Following the Red Army’s invasion of Poland in September 1939, nearly 22,000 Polish prisoners of war were executed in the spring of 1940 on the orders of the highest authorities in the Soviet Union. The victims included soldiers from the Polish Army, the Border Protection Corps, the police, as well as professors, doctors, lawyers and engineers. They were executed in line with a decision of the highest authorities of the Soviet Union dated 5 March 1940. The Polish prisoners of war, taken into captivity in violation of international conventions, were handed over to the NKVD (People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs) and imprisoned in Kozelsk, Starobelsk, Ostashkov and many other camps scattered across the Soviet Union. General Smorawiski and other officers were doomed from the moment they arrived in Kozelsk. As Poland’s elite, they were to be executed and their legacy was to be wiped out. They were transported to Katyn and murdered there.
From 1941, the Polish government in exile made numerous enquiries to the Soviet authorities about the fate of the Poles. The Soviet authorities reported that the prisoners of war had been released and their fate was unknown. In April 1943, the German authorities officially informed the world that mass graves with the bodies of Polish officers had been found at Katyn.
Faced with the refusal of the International Committee of the Red Cross to send a delegation to Katyn, the Third Reich decided to set up its own International Medical Commission. It consisted of twelve representatives from European countries, from the allies as well as those subordinate to the Third Reich, as well as neutral Switzerland. The committee was made up of specialists from various fields and specialisations, including criminology and forensic medicine. The commission was chaired by Hungary’s Dr Ferenc Orsós. The leaders of Poland’s underground government anticipated that the Nazis would try to use the murder of Polish officers as propaganda. Nevertheless, they decided to send a delegation led by Kazimierz Skarżyński. The International Medical Commission found that the executions were carried out by the Soviet authorities in March and April 1940. After returning to Warsaw, the Technical Commission of the Polish Red Cross sent a report to the government in London with identical findings. Among the bodies of murdered Polish Army officers excavated from the death pits, two generals were identified: Mieczysław Smorawiński and Bronisław Bohaterewicz. It was established that General Smorawiński was shot by the NKVD on 9 April 1940 at Katyn in a group of 89 officers.
Numerous personal items, including a PKO savings passbook, personal identification cards, a document confirming the Silver Cross of the Order of Virtuti Militari, a silver cigarette case, a gold ring, two medallions, and the presented ten-zloty note, were discovered on Smorawiski’s body.