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Current developments in the Augustów Roundup investigation

Current developments in the Augustów Roundup investigation

On 28 October 2014, the Central Military Archives (Centralne Archiwum Wojskowe, CAW) in Warsaw-Rembertów is going to provide Public Prosecutor Zbigniew Kulikowski with aerial photographs located in the course of a research query concerning the investigation into the crimes of the so-called Augustów Roundup in July 1945…


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2014-10-27

IPN Investigation

On 12 October 2001, the Regional Public Prosecution Office (Prokuratura Okręgowa) in Suwałki reopened the investigation which had been conducted by the Regional Commission for the Investigation of Crimes against the Polish Nation (Okręgowa Komisja Badania Zbrodni przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu) and suspended in 1991. On 16 October 2001, in accordance with applicable law, the case was transferred to the Branch Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation (Oddziałowa Komisja Ścigania Zbrodni przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu, OKŚZpNP) at the Białystok Branch of the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), with the public prosecutor Tomasz Kamiński in charge of the investigation.

The OKŚZpNP Commission in Białystok is currently conducting an investigation into crimes committed in the course of the so-called Augustów Roundup in July 1945 (case reference: S 69/01/Zk). As established in the course of the proceedings, the operation had been carried out by the 81st Corps of the 50th Army and the 62nd Division of the NKVD Internal Troops, charged with the protection of areas behind the frontline. Polish units taking part included two companies of the 1st (Praga) Infantry Regiment, counting 160 soldiers.

On 4 January 1995, the Military Prosecution Office of the Russian Federation notified the Polish Embassy in Moscow that about seven thousand people had been temporarily detained following the pacification of
north-eastern Poland and a part of the Lithuanian territory, an operation aiming to ‘trace and neutralise the Home Army (Armia Krajowa, AK), an anti-Soviet formation’. The document confirmed that some of them had been arrested by organs of the military counterintelligence service SMERSH of the 3rd Belarusian Front. As specified, the group included 592 people, whose further fate is not known. In 575 cases, ‘criminal proceedings were initiated and an investigation was held’, but ‘no charges were brought against the said Polish citizens; their cases did not proceed to court’. The Russian office also stated that it proved impossible to trace any information on the fate of those arrested in the records of the state archives of the Russian Federation, and that the persons responsible for the military operation were dead.

It has to be stressed that in order to establish what happened to those missing and to locate the site where they were buried, it is necessary to trace the records of the activity of the 62nd Division of the NKVD Internal Troops and the units of the 50th Army, especially its 81st Corps, in the Russian archives. Consequently, on 24 July 2003 and 10 March 2006 Public Prosecutors from the OKŚZpNP Commission in Białystok requested legal assistance from Russia, which would involve providing certified copies of these materials. Russian replies concluded that there was no new information in the case.

On 17 July 2009, another similar request for legal assistance was made, asking the Russian side to conduct a search query in their archives with the aim to trace any documents related to the military operation in question. It was only on 9 August 2011 that the OKŚZpNP Commission in Białystok received a reply from the General Prosecution Office of the Russian Federation (dated 25 July 2011) stating that the Office had no information concerning the Roundup other than that already made available.

Apart from this, there was also a request for legal assistance from the Republic of Belarus, asking the authorities to conduct a search query in their archives and to establish whether in late July or early August 1945 there had been any activity indicating that a group of about 600 people might have been liquidated and buried in the Fortress of Grodno or in the neighbouring villages. A reply from the General Prosecution Office of the Republic of Belarus stated that such legal assistance could not be provided since it would amount to a violation of a fundamental legal principle applicable on the territory of the country: crimes committed in Belarus are subject to Belarusian penal law and jurisdiction.

On 23 January 2009, a similar request for legal assistance was sent to the General Prosecution Office of the Republic of Lithuania. As a result, the OKŚZpNP Commission in Białystok received copies of documents which had already been made available to the public prosecutor in charge of the investigation in the course of a search query conducted in the Central Military Archives (Centralne Archiwum Wojskowe, CAW) in Rembertów.

On 14 June 2011, the OKŚZpNP Commission in Białystok sent another request for legal assistance to the General Prosecution Office of the Russian Federation, asking for certified copies of documents in possession of the Central Archives of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in Moscow, such as a coded wire from Viktor Abakumov, the Head of the Main Directorate of Counterintelligence ‘SMERSH’ (GUKR), dated 21 July 1945, informing Lavrentiy Beria about the planned liquidation of 592 people detained by a special operational group of SMERSH service of the 3rd Belarusian Front of the Red Army in the area of the Augustów Forest.

In the course of the investigation it was established that the Central Archives of the FSB are in the possession of a coded wire from Viktor Abakumov (No 25871), informing Lavrentiy Beria about the quantity of armour confiscated from the AK members and stating that a Polish commander by the name of Kurpiński (alias Grom), born in 1906, had been detained. The same name features on the list of persons reported missing in the Augustów Roundup, drafted by the OKŚZpNP Commission in Białystok: Szymon Kurpiński, son of Antoni and Karolina, born 16 April 1906 in Staroświęciany.

It was also established that the persons responsible for the liquidation of the detained Polish citizens, members of the AK, were: chief of the Department 1 of the Main Directorate of Counterintelligence (‘SMERSH’) of the USSR People’s Commissariat of Defence (GUKR NKO), Major General Ivan Ivanovych Gorgonov and the Head of the Directorate of Counterintelligence (‘SMERSH’) of the USSR People’s Commissariat of Defence (UKR NKO) of the 3rd Belarusian Front, Lieutenant General Pavel Vasilyevich Zelenin.

Ivan Ivanovych Gorgonov, nationality: Russian, was the Head of the Directorate of the Ministry of State Security (UMGB) for the Moscow Region from 1946 to 1951; he died in 1994.

Pavel Vasilyevich Zelenin, nationality: Russian, born in 1902, was the Head of the Directorate of Military Counterintelligence ‘SMERSH’ (UKR) of the 3rd Belarusian Front of the Red Army between 1944 and July 1945; he died in 1965.

On 1 December 2011, a supplementary request for legal assistance from the General Prosecution Office of the Russian Federation was filed with the General Prosecution Office of the Republic of Poland, which forwarded the document to its Russian counterpart on 29 December 2011. The Polish side asked for certified copies of the following documents: the above mentioned coded wire from Viktor Abakumov, materials of investigations open and conducted in the cases of persons detained in the course of the Augustów Roundup, Ivan Gorgonov’s and Pavel Zelenin’s personal records and death certificates. To this date, there has been no reaction from the Russian side to any of the 2011 requests (June and December).

On the basis of the coded wire 25212 of 21 July 1945 from Viktor Abakumov, the Head of the Main Directorate of Counterintelligence ‘SMERSH’ of the USSR People’s Commissariat of Defence (GUKR NKO), it was established that 514 people detained in the Augustów Roundup and referred to as ‘Lithuanians’ were handed over to officers of the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic. Following this track, the OKŚZpNP Commission in Białystok filed a request for legal assistance from the General Public Prosecution Office of the Republic of Lithuania. The document, enquiring about the fate of the group, was forwarded by the Polish General Public Prosecution Office to its Lithuanian counterpart on 16 July 2012. The reply from the Regional Public Prosecution Office in Vilnius concluded that Lithuanian archives were not in possession of any documents relating to the group. All materials connected with the Augustów Roundup made available to the Polish side had already been located in the Central Military Archives (CAW) and included in the case file.

In October 2012, a request for search query information was sent to the Central Military Archives (CAW), asking whether the institution was in possession of any 1945 or later aerial photographs of the Polish border area in the districts of Gołdap and Węgorzewo (with a particular focus on the stretch of the border with the Ozyorsk (Darkiejmy) district in the Kaliningrad Region), Augustów-Grodno road and railway, the District Offices of Public Security (PUBP) in Augustów and Suwałki, the military barracks in Augustów; and whether the Archives had information on the location of the Red Army and the Polish Army airfields in the districts of Olecko, Gołdap, Węgorzewo, Ełk, Suwałki, Sejny, Augustów and Sokółka between June and August 1945.

In their reply (27 May 2013), the CAW concluded that there was no fully adequate inventory of aerial photographs from the period, which made locating them difficult.

Russian historian Nikita Petrov provided the Polish investigators with a copy of a reply from the General Military Prosecution Office of the Russian Federation to the petition requesting the rehabilitation of fourteen people detained in the course of the Augustów Roundup, submitted by the Memorial Society in Moscow. According to the Prosecution Office, there are no grounds to open the rehabilitation procedure since there are no records of criminal cases involving the persons in question.

Were the remains of the victims to be discovered, the investigators consider using DNA tests to enable their identification. On 3 and 12 July 2013 the Department of Forensic Medicine of the Pomeranian Medical University in Szczecin, Polish Genetic Database of the Victims of Totalitarian Systems and the Department of Forensic Medicine of the Białystok Medical University were requested to provide cost estimates of such tests.

DNA samples from the families of the victims were collected in late 2013 and early 2014.

To this date, the total number of witnesses interviewed in the course of the investigation has been around seven hundred.

Documents: IPN investigation

  • ruski-11.pdf downloadLetter from the General Prosecution Office of the Russian Federation, page 1
  • ruski-21.pdf downloadLetter from the General Prosecution Office of the Russian Federation, page 2
  • ruski-tlum-11.pdf downloadCertified Polish translation, page 1
  • ruski-tlum-21.pdf downloadCertified Polish translation, page 2
  • sledztwo-21.pdf downloadDecision to open investigation, Regional Public Prosecution Office in Suwałki (12.10.2001)

  • Logo IPN
  • Logo 45 Obława Augustowska
  • Obława Auguustowska


 
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