazi Germany. After that she faded into relative obscurity and Voice of America officials never mentioned her as volunteer contributor to VOA programs.

Testimony of Kathleen Mortimer on November 12, 1952 before the Select Committee on the Katyn Forest Massacre:

Mr. Pucinski. I wonder if you would straighten out one point for us here.

There has been some speculation that you went to Katyn as a correspondent or adviser or observer for the OWI. Did you have any connections with the OWI at that time?

Mrs. Mortimer. I was a correspondent in London for Newsweek magazine, before I went to Moscow, and I resigned from that post when I went to Moscow with my father. I worked for the OWI in a purely unofficial capacity. Everybody there at the Embassy was very short-staffed and, in other words, pitched in and helped.

Mr. Pucinski. Did you file any reports for the OWI as a result of your visit to Katyn?

Mrs. Mortimer. No, this was the only thing I wrote.

Mr. Pucinski. I have one more question. You were quite admired in Moscow, were you not? You were 25 years old, and the Ambassador’s daughter, and people sort of looked to you with a great deal of respect, did they not?

Mrs. Mortimer. At the time I went to Moscow I was the only American woman there.

Mr. Pucinski. The reason why I asked that question is this. I was wondering, had your observations and had your conclusions been different, had you believed in all the reasoning through your report, which indicated so strongly that the Soviets committed this massacre, could you, or were you in a position to so state, or were you somewhat bound by your position in Moscow to say that it was the Germans who did this?

Mrs. Mortimer. I would not say that my position in Moscow would have any bearing on what I would write in a report. I have been a correspondent before, and writing up a news story was not something that

Mr. Pucinski. You were free of any pressures, to state your con- clusions as you saw them ?

Mrs. Mortimer. When I came home, my father asked me to write down what I had seen, and that is what I did.

Mr. PuciNSKi. And what is your conclusion today ?

Mrs. Mortimer. I have since had the opportunity to read your interim report and read what the New York press has said about your committee, and you had access to every side of the picture, and I think, undoubtedly

Mr. Pucinski. Aside from our report,

Mrs. Mortimer. Well, that is my information on it,

Mr. Pucinski. Aside from our report, can you think of anything that you observed there in 1944 at Katyn, which may strengthen the evidence that we have already compiled, to the conclusion that the Soviets murdered these men? In retrospect today, is there anything that you observed at that time that would strengthen that belief today?

Mrs. Mortimer. I would say that would be, off hand, hard to answer now, without going over your report here and mine here.

Mr. Pucinski. No further questions.

Chairman Madden. As a final question let me ask. You would testify today, would you, that the Russians committed the massacre at Katyn ?

Mrs. Mortimer. I would. 5

Notes:

  1. “First VOA Director was a pro-Soviet Communist sympathizer, State Dept. warned FDR White House,” Ted Lipien, Cold War Radio Museum, May 5, 2018. http://www.coldwarradiomuseum.com/state-department-warned-fdr-white-house-first-voice-of-america-director-was-hiring-communists/. Last accessed September 2, 2018.
  2. John Houseman (1942 – 1943), Past VOA Directors, VOA Public Relations. https://www.insidevoa.com/a/john-houseman-1942-1943/4485185.html. Last accessed September 2, 2018.
  3. “How a refugee journalist exposed Voice of America censorship of the Katyn Massacre,” Cold War Radio Museum, April 16, 2018, http://www.coldwarradiomuseum.com/how-refugee-journalist-exposed-voice-of-america-katyn-censorship/. Last accessed September 1, 2018.
  4. Charles W. Thayer, Diplomat (London: Michael Joseph, 1959), 187.
  5. Ibid., 2148-2149.
S.

Starved in Stalin’s Russia

Support Silenced Refugees

This photo taken in August 1942 in Iran by U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Henry I. Szymanski, showing Polish refugees from Russia — three sisters, ages 7, 8, and 9 — was classified as secret by the U.S. Government and was not declassified until 1952.

Lieutenant Colonel Henry I. Szymanski was a U.S. Army Liaison Officer to the Polish Army created under the command of General Władysław Anders during the Second World War II which fought the Germans alongside American and British troops in North Africa and Italy. On November 22, 1942, Lt. Col. Szymanski sent a report on Polish-Russian relations to the Military Intelligence Division, War Department General Staff (G-2), in Washington, DC. 

In August 1942, he saw and took photos of many starved and dying Polish refugees, including children, who had been evacuated with the Anders Army from Soviet Russia to Iran. In his lengthy report, which was classified as secret and not published until 1952, he made several observations about the deplorable condition of former Polish prisoners and slave laborers who had managed to escape from the Soviet Union.

This part of Lt. Col. Szymanski’s report describes not the camps in Iran but the Gulag labor camps in Soviet Russia.

9. Quarters were overcrowded, sleeping was on the floor or ground, there was either no heat or very little, and no sanitary conditions were provided. Rats had the play of all dwellings. The sick were not isolated and medicines were not available. Because of the lack of vitamins, scurvy, beriberi, and many other diseases were prevalent. Night blindness and loss of memory resulted from the same causes. The condition of the teeth of all Poles is very bad. This is also due to lack of vitamins. Pictures taken by me in Pahlevi indicate the privations that these people had to undergo in the land of the Soviets.

10. The children had no change. It is estimated that 50% have already died from malnutrition. The other 50% will die unless evacuated to a land where American help can reach them. A visit to any of the hospitals in Tehran will testify to this statement. They are filled with children and adults who would be better off not to have survived the ordeal.

11. Women not accustomed to hard manual labor and consequently not able to earn enough for their daily bread had a choice of starving to death or submitting to the Bolshevik or Mongol supervisor. In one sense their condition was bettered–they had something to eat. When asked by me whether they worked hard, a reluctant answer of, “I wanted to live,” would be given [to] me. The Polish military medical authorities are taking blood tests to determine the number of generals among women. The tests were not completed prior to my departure, but the results will be handed [to] me.

  • Source: The Katyn Forest Massacre: Hearings Before The Select Committee to Conduct An Investigation on The Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre; Eighty-Second Congress, Second Session On Investigation of The Murder of Thousands of Polish Officers in The Katyn Forest Near Smolensk, Russia; Part 3 (Chicago, Ill.); March 13 and 14, 1952 (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1952), pp. 455.
  • Link

To protect Stalin and the anti-Germany military alliance with Moscow, pro-Soviet propagandists in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration did not publish photos of Polish children who were starved, ill and near death when they were evacuated from Soviet Russia to Iran in 1942. Likewise, OWI’s Voice of America (VOA) radio broadcasts did not mention Soviet executions of Polish prisoners of war and mistreatment of Polish deportees, including women and children, in the Soviet Gulag camps and collective farms, to which they had been sent as slave laborers. VOA’s radio broadcasts for foreign audiences and a broadcast by OWI Director Elmer Davis targeting Americans also spread Soviet propaganda lies about the mass executions of Polish prisoners in Soviet Russia known collectively as the Katyń Forest massacre. Americans and foreigners alike were misled by Roosevelt administration’s propaganda about the true nature of Stalin and the Soviet regime — a point highlighted in bipartisan criticism after the war. 

Support Silenced Refugees


Photos by Lt. Col. Henry I. Szymanski, U.S. Army

  • Twelve-year-old boy, Polish evacuee from Russia, August 1942
  • Six-year-old boy, Polish evacuee from Russia, August 1942
  • Three sisters, ages 7, 8, and 9, Polish evacuees from Russia, August 1942
  • Photos by: Lieutenant Colonel Henry I. Szymanski, U.S. Army
  • Source: The Katyn Forest Massacre: Hearings Before The Select Committee to Conduct An Investigation on The Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre; Eighty-Second Congress, Second Session On Investigation of The Murder of Thousands of Polish Officers in The Katyn Forest Near Smolensk, Russia; Part 3 (Chicago, Ill.); March 13 and 14, 1952 (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1952), pp. 459-461.
  • Link


V.

Voice of America Polish Service Broadcaster Irene Broni Resisted Nazis and Communists

By Ted Lipien

Voice of America Polish Service Program “All About America” (Ameryka w Przekroju), July 9, 1983

Irena Radwańska Broni: Returning to the U.S. citizenship oath ceremony at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson would certainly approve of using his home for this purpose. … Thomas Jefferson wrote: “Born in other countries, yet believing you could be happy in this, our laws acknowledge, as they should do, your right to join us in our society, ….” 1

Irene Broni (Irena Radwańska), who died two years ago on July 22, 2016, was one of the most versatile and talented former Voice of America (VOA) Polish Service radio broadcasters. She helped to transform the Voice of America from being a colluding voice for Stalin’s propaganda during World War II to a genuine and trusted voice for freedom during the Cold War. As a teenager, she fought and was wounded in the first days of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against the Nazis, which the then Voice of America in the United States Office of War Information (OWI), dominated by pro-Soviet sympathizers, almost completely ignored to comply with Stalin’s wishes who wanted to see the uprising fail and the Polish anti-communist underground army destroyed. Czesław Straszewicz, a Polish journalist based in London during the war, wrote in the 1950s about the harsh negative impact of VOA’s pro-Kremlin wartime broadcasts on the audience in Nazi-occupied Poland and among the free Poles abroad.

“With genuine horror we listened to what the Polish language programs of the Voice of America (or whatever name they had then), in which in line with what [the Soviet news agency] TASS was communicating, the Warsaw Uprising was being completely ignored.” 2

After being sent to a forced labor camp in Nazi Germany following the collapse of the uprising, Irena later found her way to the Polish Army of General Władysław Anders which was fighting alongside American, British and other allied troops against the Germans in Italy. Since she was still a minor, the Polish Army sent her to a school in the British Palestine.

After the war, like many Poles in the West who saw their country betrayed by U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill at wartime conferences with Stalin at Tehran and Yalta, Irena did not return to communist-ruled, Soviet-dominated Poland. She finished her education at a music conservatory in London and later worked as a pianist with Polish emigre artists. Later during the Cold War, she spent eight years as a host of various music and history programs at the American-funded Radio Free Europe (RFE) in Munich, West Germany.

After emigrating to the United States and working several years as a pianist, Irene Broni, whose radio name at VOA was Irena Radwańska, joined in 1977 the Voice of America Polish Service team which was working to establish VOA’s reputation in Poland as a pro-freedom American radio broadcaster. This was achieved thanks to such great journalists as Zofia Korbońska, another hero of the Warsaw Uprising, Irena Radwańska and many others who had joined the VOA Polish Service after the war and replaced its former pro-Soviet staff.

During World War II, the Voice of America was a major conduit for Soviet propaganda. Its first director, John Houseman, was forced to resign in 1943 after high-level officials in the State Department secretly accused him to the FDR White House of hiring Communists. But some of Houseman’s successors at VOA and some of the early Polish Service broadcasters continued to follow the Soviet line for the rest of the war by minimizing reporting on the Polish Government in Exile in London, its armed forces fighting the Germans, and the Warsaw Uprising. As hearings before a bipartisan committee of the House of Representatives revealed in 1952, some of these early VOA Polish Service broadcasters returned to Poland after the war to work as anti-American propagandists for the communist regime.

The anti-Nazi Polish armed revolt in August 1944 was launched by the underground resistance movement Armia Krajowa (Home Army), which Irena joined despite her young age. During that time, VOA largely ignored anti-Nazi Poles like her because they refused to support Soviet rule in Poland. But in later years, thanks to Irena and her older VOA colleagues, some of whom also had fought the Nazis, survived the Warsaw Uprising and worked earlier at Radio Free Europe, the Voice of America Polish Service was slowly transforming itself into an uncensored voice of freedom from Washington. This change took decades to complete and required VOA Polish Service to protest from time to time against the upper management’s attempts to censor the truth about the Katyn massacre of thousands of Polish officers by the Soviet NKVD secret police and to resist occasional management directives to downplay human rights reporting. The Voice of America eventually became during President Ronald Reagan’s administration nearly as popular in communist-ruled Poland as the Polish Service of Radio Free Europe, which remained the most listened to and the most influential Western radio station broadcasting in Polish.

In 1982, Irene Broni was one of the Polish Service’s recipients of the Superior Honor Award “For exceptional service, professionalism, and devotion to duty in the preparation of Voice of America broadcasts to the people of Poland” during the martial which was imposed on December 13, 1981 by General Wojciech Jaruzelski and his pro-Soviet communist regime against the Solidarity labor union movement lead by Lech Wałęsa, future Nobel Peace Prize winner and future President of independent Poland. The award ceremony coincided with the visit to the Voice of America by President Ronald Reagan on February 24, 1982 to mark the 40th anniversary of VOA’s founding in 1942. A Superior Honor Award was also given in 1982 to VOA English News Vienna correspondent David Lent for “covering the events in Poland in 1981, culminating in the imposition of martial law in December.”

Irene Broni later received two VOA Excellence in Programming Awards for her popular Saturday radio show about life in the United States, Ameryka w Przekroju, and her special report from Doylestown, Pennsylvania, on the Polish-American observances of the Warsaw Uprising’s 45th anniversary. During that time, VOA broadcasters like Irene Broni who reported on all aspects of life in America adhered strictly to the VOA Charter. They produced programs that were informative, in her case also highly entertaining, and presenting a variety of different opinions on controversial issues. Partisanship in reporting on American politics was meticulously avoided by most foreign language service VOA broadcasters.

With their rich life and professional experience, these Central European journalists also could not be fooled by Soviet propaganda. When faced with inaccuracies in some VOA English reports on Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, they were not afraid to make their views known to VOA and United States Information Agency (USIA) officials. The majority of the upper agency management was strongly supportive of VOA’s Polish Service, especially during the Solidarity’s struggle for democracy. Many USIA and VOA managers during the time Irene Broni worked in the Polish Service had spent years abroad as diplomats or journalists, spoke foreign languages and were not permitted along with their immediate family members to do private business in countries ruled by oppressive regimes. Hiring personal acquittances was also not as easy as it has become in later years.

Irene Broni was able to use her outstanding broadcasting talents. History was one of her passions. In 1985 she interviewed several current and former VOA Polish Service journalists who, like her, had led incredibly eventful lives in one of the most difficult periods of the 20th century. Former VOA Polish Service deputy director Zdzisław Dziekoński participated in the Warsaw Uprising for which he was recognized by President Reagan in a White House ceremony. Irene Broni also interviewed anti-Nazi resistance hero Zofia Korbońska who risked her life daily to send coded radio messages from Nazi-occupied Poland to a Polish radio station in Britain. Irene interviewed another Polish Service broadcaster Ryszard Mossin, one of hundreds of thousands of Polish prisoners in Stalin’s Siberian camps who was later a radio reporter with General Anders’ Polish Army in Iraq and Italy, worked for the BBC and Radio Free Europe and ended up with VOA. She also recorded a radio interview with her former husband Feliks Broniecki who was a Polish soldier in the West during World War II, worked at the BBC and Radio Free Europe, and later joined the Voice of America, where he retired as Polish Service director in 1982. Another one of Irene’s interviewees was a pre-World War II Polish journalist Tadeusz Strzetelski. My outstanding deputy Marek Walicki, a Warsaw Uprising survivor and former Radio Free Europe correspondent, recognized and encouraged Irene Broni’s radio hosting and interviewing talents. She was a dynamic radio personality who easily connected with her audience and listeners of various ages. She corresponded by letter with many of them in Poland and even invited one to stay at her home on a visit to the United States. She was a friendly and generous person.

Marek Walicki’s photo (above) from KARTA website shows Irene Broni first on the left in a red and black dress. 1990, Waszyngton, USA. Nowy Rok w redakcji Sekcji Polskiej Głosu Ameryki. [1990, Washington, DC, Voice of America Polish Service New Year party.] Irena Radwańska, Helena Skotowska, Jerzy Rudzki, Marek Krzyżański-Parker, Tadeusz Walendowski, Marek Święcicki (trzeci z prawej) [third from the right], Wojciech Żórniak (z ręką w górze) [with his arm raised], Waldemar Chlebowski (drugi z prawej) [second from the right], Manuela Pinto Da Silva, originally from Portugal, who worked as a producer in the Polish Service. Fot. Marek Walicki, kolekcja Marka Walickiego, zbiory Ośrodka KARTA. Link. 

After her retirement from VOA in 1996, Irene Broni was active in various Polish-American organizations in the Washington, DC area, published a community newsletter, and helped to stage several plays by Polish writers in local theaters and a Polish opera at the Kennedy Center. In 2003, she helped to organize a campaign to send Christmas packages to soldiers from Poland serving in Iraq alongside American troops.

In commenting on the role of the Voice of America during the time when Irene Broni Radwańska was a Radio Free Europe and later Voice of America broadcaster, Lech Wałęsa said in 2002: “It is difficult to imagine what would have happened if it were not for the Voice of America and other sources with the help of which the true information squeezed through, which showed us a different point of view, which said that we are not alone, and that something is happening in our country — because our mass media did not do that.” – Lech Wałęsa, 2002

Link to Lech Wałęsa video interview: Part One and Part Two.

To this day some of the current and former Voice of America officials continue to ignore the most outstanding anti-communist VOA foreign language broadcasters while still praising pro-Soviet sympathizers such as John Houseman who had turned the early VOA into a propaganda mouthpiece for Stalin and tried to help Soviet Russia establish communist regimes in Eastern Europe.

Irene Broni Radwańska was a proud Pole, a proud American and a great Radio Free Europe and Voice of America broadcaster in the noble fight against totalitarian ideologies and their propaganda.

Some of the biographical information about Irene Broni (Irena Radwańska) came from the manuscript on the history of the Voice of America Polish Service written in Poland by Jarosław Jędrzejczak, a former longtime listener to VOA Polish broadcasts.

The photo of the VOA Polish Service staffers showing Marek Walicki, Roma Starczewska Murray, Krystyna Wojtasik, Mirek Kondracki and Jarosław Anders was originally published in the Voice of America promotional calendar for 1990. The image to the left shows a cover of the VOA Polish Service brochure from the early 1990s.

Ted Lipien is a former director of VOA Polish Service and former VOA acting associate director.

SUPPORT THE WORK OF COLD WAR RADIO MUSEUM

IF YOU APPRECIATE SEEING THESE ARTICLES AND COLD WAR RADIO MEMORABILIA

ANY CONTRIBUTION HELPS US IN BUYING, PRESERVING AND DISPLAYING THESE HISTORICAL EXHIBIT ITEMS

CONTRIBUTE AS LITTLE AS $1, $5, $10, OR ANY AMOUNT

CLICK TO DONATE NOW

Notes:

  1. Thomas Jefferson’s letter to Hugh White, Esq., May 2, 1801. Irene Broni misspoke saying that Jefferson wrote these words 55 years after the Declaration of Independence; it was 25 years.
  2. Czesław Straszewicz, “O Świcie,” Kultura, October, 1953, 61-62. I am indebted to Polish historian of the Voice of America’s Polish Service Jarosław Jędrzejczak for finding this reference to VOA’s wartime role.
1.

1990 Polish-English VOA Newscast

Cold War Radio Museum Cold War Radio Museum
 

1990 VOA Polish Service Bilingual Polish-English Newscast

 

 

[ss_player]

 

The Cold War was almost over in 1989-1990. The Voice of America was looking for new ways to deliver news to Eastern Europe.

The bilingual VOA Polish-English newscast was one of several projects initiated in the VOA Polish Service.

The ten-minute bilingual newscast was eventually rebroadcast daily on Program One of Polish Radio under an agreement negotiated between VOA Polish Service chief Ted Lipien and Solidarity backed Chairman of the State Committee for Radio and Television Dr. Andrzej Drawicz and the head of Polish Radio Program One Marek Lipiński. Nationwide Program One also carried a five-minute bilingual VOA Special English-VOA Polish Service program five days a week and a 50-minute music program produced by VOA Polish Service DJ Wojciech Zorniak once a week. Another nationwide network of Polish public radio, Program Three, carried a 30-minute VOA Polish Service music program once a week.

The Service also initiated joint programs with Polish Television. One of the participants in some of the television programs was former National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski who was a fluent Polish speaker.

These projects, however, were soon abandoned as VOA Management could not assure consistent quality and reliable program delivery.In December 1989, VOA Director Richard W. Carlson opened a VOA office in Warsaw, but it did not become a full news bureau and was never permanently staffed.

The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Poland joined NATO in 1999.

The last VOA Polish Service on-air radio program to Poland was heard on July 20, 2000 after 58 years from the first VOA Polish radio broadcast in 1942. Some internet broadcasting and feed service continued until the VOA Polish Service was completely shut down in May 2004.

The bilingual VOA Polish-English newscast heard in this video was aired on January 24, 1990. It was read by VOA Polish Service broadcaster Jerzy Rudzki and VOA English broadcaster Philip G. Murray.

Mr. Murray, who was the husband of VOA Polish Service Chief of Production Roma Starczewska-Murray, often volunteered to read in his free time as the Management failed to provide full funding for the project.

Philip G. Murray Sr. was born on Aug. 3, 1920, in Boston, Mass. He served in the U.S. Army as a Staff Sgt. during WW II and was stationed in the Panama Canal Zone. During these years he was also on the Army-Navy All-Stars Swim Team. After the war he continued to serve in the Massachusetts National Guard.

He graduated (dean’s list) from Leland Powers School of Radio, Television & Theater and had an extensive career in radio and television in New England and New York, and as a broadcaster, producer and director for 15 years for the Voice of America before retiring in 1994.

He appeared in the movie “Jaws” and in several PBS specials as well as television and print commercials.

In his retirement years he was a volunteer reader for Learning Ally (formerly Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic). He died in Alexandria, Virginia on July 16, 2011 at the age of 90. His widow, Roma Starczewska Murray (April 22, 1935-November 3, 2017), was born in Warsaw, Poland and moved to the U.S. in the mid 1960s. She was a talented artist, creating traditional Polish paper cut-outs, and worked for many years as a producer and later as the chief producer of Voice of America Polish programs. She also did volunteer reading for the Blind and Dyslexic.

The photographs from the promotional 1990 VOA Calendar were taken in 1989. The VOA Polish Service promotional brochure was produced in the early 1990s.

 

SUPPORT THE WORK OF COLD WAR RADIO MUSEUM

 

IF YOU APPRECIATE SEEING THESE ARTICLES AND COLD WAR RADIO MEMORABILIA

ANY CONTRIBUTION HELPS US IN BUYING, PRESERVING AND DISPLAYING THESE HISTORICAL EXHIBIT ITEMS

CONTRIBUTE AS LITTLE AS $1, $5, $10, OR ANY AMOUNT

CLICK TO DONATE NOW