The trial of the 16 Polish leaders took place between 18th and 21st June, 1945, in the October Hall of the Palace of the Soviets in Moscow. It was the first trial of "war criminals" since the defeat of Germany. But the accused here were not Goering, Ribbentrop, Paulus or Frank. They were the leaders of Underground Poland, and their crime was their fight for the independence of their country. They were tried in Moscow, in the very city which in September, 1939, was decorated with swastikas to greet Ribbentrop, while the Polish nation was engaged in a deadly struggle against the Germans.

Those watching the trial might have got the impression that it was Poland and not Soviet Russia who in the course of this war had collaborated with the Germans; that it was the Red Army and not the Polish nation who had first undertaken the fight against German Fascism; that it was not Russia who had attacked Poland in 1939, but rather the Polish Home Army who had murdered Soviet soldiers in the Ukraine, White Russia and Lithuania (as the prosecution described the annexed half of the Polish Republic). And the words of M. Molotov of October 31st, 1939, seem to have been, forgotten, the words which said: "It is not only senseless but criminal to wage such a war, 'as a war for the destruction of Hitlerism camouflaged as a fight for 'Democracy'."

There is no doubt that the trial was "par excellence," a mere show with very definite political aims. The sentence shows that what mattered was by no means the punishment of the alleged criminals. What then was the real aim of the trial?

The first and foremost aim was the liquidation of all the basic elements of independent Polish life: the Government, the Underground Movement and the authentic political parties. The Polish Government itself did not figure among the defendants, in a similar way as Trotsky did not appear at the bar during the trials of the Trotskyites in the 1930's, nevertheless the whole indictment was obviously directed against faraway London.

The trial took place at the time when MM. Mikolajczyk and Stanczyk were negotiating about their inclusion in the Lublin Government, and this synchronisation was to clear the ground for the formation of a vassal Government of a vassal country which subsequently would be legalised by Britain and America.

At the same time the trial was aiming at compromising and belittling the five and a half years of the bloody struggle of the Polish Underground against the German invader. This was to be achieved by untrue allegations of Polish collaboration with the Germans.

A still further aim was to show in a suspicious light the information obtained by the Polish Government in London about the situation in Poland, for reports about the unceasing terror, executions, deportations and arrests had created a deep impression abroad. In order to discredit any further reports from Poland some of the defendants had to "confess" during the trial that they had sent false information to London.

The trial was also aimed against Great Britain as the alleged protector of the Polish Government and the Polish Underground Movement. It was to compel Britain to withdraw her recognition from the Polish Government because of its alleged anti-Soviet activities. At the same time, the fact that prominent Polish leaders and members of the Polish Government which was recognised by Britain and America could be arrested and tried in Moscow, without being effectively defended by the British or Americans, was to discredit in the eyes of Central and Eastern Europe the value of the international obligations and of the moral principles of those two Powers. This was to strengthen the already preponderant Soviet influence in that part of Europe, and discourage the democratic national movements from creating centres organised on the Western pattern and working in collaboration with the Western democracies.
However, contrary to the intentions of the organisers, the Moscow trial has shown the predominant influence of the Polish Underground Movement among the Polish people. If such a great and widespread movement could continue to exist even after the breakdown of the Warsaw Rising and the destruction of the main forces of the Home Army, it was thanks only to the fact that the great majority of Polish people supported it.

It is impossible to discuss the Moscow trial in detail because only one-sided reports are available. News Agencies and the Moscow Radio gave detailed accounts of the depositions of the witnesses for the prosecution, ignoring almost completely the defence of the accused, or entering into polemics with them, without quoting what they actually said. Even on the basis of the incomplete evidence, however, the following points concerning the indictment, the trial itself and the verdict can be made.

The indictment, which was based on the Soviet penal code, and on the assumption that the Soviet court was competent to try Polish citizens, is full of misrepresentations of facts, false allegations and accusations. Here are a few examples:

One of the main points of the indictment is the instruction of the Polish Government, number 11,869, allegedly issued from London on December 8th, 1944. This instruction—said to be adopted by M. Mikolajczyk's cabinet on October 14th, 1944—foresaw the dissolution of the Home Army in view of constant Soviet reprisals, while at the same time preserving a skeleton force. According to the prosecution this force was to undertake an armed struggle against Russia, but no evidence has been offered for this allegation. Instead of simply quoting the instruction, the indictment commented on it. It was only during the trial, when General Okulicki demanded that the instruction should be read in Court, that the prosecutor, instead of giving the full text, read out the following passage:

"In view of the situation, it is essential that the underground work should continue. The Lublin Committee is an illegal body and will be liquidated together with the occupying forces"

The Polish Government has declared categorically that there was no instruction of December 8th, 1944. The Government's instruction concerning the dissolution of the Home Army was issued much earlier by the Mikolajczyk administration, and in the whole of this document there was not even a shadow of implication of any struggle against Russia. The passage quoted at the trial was doctored in Moscow. In the original, there was not a single word about liquidating the Lublin Committee and the occupying forces. Anyway, it would be sheer nonsense to order an underground army to liquidate the powerful and well equipped Red Army.

In its allegations concerning the spying activities of the Polish Underground Movement, the indictment contains an obvious falsification of the Polish order number 7201/1/777 of November 11th, 1944 (which was issued during M. Mikolajczyk's premiership). According to the indictment the order ran as follows:

"On the liquidation of the Warsaw centre the reconnaissance ceased to send exhaustive monthly photographic reports. As the knowledge of SOVIET military intentions and potentialities in the East is of basic importance in forseeing and planning the further development of events in Poland, you must liquidate the gap, transmitting reconnaissance reports in accordance with the instructions of the Reconnaissance Department of the H.Q. Detailed instructions follow as to what information to collect about military units, transport, fortifications, air fields, arms, situation at the front, data on war industry and such like."

The prosecution has falsified one word in this instruction: the original, instead of Soviet, mentioned GERMAN military intentions. The intelligence exclusively concerned German and not Soviet forces.

It should be recalled that in November, 1944, the whole of Poland west of the Vistula river was still under German occupation, and that instruction, according to the reports from the trial, referred to the filling of the gap caused by the liquidation of the Warsaw centre. Now, this Warsaw centre was liquidated by the Germans and had all the time been in German-occupied Poland, thus it could obviously conduct intelligence work only against German forces. What is more, however, the text of the instruction quoted in the indictment proves the falsification, as the instruction speaks of collecting data concerning war industries and fortifications, and in that period only the Germans and not the Russians could have had, and actually had, war industries and fortifications in Poland.

It is also worth while adding that the Home Army conducting its intelligence work behind the German lines in the East sent in reports on German military movements, industries and secret weapons not only to London, but through the British Government also to the Soviet military authorities.

In another despatch from the Polish High Command in London to the Home Army quoted in the indictment, the most important passage was omitted. This included a recommendation to refrain from any 'anti-Soviet activities.

The indictment stated further that in consequence of "the criminal activities" of the Home Army, 594 Soviet soldiers lost their lives; this figure being divided into 277 killed from July 28th to December 31st, 1944, and 317 killed from January 1st to May 30th, 1945.

On May 5th, however, the TASS Agency, commenting on the arrest of the Polish leaders, stated that in consequence of their activities 100 soldiers of the Red Army lost their lives. Two questions remain to be answered: first, if nearly 300 Soviet soldiers were killed before the end of 1944, why were the Soviet authorities aware of only 100 victims on May 5th, 1945; second, how could the accused, who were arrested at the end of March, 1945, be responsible for the alleged murders committed as late as May of that year, two months after the arrests?

In its accusations against the Polish Government and the Polish authorities at home of anti-Soviet activities, the indictment lay stress on the above-mentioned alleged instruction of December 8th, 1944. In consequence of this instruction, claims the indictment, the Polish underground authorities held conferences in December, 1944, in January, 1945, in Cracow and in February, 1945, in Milanowek, near Warsaw. During that last conference in February, says the indictment, General Okulicki suggested the creation of the Political Centre "Nie," which was to become an allegedly anti-Soviet organisation. In another part of the indictment, however, it is made plain that on General Bor's orders, issued on the instruction of General Sosnkowski, an organisation called "NIEpodleglosc" [independence] had already been created in Poland in July, 1944. That leaves two alternatives open: either the organisation was created in July, 1944. without an instruction from the Polish Government, or it was formed following such an instruction but not earlier than December, 1944. In addition, it transpired quite clearly from the indictment itself that as late as February, 1945, the alleged anti-Soviet plot directed by the Polish Government in London and the Polish underground authorities was in a very early stage of development, actually in a stage of discussion. As the Polish leaders were already arrested in March, it would be open to doubt if they would even have had time to start the activities of such an organisation, if it existed at all. The authors of the indictment, however, show a contempt for logic, and calmly say that the alleged organisation "Nie," set up as a result of the Polish Governments instruction of December 8th, 1944, and still merely in a preparatory stage in the Polish Underground in February, 1945, had already committed acts of terror in the autumn of 1944, i.e., long before it had supposedly been created.

The special methods used in the preparation of the indictment are most striking when one analyses the parts most incriminating to the accused which were those which the defendants denied most categorically. This applies first of all to the allegations of terrorist activities, and of collaboration with the Germans.

In the whole of the indictment one cannot find a single trace of any instructions from the Polish Government, from the Polish Underground authorities, or from anybody else, ordering any terroristic activities. The prosecution, in spite of all its efforts and all the various methods used, has not been able to prove the existence of any orders or directives from any Polish authorities instructing the Underground Movement to fight the Russians in any way.
According to the indictment the chief defendant, General Okulicki, was supposed to have made the following deposition during a preliminary hearing:
"Having acquainted myself with the documents of the subversive activities of the Home Army in the rear of the Red Army, with which I was confronted, I hold myself responsible for diversionary acts, committed by members of the Home Army."

It transpires, therefore, from the indictment itself that General Okulicki, who was accused of organising and conducting terrorist and diversionary activities against the Red Army, not only did not issue any orders in that respect, but it was only during the preliminary investigations and hearings that he discovered that such acts had allegedly taken place. The public prosecution passes over this issue of first importance. Incidentally, the acceptance by General Okulicki—during a preliminary hearing—of responsibility for deeds which he had not ordered and of which he was not aware, bears a striking resemblance to the former notorious Moscow trials.