STALIN, Josef (1879-1952), Soviet dictator. Typed letter signed ("J. Stalin") to Wilhelm Franciszek Kubsz, n.d. [ca. 1944?]. 1 page, 4to, some foxing. In Cyrillic.
STALIN PLEDGES "POLISH-SOVIET FRIENDSHIP" AND "A STRONG AND INDEPENDENT POLAND"
An important--and tragically ironic--letter. Stalin writes to a member of a recently-created puppet organization, soon after the discovery of the Katyn Forest mass graves: "Thank you for your pledge of support to the Soviet Government. I send my warmest regards to you and to the Union of Polish Patriots in the U.S.S.R. who have started laying successful groundwork towards establishing an alliance between the people of Poland and the people of the Soviet Union. You can be sure that the Soviet Union will do everything in its power to expedite the rout of our mutual enemy, Hitler's Germany, and establish Polish-Soviet friendship and help to rebuild a strong and independent Poland. I wish you success in your endeavors."
Wilhelm Franciszek Kubsz was a Roman Cathlic priest, born in Gliwice, who was arrested by the Germans, escaped, and joined a Polish partisan unit. In 1943 he served as chaplain to the 1st Polish Army under the command of Zygmunt Berling (dropping the Germanic Wilhelm from his name in the process). Stalin may have written this letter in July 1944, on the occasion of the meetings of the Union of Polish Patriots (ZPP), of which Father Kubsz was a member.
Polish-Soviet friendship had not been much in evidence before and certainly not during World War II. One of Stalin's prime motives in making an alliance with Hitler in August 1939 was to grab as much Polish territory as he could. Once the blitzkrieg campaign was finished the two dictators carved up Poland between them. Stalin immediately started a bloody purge, shooting intellectuals, clerics, teachers and most infamously, some 10-15,000 Polish Army officers who had been prisoners. When German forces discovered the mass graves in Katyn, the Polish government in exile in London demanded that the International Red Cross investigate (a half-century later further mass graves were found at Kharkov and Miednoie). An outraged Stalin severed relations with the London Poles and created the ZPP.
In the fall of 1943, when Soviet forces reoccupied Smolensk, the Katyn graves were exhumed a second time, and Father Kubsz offered Mass at the site on 30 January 1944. He ran afoul of Stalin when he wrote a letter of protest to the dictator, deploring the large number of executions taking place in Lublin from November 1944 through February 1945. Father Kubsz gave last rites to many of these individuals. Stalin removed Kubsz as chaplain of the 1st Army in January 1945.
In 1944 Stalin also created a Polish National Liberation Committee, which would form a provisional government in Lublin in May 1945, and thus bring on the first crisis of the incipient Cold War between the Soviets and his British and American allies. Churchill and Truman wanted the London Poles to run the country while Stalin backed his Lublin puppets. Even after a compromise government was agreed upon, Stalin kept on arresting members of the former Polish underground. By 1945 it was clear to all that "Polish-Soviet friendship" would not bring a "strong and independent Poland," but rather a vassal state in Stalin's brutal, despotic empire.