I have read about Katyn, but continue to be astounded about the sheer horror of it all.
Sometime ago, I learned of Vasili Blokhin's role in the Katyn Massacre. It is almost unfathomable:
Blokhin's most infamous act was the April 1940 massacre by shooting of 7,000 Polish officers, captured following the Soviet invasion of Poland, from the Ostashkov POW camp, which came to be known as the Katyn massacre. (The event's infamy also stems from the Stalin regime's orchestration of the murders and subsequent propaganda campaign in order to blame Nazi Germany for the massacre. In 1990 as part of Glasnost, Gorbachev gave the Polish government "a huge packet of files on the massacres at Katyn, Starobelsk, and Kalinin", revealing Stalin's involvement).
Based on the 4 April secret order from Stalin to NKVD Chief Lavrenti Beria (as well as NKVD Order № 00485, which still applied), the executions were carried out in 28 consecutive nights at the specially-constructed basement execution chamber at the NKVD headquarters in Kalinin (now Tver), and were assigned, by name, directly to Blokhin, making him the official executioner of the NKVD.
Blokhin initially decided on an ambitious quota of 300 executions per night, and engineered an efficient system in which the prisoners were individually led to a small antechamberówhich had been painted red and was known as the "Leninist room"ófor a brief and cursory positive identification, before being handcuffed and led into the execution room next door. The room was specially designed with padded walls for soundproofing, a sloping concrete floor with a drain and hose, and a log wall for the prisoners to stand against. Blokhin would stand waiting behind the door in his executioner garb: a leather butcher's apron, leather hat, and shoulder-length leather gloves. Then, without a hearing, the reading of a sentence or any other formalities, each officer was brought in and restrained by guards while Blokhin shot them once in the base of the skull with a German Walther Model 2 .25 ACP pistol. He had brought a briefcase full of his own Walther pistols, since he did not trust the reliability of the standard-issue Soviet TT-30 for the frequent, heavy use he intended. The use of a German pocket pistol, which was commonly carried by Nazi intelligence agents, also provided plausible deniability of the executions if the bodies were discovered later.
An estimated 30 local NKVD agents, guards and drivers were pressed into service to escort prisoners to the basement, confirm identification, then remove the bodies and hose down the blood after each execution. Although some of the executions were carried out by Senior Lieutenant of State Security Andrei M. Rubanov, Blokhin was the primary executioner and, true to his reputation, liked to work continuously and rapidly without interruption. In keeping with NKVD policy and the overall "black" nature of the operation, the executions were conducted at night, starting at dark and continuing until just prior to dawn. The bodies were continuously loaded onto covered flat-bed trucks through a back door in the execution chamber and trucked, twice a night, to Mednoye, where Blokhin had arranged for a bulldozer and two NKVD drivers to dispose of bodies at an unfenced site. Each night, 24 to 25 trenches, measuring eight to ten meters total, were dug to hold the night's corpses, and each trench was covered up before dawn. Blokhin and his team worked without pause for ten hours each night, with Blokhin executing an average of one prisoner every three minutes. At the end of the night, Blokhin provided vodka to all his men.
On 27 April 1940, Blokhin secretly received the Order of the Red Banner and a modest monthly pay premium as a reward from Joseph Stalin for his "skill and organization in the effective carrying out of special tasks". His count of 7,000 shot in 28 days remains one of the most organized and protracted mass murders by a single individual on record,and earned him the Guinness World Record for 'Most Prolific Executioner' in 2010.
Its difficult to wrap ones mind around, what these human monsters did let alone the mentality of a regime like the USSR operating with a disdain for human lives like that.
I guess every totalitarian regime gave rise to monsters like that no matter the label or political colour - be it brown or red.