The Man Who Executed 7,000 Polish Prisoners in a Single Month

Vasily Blokhin got the 'Order of Lenin' medal for personally killing thousands of people
February 27, 2017 Updated: June 4, 2018

In 1939, armies of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union invaded Poland, beginning World War II. As Hitler furthered his genocidal plans to create “living space” in the east, communist cadres and military personnel set out to work according to tried and tested methodology. This led to the infamous Katyn Massacre in spring 1940, where tens of thousands of captured Poles—mostly army and police personnel—were murdered, and the crime blamed on the Germans.

One perpetrator of the massacre was professional executioner Vasily Blokhin. A member of dictator Josef Stalin’s NKVD (the security organization that later became the KGB), this handpicked killer personally shot 7,000 Polish prisoners in the Katyn Massacre, in addition to thousands more in other episodes of Stalin’s state terror.

Official KGB photo of Vasily Blokhin, taken in the year of his employment in 1926. (KGB photo archives/Public Domain)
Official KGB photo of Vasily Blokhin. (KGB photo archives/Public Domain)

Working on secret orders issued from the Kremlin to NKVD chief Lavrenty Beria, Blokhin designed a slaughterhouse that would allow him to more efficiently carry out the executions—he started with 300 a night.

The prisoners would be led into a small chamber—the “Leninist Room”—for confirmation of their identities. Then the victim was handcuffed and brought through a second door to a soundproofed execution room. Much thought was put into the details: the floor was concrete and sloped downwards so that the blood could be hosed off quickly for the next killing.

Blokhin waited for his victims behind the door. Once they were brought in—and held in place by two guards—the chief executioner would approach from behind and shoot the captive once in the base of the skull with a German-made Walther pistol. The guards would remove the body and rapidly clear the blood, and the next man could be called in.

1939 Polish passport issued to Dr. Zygmunt Sloninski, also a major in the army, to be used for travelling to Switzerland to attend an international medical conference. Issued two months before the outbreak of World War Two. A year later he would be murdered by the NKVD. (Huddyhuddy/CC BY-SA 3.0)
1939 passport issued to Dr. Zygmunt Sloninski, a major in the Polish Army. A year later he would be murdered by the NKVD. (Huddyhuddy/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Blokhin began his macabre assignment on April 4, 1940; 28 days later, he had killed 7,000 people—he infamously holds the Guinness World Record for “Most Prolific Executioner.”

He and his staff worked 10 hours a night in order to allow the bodies to be disposed of under cover. Even the choice of German weapons—an entire briefcase full of them—was planned: Blokhin feared that Russian pistols might not hold up after constant use, and the Walthers allowed the Soviets to later blame the massacre on Nazi Germany.

The Katyn Massacre was only one episode in the Soviet communist regime’s extensive history of mass murder. In 1937 and 1938, before World War II, over 110,000 ethnic Poles (or simply those with Polish-sounding surnames) in the Soviet Union were rounded up and executed. The majority of these executions were conducted within 10 days of arrest.

Under Stalin, the Soviet regime is estimated to have been responsible for the deaths of over 20 million people, including millions who were executed with a bullet to the back of the head after a brief trial or no trial at all.

File:NKVD Order No. 00485 - Kharkov copy (2).jpg
Order No. 00485 formally starting the so-called Polish operation on August 11, 1937. (NKVD/Syg. Wydzielone Państwowe Archiwum)

These specific acts of murder were the prerogative of willing henchmen who were sacrificed after they outlived their usefulness. Nikolai Yezhov, the NKVD chief who engineered the broad execution of Soviet Poles and killed over 700,000 people in total, was himself sadistically tortured and executed in 1939. His replacement, Lavrenty Beria, was similarly done away with in 1953 following the death of Stalin.

As for Vasily Blokhin, he was awarded the Order of Lenin medal for his “achievements,” and given the NKVD rank of Major General. But even he did not escape retribution. After Stalin died, his legacy was criticized by the new Soviet leadership. Blokhin was forced into retirement and sank into alcoholism, eventually going insane. His death in 1955 was officially reported as suicide.

Communism is estimated to have killed around 100 million people, yet its crimes have not been fully compiled and its ideology still persists. Epoch Times seeks to expose the history and beliefs of this movement, which has been a source of tyranny and destruction since it emerged.

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Leo Timm
Leo Timm is a freelance contributor to The Epoch Times. He covers Chinese politics, culture, and current affairs.