The Katyn Massacre and the Ethics of War : Negotiating Justice and Law

Book chapter


Fredericks, Vanessa. (2020). The Katyn Massacre and the Ethics of War : Negotiating Justice and Law. In Thinking about War and Peace: Past, Present and Future pp. 63-71 Brill. https://doi.org/10.1163/9781848880849_008
AuthorsFredericks, Vanessa
Abstract

This chapter focuses on a particular event in Polish history, namely the Katyn massacre of WWII. The word ‘Katyn’ has come to represent the massacre of approximately 22,000 Polish citizens, held captive by the NKVD in the spring of 1939. The prisoners were executed and buried in various undisclosed locations in the Soviet Union and the Ukraine as part of Stalin’s attempt to implement ‘class cleansing’ in Poland. The first of the mass graves was discovered by German soldiers in 1943 however, the Soviet government denied responsibility for the massacres and accused the German government of being guilty for the crime. Successive Soviet governments continued to deny responsibility for the crime until the admittance of Soviet guilt in 1990. During the 70 odd years since the event noone has been prosecuted for the crime or its cover up. Historical narratives regarding Katyn tend to focus on humanist discourses regarding historical truth, justice, forgiveness and reconciliation. But what are the limits of humanism and how might a poststructuralist approach to this event be more beneficial? This chapter will examine Derrida’s definition of justice as proposed in ‘Force of Law’ (1992) in order to suggest that the relationship between justice and law is arbitrary, and that the concept of justice needs to be deconstructed if we want it to achieve something. Drawing on Lyotard’s notion of the differend (Lyotard, 1988), this chapter will propose that conflicts between narratives will always exist, and consider the possibilities for rethinking Katyn and the question of justice outside the limits of humanist discourses.

KeywordsLiterature and Cultural Studies; Comparative Studies and World Literature; Social Sciences; Cultural Studies
Page range63-71
Year01 Jan 2020
Book titleThinking about War and Peace: Past, Present and Future
PublisherBrill
Place of publicationUnited Kingdom
ISBN9789004403062
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1163/9781848880849_008
Web address (URL)https://brill.com/display/book/9781848880849/BP000008.xml
Open accessPublished as non-open access
Research or scholarlyResearch
Publisher's version
License
All rights reserved
File Access Level
Controlled
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Print23 Apr 2011
Publication process dates
Accepted22 Jan 2024
Deposited05 Feb 2024
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