Sunday, January 26, 2020

Looking for the Katyn lighthouses.

We have already devoted a couple of posts to the neo-Stalinist apologetics, showing how it is qualitatively not different from Holocaust denial. In this one we will deal with an example showing how the denial methodology isn't much different from flatearthism.

The prototypical case of what we are about to see we can find in Robert Schadewald's classic "Looking for Lighthouses", in which the 19th century flatearthism proponent Rowbotham is explored. Allow me a long quote:
Before the days of electronic navigation systems, lighthouses were vitally important to mariners. Standard navigation references (such as Bowditch) contained detailed descriptions of the locations, characteristics, and visibility of the most important lights. Navigation charts showed the exact positions of all lighthouses, and local pilotage guides listed all lights in a given area. Besides these, the standard English-language reference was known as Lighthouses of the World (Findlay, 1862). Rowbotham made extensive use of Lighthouses of the World [...] 
Rowbotham's calculation is correct, although he made no allowance for atmospheric refraction. But even deducting 1/7 of the dip for refraction (a generous correction) does not solve the problem for sphericity. Rowbotham went on: [...]

Again, Rowbotham's arithmetic is correct, and even a generous correction for atmospheric refraction cannot solve the problem for sphericity. Rowbotham gave about 20 such examples in Zetetic Astronomy, and he averred that “many other cases could be given from the same work, shewing that the practical observations of mariners, engineers, and surveyors entirely ignore the doctrine that the earth is a globe.” 
Suspicious reader that you are, you probably wonder whether Rowbotham cited Lighthouses of the World correctly. Bresher wondered, too. When he consulted the work, however, he found that the published numbers were exactly as Rowbotham stated them. But that was not the whole story. Bresher noted:
I have carefully looked over the book alluded to, and find that out of above 2000 cases, the few selected by “Parallax” are nearly the whole that do not verify the truth of the doctrine in question. And what do these few, about thirty out of upwards of 2000, prove?
An excellent question. Before considering it, we should note another of Bresher's discoveries:
[W]hile “Parallax” was attentively scanning the “Lighthouses of the World” to find out some that could be seen farther than they ought to be seen, on the supposition that the earth is a globe of about 25,000 miles in circumference; he could not but find many more which cannot be seen as far as they ought to be, on the above supposition... 
The proper conclusion from the above facts is, that either there is a misprint in the book at these places, or that the localities where these lighthouses are situated possess some peculiarities which, if known, would account for these deviations. For it is a monstrous assertion which “Parallax” makes ... that one single instance, like the one he mentions, entirely destroys the doctrine of the earth's rotundity.
Well said, Reverend Bresher! 
Rowbotham, of course, was neither the first nor last to promote the 1.5% of the data that supported his position while ignoring the 98.5% that contradicted it. This technique is the common property of those determined to convince others of their position by whatever methods they find expedient. [...] 
And what about Rowbotham's anomalous lighthouses? Beats me. Perhaps the reported observations were made under unusual conditions. Perhaps, for those lighthouses still operating, new observations would not confirm the reported anomalies. By now, however, some of Rowbotham's lighthouses presumably have been closed, torn down, or destroyed by the elements. For these, we will never know. One thing is certain; those who seek only anomalous lighthouses will never find light.
It is in Rowbotham's vein that the neo-Stalinist professor Grover Furr (previously exposed here) published the article "The “Official” Version of the Katyn Massacre Disproven? Discoveries at a German Mass Murder Site in Ukraine" in the pseudoscholarly journal (because what other journal would publish pseudoscholarship and let it stand?) Socialism and Democracy, 2013, vol. 27, issue 2, pp. 96-129.

The article exhibits all that we have come to expect from the Holocaust denial articles. Here is his treatment of the NKVD witnesses who testified about some of the killings in the Katyn massacre complex (which includes not only the Katyn forest victims but also the ones buried in Mednoye near Tver (Kalinin) and Pyatikhatki in Kharkov:
All three men were threatened with criminal prosecution if they failed to “tell the truth” and were told that Soviet guilt had already been established. It is therefore possible that out of fear of prosecution they gave answers they felt their interrogators wanted. Many of the interrogators’ questions were “leading” questions. Of course this is common in criminal investigations. But it does appear that the confessions of these three old men were not entirely voluntary.
Needless to say, there is zero evidence of any coercion with these three witnesses and their statements are extremely strong pieces of evidence.

He deals in the same Holocaust-denial vein with the other arguments (the incriminating documents are fake, based on the nonsensical and ignorant views of how the Politburo bureaucracy functioned, easily debunked by a simple comparison with other documents, etc.). The usual stuff.

But the main thrust of the article can be seen from its first paragraph:
In 2011 and 2012 a joint Polish-Ukrainian archeological team partially excavated a mass execution site at the town of Volodymyr Volyns’kiy, Ukraine. Shell cases found in the burial pit prove that the executions there took place no earlier than 1941. In the burial pit were found the badges of two Polish policemen previously thought to have been murdered hundreds of miles away by the Soviets in April–May 1940. These discoveries cast serious doubt on the canonical, or “official,” version of the events known to history as the Katyn Massacre.
And in some more detail:
In May 2011 Polish news media reported that a numbered metal badge had been unearthed which had been identified by the Ukrainian archaeological team as that of a Polish policeman, Josef Kuligowski, heretofore assumed to have been executed by the Soviet NKVD at Kalinin (now Tver’), Russia, and buried with other such victims at Mednoe, outside of the town.
In September 2011 Polish media reported that police badge number 1099/II belonging to Senior Police Constable (starszy posterunkowy) Ludwik Malowiejski had been found in the Volodymyr-Volyns’kiy mass graves. It had been assumed that, like Kuligowski, Malowiejski was a “Katyn Massacre” victim whose body was buried in a mass grave at Mednoe near Kalinin, where – it has been assumed – other “Katyn” victims shot by the NKVD in 1940 are buried. Malowiejski’s name is also on the recent Polish lists of Katyn victims. Like Kuligowski he is memorialized in the “Mednoe Cemetery Book” [...]
Furr's conclusion? Should be obvious:
There is no evidence that the 14,000+ Polish POWs who were transferred out of Soviet POW camps in April and May 1940 were in reality being sent to be shot. This assumption has been one of the main supports of the “official” version of the Katyn Massacre. It must now be rejected. Since Kuligowski and Malowiejski were on those transportation lists and survived to be killed in 1941 by the Nazis, then others could have as well. [...]
Furr has found his lighthouses.

And just like with Rowbothan's lighthouses, his conclusion simply doesn't follow. The credible evidence (authentic documents (not limited to the ones from the sealed envelope no. 1), uncoerced witnesses (esp. the NKVD ones), untainted exhumations in the 1990s and 2000s (esp. at the sites in Mednoye and Pyatikhatki) and the main fact that no denier can account for the fate of the missing ~15,000 Polish POWs from the spring of 1940 to summer-autumn of 1941 - just like the Holocaust deniers cannot account for the missing Jews) shows that the Poles were shot in the spring of 1940. How do the two alleged exceptions disprove the rest of the mountain of evidence? Hasn't it occurred to Furr that there may be a simple explanation accounting for the presence of the two badges in the German victims' grave? Just off the top of my head, the badges could have been lost-and-found by or given to some other Polish POWs who then fell victim to the Germans. Such a scenario would be certainly much more plausible than overturning 99,999% of the evidence.

Thankfully, we don't have to wonder anymore, since the Russian historian Aleksandr Guryanov has solved the "riddle" in his thorough study Ubity v Kalinine, zakhoroneny v Mednom, 2019, vol. 1, pp. 79-81 (the references are omitted, see the original text):
The camp fate of one of them - Ludwik Małowiejski - could be traced back using archival documents of the NKVD from the moment of his capture, which made it possible to explain the discovery made in 2011 during the exhumation of mass graves of 1940-1941 by Polish and Ukrainian archaeologists on the territory of the former prison in Volodymyr-Volynskyi, Volyn region of Ukraine. During the excavations in the bulk "rubbish" layer (containing various damaged household items) above the grave pit with human remains (most likely people shot by the Nazis), a police registration plate number 1099/II belonging to Ludwik Małowiejski from Lodz was found. A year earlier, Ukrainian archeologists had also found a service registration plate with number 1441/II belonging to another prisoner of the Ostashkovsky camp, the Łódź policeman Józef Kuligowski (the Roman numeral II in both service plates means the prewar Łódź district of the State Police). After the report of these findings, Russian publications appeared, where the discovery of police registration plates during the excavations of mass graves in Volodymyr-Volynskyi was considered as evidence that Józef Kuligowski and Ludwik Małowiejski were buried there, and therefore they were shot in 1941. This statement was interpreted as one of the facts proving that there were no "shot Poles" in Mednoye at all (without any justification for the acceptability) of such an extensive extrapolation. The fact that official police signs during the exhumations in Vladimir-Volynsky were found not among human remains, but in the bulk layer above the graves, was ignored in these publications.
Meanwhile, according to documentary data of the UPV, Ludwik Małowiejski was indeed in Volodymyr-Volynskyi, but not in 1941, but in 1939. In the NKVD files of prisoners of war of 1939-1941, stored in the RGVA, his archival record card, filled in Shepetovka on February 7, 1940, which contains records of his capture on September 19, 1939 in Volodymyr-Volynskyi and his arrival on October 14, 1939 in Shepetovka reception center of the NKVD for prisoners of war.
Ludwik Małowiejski's record card.
Information about his capture in September 1939 in Volodymyr-Volynskyi and his transfer from there to the NKVD Shepetovka reception center for prisoners of war is recorded in the NKVD archive documents for some other prisoners of the Ostashkov camp. It should be noted that in the course of archaeological excavations of mass graves near the former prison in Volodymyr-Volynskyi, other Polish police registration plates were found, in particular, with numbers 639/XII (Pomeranian region), 1154/III and 2202/III (both in Kielce region), but the names of their owners have not been established (it is possible that these policemen were captured in Volodymyr-Volynskyi and then got into the Ostashkov camp). Ludwik Małowiejski's record card shows that after his captivity he was kept in custody in Volodymyr-Volynskyi for at least three weeks. We can assume that in prison his service badge was taken away from him and then not returned when he was sent from Volodymyr-Volynskyi to Shepetovka, and the badge remained in prison, and after the Germans occupied the prison it was thrown away by them together with other unnecessary items (damaged kitchenware) and got into a bulk layer on top of the mass grave of the shot. Since Ludwik Małowiejski was captured wounded in September 1939, after his arrival at the NKVD Shepetovka reception centre he was placed in a hospital in Shepetovka, where he was kept until he was sent to the Ostashkov camp. Documentary data on the date and place of the capture of Józef Kuligowski, as well as on where he was held as a prisoner of war until his arrival at the Ostashkov camp, are not available in the researched archive documents, but we can assume that he, like many other Polish soldiers and police, in September 1939, was captured in Volodymyr-Volynskyi and his police registration plate probably ended up in the bulk layer above the mass grave in Volodymyr-Volynskyi in the same way as the sign of Ludwik Małowiejski. It is very likely that Józef Kuligowski, like Ludwik Małowiejski, was transferred from Volodymyr-Volynskyi to the NKVD Shepetovka reception center, but did not go to the hospital, and was sent with one of the two groups that arrived in the Ostashkov camp in November 1939.
There you go. The most likely and reasonable explanation. All one had to do was simply dig a little bit deeper and read the actual reports, and do some archival research. Furr had no time for such trifles of course, he had to present his two "flat-Earth lighthouses" to the public. After all, he's not a researcher, he's a propagandist, looking not to find out what really happened but aiming to defend his blood-drenched hero Stalin at any cost.

In the article Furr also provides additional arguments, which are, however, even more laughable, as they could be debunked by simply reading the already published documents. The allegedly exhumed "documents" with Araszkiewicz and Lewandowski are of necessity Soviet fakes (the fact conceded even by the late Katyn denier Strygin), since they mention absolutely non-existent "ON" POW camps and the Poles in question as POWs later than the spring of 1940, and we know that these camps never existed not only because there is not a single trace of them in the GUPVI archive (or any trace in real life), but because we have summary documents from the period in question listing all the groups of Polish POWs and the camps where they reside. No "ON" camps are mentioned, and the "missing" Polish POWs in question are listed as transferred to UNKVD in April-May 1940. So whatever happened to them, they were no longer POWs at the time these reports were filed, contrary to the fake "documents" allegedly from the graves (most probably planted by one or two NKGB operatives inserted into the Burdenko team as low-rank "experts", like Zubkov (who "found" most of the "documents" and who had previously worked at the German exhumations and thus could have been prosecuted as a collaborator), - there's actually no credible evidence that most of the Extraordinary Commission's members were "in" on the cover-up). Obviously this was done in order to imply that not only the Kozielsk camp POWs were in the Katyn graves, which point could then be appealed to if the questions arose about the fate of the missing POWs from Starobielsk and Ostashkov. Nice trick!

With Kuczyński Furr deceptively ignores that Stanisław Kuczyński who wrote the postcard was actually Stanisław Kuczyński-Iskander Bej (and not the other Kuczyński from Ostashkov, as Furr claims) who, according to ch. 5. of Katynskij sindrom was not shot but rather transferred to Moscow. Now, it is true that one can find his name in the modern lists of those shot in Kharkov. But it's a mistake: the Starobielsk list is not a transportation list per se but simply contains the people who left the camp, whether for the execution or for some other reason. The list includes e. g. Zygmunt Berling (no. 177), who obviously was not shot. So it also includes Kuczyński-Iskander Bej (under no. 1414) as someone who left the camp. Since Kuczyński was not on the list of those transferred to Yukhnov, it was incorrectly assumed that he was shot in Kharkov, given that the document found by the Russian investigators were not known at the time when the lists were made. So Kuczyński could as well have been alive in 1943 and 1944 and could have written anything on NKVD/NKGB's request.

Finally, Furr appeals to a badge found by the Germans in one of the graves, which reads "T. K. UNKWD K. O. 9424 city Ostashkov". "T. K." was "trudovaya koloniya" (work colony) and not "prison kitchen" as Furr assumes (Ubity v Kalinine, zakhoroneny v Mednom, 2019, vol. 3, p. 551n7). It is not clear what puzzles Furr so much about this, given that e. g. already on 19.11.1939 112 people were transferred from Ostahskov to Kozielsk. Yep, people got moved from camp to camp. Furr once again shows that he doesn't know the sheer basics.

I hope it has become clear by now that, ahem, products of Furr's activity have no more merit than YouTube videos promising us "200 PROOFS OF FLAT EARTH!!!".


  1. Might be worth adding that Furr's badge argument was written long after it was discovered the badge's had no connection to the mass grave.

    He falsely claims that the NKVD never executed children (despite exhumations and testimonies alleging the opposite) in his 2013 article. And his book is much worse, where he dismisses Maciszewski's critique of the Burdenko commission in its entirety in less than 3 pages. Furr even "debunks" Maciszewski by citing Genschow's testimony despite the fact its consistent with what Maciszewski wrote. Furr's contention with Maciszewski was him saying "massive exports" of GECO 7,65 were send to Poland, the Baltic states, & the USSR (before 1932). Furr only puts "exports of these bullets to the USSR" in bold and argues that because Genschow says 'smaller amounts' were sent after 1928 that Maciszewski's statement was wrong. It definitely highlights Furr's dishonesty.

  2. Sergey, here in Brazil there is a concerted effort by neostalinists to translate Furr's work into Portuguese, including the Katyn article. There is a layer of especially young people in and around the Brazilian communist party and a few other groups who have consistently defended Stalin and Stalinism, often using Furr but also Losurdo, Ludens and Cherry picking among specialists such as Thurston, Getty and Tauger.

    1. Sean, later this year an in-depth review of Furr's book will appear and ppl will be free to translate it as needed.

    2. Sergey when will the book appear?

    3. Hopefully Sergey Romanov can release this review in 2022.

  3. Thanks, Sean, I've passed that news on to Sergey in case he misses the comment on this old post.

  4. Sergey, has the review come out yet? Such as Purdy pointed out, stalinists have erected a mithology using cherrying picking methods and covering themsleves behind Stalinist authors. I´d like to ask you if you have any review on Furr´s book "Trotsky´s Lies" since Lenin´s "Testament" is a common place among stalinists that trotskystes would invariably lie on this.

    1. And what is this, chopped liver? ;)


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