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Life and Death in CaptivityThe Abuse of Prisoners during War$
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Geoffrey P. R. Wallace

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780801453434

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801453434.001.0001

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Territorial Conquest and the Katyn Massacre in Perspective

Territorial Conquest and the Katyn Massacre in Perspective

(p.132) 5 Territorial Conquest and the Katyn Massacre in Perspective
Life and Death in Captivity

Geoffrey P. R. Wallace

Cornell University Press

This chapter considers how territorial motives lead to the terrorizing of captives. In early April 1940, Soviet forces executed over twenty thousand Polish military officers and other elites across several sites. These killings became collectively known as the Katyn massacre, or Katyn Forest massacre, one of the most notorious atrocities from the Second World War. It is argued that the killings were motivated by the Soviet Union's desire to permanently annex long-sought-after Polish territories. The method of violence employed, the timing of the killings, and the selection of which captives to kill and which to spare all suggest that concerns over conquest largely drove this extreme prisoner abuse. When territorial motives were less present, Soviet conduct toward captives improved significantly, even if the lot for prisoners remained far from ideal.

Keywords:   Katyn massacre, Soviets, Polish military, Second World War, prisoner abuse, territorial conquest

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