for themselves. They would return thenUkrainians, they replied, but did notnwant the Poles.nThat may have been the momentnwhen Stalin resolved to kill them. InnApril 1940, some five thousand Polishnofficers, hands bound behind theirnbacks, were shot in the back of the necknat Katyn, in a wood near Smolensk,ntheir bodies being piled deep in massngraves and buried there; another tennthousand Polish officers disappearingnin the same week, presumably killed innsome similar fashion by the NKVD atnother sites inside the Soviet Union. It isnlikely that by then the Gestapo and thenNKVD had been collaborating intimatelynfor some months. A German’ndiplomat in Moscow, Hans-Heinrichnvon Herwarth, has told in his memoirnAgainst Two Evils (1981) how, whennRibbentrop arrived at Moscow’s airportnin August 1939, Gestapo and NKVDnofficers were seen to shake handsnwarmly and smile at each other. “Butnwatch out,” a German friend remarkednto Herwarth. “This will be disastrous,nespecially when they start exchangingnfiles.” The 1940 Nazi photo may wellnshow them doing just that, and itnsupports the view that there were directndiscussions on prisoner-exchange earlynin 1940, when the Soviets handed overna large number of prisoners, includingnJews, to their Nazi allies.nThe identity of the two officers innthe photograph of April 1940 maynnever certainly be established, and it isnnot even clear that the printed namesnare to be trusted. No Yegnarov isnknown among NKVD functionariesnresponsible for the Katyn mass-murder,nthough a certain Major S.Y. Yegorovnhas been listed and is known tonhave been promoted to major-generalnby the end of the war. Perhaps there isnno connection; or perhaps the namesnof Yegnarov and Yegorov have beennaccidentally or deliberately confused.nBut one truth, at least, remains toonprobable to be easily dismissed: that thenSoviets during those early months ofnjoint occupation instructed their Nazinallies in techniques of repression andnextermination.nThat was known or guessed by Polesnat the time. In his account of the Polishnunderground. The Secret Army, T.nBor-Komorowski has told how innMarch 1940, a few weeks before thenconversation in Warsaw, an NKVDn58/CHRONICLESnmission had gone to Kracow to worknout with the Gestapo the methods theynmight jointly adopt against Polish militarynorganizations. The Nazis, he believed,ngreatly admired the NKVD forntheir superior efficiency in combatingnthe underground, Russian techniquesnbeing “a hundred times more dangerousnand efficient than the Gestapo’s.”nThat, after all, was to be expected. ThenSoviet terror-machine was over twentynyears old by 1940, and it had thenextensive experience of Stalin’s 1930’snpurges to call on. The Nazis had little,na.nd it is often forgotten how late, andnhow highly concentrated, Hitler’s exterminationnprogram was, and howntechnically inexperienced the Nazisnwere in such matters at the outbreak ofnthe war. In the spring of 1940 thenGermans had no record of mass-killing,nand the decision known as thenFinal Solution was not taken till as latenas January 1942; they had no availablenmodel except that of their Gommunistnallies. They had not yet collected vastnnumbers of people in specified places,nthat is to say, or herded them ontontrains or into forest clearings wherenthey could be killed by the thousand;nand mass-grave killing, so far as isnknown, is something they had not yetnattempted. The Soviets had done allnthat by 1940. They had even used gas.nA memoir by a Soviet defector, PeternGrigorenko, has recently shown thatnthe NKVD were using exhaust fumesnin the 1930’s in Omsk, in Siberia, tonkill prisoners in windowless trucks,nwhereas the earliest Nazi use of gasnappears to have been on incurables innSeptember 1939. It was not until latenin 1941, at Ghelmno near Lodz andnafter the Nazi invasion of the SovietnUnion, that the Nazis employed thisntechnique on Jews and dissidents.nThat makes April 1940 look all thenmore significant as a date in humannhistory. At Katyn, in that month, somenfive thousand Polish officers were shotnin the back of the neck by the NKVD,nhands tied behind them, to be buriednten to twelve feet deep in graves alreadynprepared for the purpose in anwooded area long used by the NKVD.nAs a technique it is remarkably similarnto what the Nazis later did in thenUkraine and elsewhere. In Marchn1944, for example, in the Fosse Ardeatinennear Rome, Nazis shot 335 Italiannhostages through the back of the neck.nnnIt was a method already familiar innStalin’s purges of the I930’s, so therencan be no reasonable doubt that it wasnknown to the Soviets before it wasnknown to the Nazis.nThere is much historical work to bendone, then, in the field of Nazi-Sovietncollaboration, and it now seems likelynthat it will be done. What East Germansnfound at Oranienburg in Marchn1990 is only a tiny beginning. Gentralnand Eastern Europe, even SovietnAsia, may now be entering a period ofnhuman excavation unheard of in humannhistory, and one beside whichneven the revelations of the Nazindeath-camps in 1945 may look small.nIn all that a single photograph, and ansingle article, in a Nazi newspaper innApril 1940 is only one small crumb ofnevidence. Perhaps the two officersnseated at a table in Warsaw are discussing,namong other matters, Katyn,nwhich happened only a week or twonbefore. Since some of the Polish officersnwho died there had been handednover into Russian hands by the Nazis,nand since all of them had been recentlynrefused by the Nazis after a hesitantnacceptance, the Nazis may well havenbeen curious to know what had becomenof them.nIt is natural, too, to suppose that thenNazi officer is seeking technical advicenabout genocide from his Soviet colleague.nMassacre is always technicallyndifficult if secrecy is to be maintained,nif only because discreet corpse-disposalnin the mass is a highly complicatednbusiness; and the text of the articlenshows how determined the Nazis were,nearly and late, to deny and disguisenwhat they did. That determination remained;nand the holocaust (as it hasnsince come to be known) was always, atnleast in intention, a secret operation. Innthat case the bull-necked Nazi officernon the right in the photograph, supposedlyncalled Schon, may be about tonlearn something momentous from hisnGommunist colleague, whose handsnare earnestly clasped before him andnwho looks about to speak.nGeorge Watson, who is a Fellow of St.nJohn’s College, Cambridge, is thenauthor of The Idea of Liberalism andnThe Gertainty of Literature (St.nMartin’s Press). His BritishnLiterature since 1945 will benpublished in the fall.n