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Publisher Description

Below I present an annotated translation of a recently declassified Soviet document written by head of the NKVD Nikolai Yezhov. It details the fate of families and individuals of Polish nationality and mostly Catholic background who were subject to the first wave of repressions in the "Polish Operation," or the systematic killing of every third or fourth person in the USSR's Polish minority from 1937 to 1938. The vast majority of victims were not immigrants to the USSR (as were some enthusiastic Americans who tried to help the Soviets), but rather inhabitants of areas that became the USSR after the October Revolution. At first the Soviet government let them alone. Persecution began when the Soviet system solidified. In the English-speaking world there are no studies detailing the fate of this minority that numbered, by various counts, between 600,000 and one million persons. The Poles were an uncertain and dangerous element for the Soviet government for three reasons. First, they were not scattered among Russians, Ukrainians, or Lithuanians, but usually lived in densely populated communities that viewed themselves as native to the land. Second, owing to Poland's political rebirth in 1918, they were suspected of being the fifth column bent on regaining for Poland territories lost after the first partition of 1772. Third, Poles were Catholic, meaning that they were members of an institution considered by atheistic Soviets to be their greatest enemy. From the Soviet standpoint, there was only one truly satisfactory solution to eliminating the Polish danger: physical extermination of the Polish population.

September 1
Polish Institute of Houston, Inc.

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