Tuesday 28 March 2017

Eoghan Harris: Brave Mayo mandarin who kept Katyn in focus

Eoghan Harris

Eoghan Harris

SIR Owen O'Malley is not a name well- known in Ireland. It should be. Because in May 1943, he did three states -- Poland, Russia and Britain -- some service by writing a report on the Katyn Massacre for the British Foreign office, a forensic search for the facts as well as a moral commentary on choosing the lesser of two evils. This is his story.

In February 1943, O'Malley was close to the summit of his successful career in the British Foreign Service, acting as ambassador to the Polish government in exile. That was why he was chosen by Winston Churchill to write a secret report assigning responsibility for the mass graves of Polish officers which advancing German troops had just discovered at Katyn, near Smolensk.

Churchill, of course, had handed O'Malley a poisoned chalice. Josef Goebbels claimed the victims had been murdered by Stalin's NKVD. Stalin roundly rejected this and blamed Hitler. And Stalin was an ally of Churchill and Roosevelt against Hitler.

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