Sept. 12, 2013
Major General Vasili Blokhin
Stalin’s chief executioner was Major General Vasili Blokhin. Over a 25-year-period he executed more than 50,000 “enemies of the state.” In March 1940, General Blokhin personally executed all 8,000 of the captured Polish officers on 28 consecutive nights in a basement execution chamber at the Soviet secret police headquarters in Kalinin.
by David Robb
His name was Major General Vasili Blokhin, and he had a fancy title: Commander Kommandatura Branch, Main Administrative-Economic Department, Moscow Zone, People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD). His actual job, though, wasn’t so fancy. He was the chief executioner for Joseph Stalin’s secret police, and as such, he personally executed more people than anyone else in history.
Few people today have ever even heard of him.
Best estimates are that over a 25-year career, Blokhin personally executed more than 50,000 “enemies of the state.” That comes out to about six people a day. Most were executed the old-fashioned way: Lined up against a wall and shot. That’s a lot of bullets, a lot of walls.
His most notorious crime was the Katyn Massacre – a mass murder in 1940 that was still taking lives 70 years later.
World War II started in Europe on September 1, 1939, when Germany invaded Poland from the west. Sixteen days later, the Soviet Union invaded Poland from the east. It was part of a deal between Hitler and Stalin to divide Poland down the middle.
Hitler would go on to kill millions of Poles (half of the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust were Polish Jews), and Stalin would murder tens of thousands more.
Early on in the war, Soviet invasion forces captured 8,000 Polish Army officers, and arrested another 14,000 Polish doctors, lawyers, professors, scientists, factory owners, priests, police officers and other public servants on charges of being “intelligence agents and saboteurs.”
Stalin ordered them all to be shot as “enemies of the state.”
In March 1940, General Blokhin personally executed all 8,000 of the captured Polish officers on 28 consecutive nights in a basement execution chamber at the Soviet secret police headquarters in Kalinin. The soundproof room was specially constructed for the murders, with a sloping concrete floor and a hose to wash away the blood.
One at a time – 250 a day – each of the Polish officers was led into the room in handcuffs, where Blokhin awaited in a butcher’s apron, cap and shoulder-length leather gloves. Each prisoner was then turned around to face a log wall, and Blokhin would shoot him in the back of the head with a German Luger. If there were ever any questions, it would look like the Germans had done it.
This went on for nearly a month, and each night the dead bodies were secretly trucked to the nearby Katyn Forest, dumped into open trenches and buried.
The other 14,000 Polish intellectuals captured during the Soviet invasion met a similar fate, although not directly at the hand of General Blokhin.
When Stalin died in 1953, Blokhin was forced to retire when his boss, the sadistic psychopath Lavrentiy Beria – chief of the Soviet security and secret police – was defeated and executed in a power struggle with Nikita Khrushchev.
The last of more than 50,000 people that Blokhin personally killed was himself, when he committed suicide in February 1955.
The Soviet Union denied that it had anything to do with the mass execution of the Polish officers and intelligentsia until 1990, when Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev acknowledged that the NKVD – the old Soviet secret police – had carried out the executions.
But the story doesn’t end there. On April 10, 2010, Polish President Lech Kaczyński, his wife and 94 prominent Poles – including high ranking members of the Polish government, military, clergy and relatives of the Katyn Massacre – were killed when their plane crashed near the Russian city of Smolensk on their way to observe the 70th anniversary of the Katyn Massacre.
They died only a few miles from the site of the massacre.