There are a lot of people in world history who we could call a true monster. There are Hitler, Stalin, Genghis Khan, Vlad the Impaler and many, many others. Their deeds, their conquests, their sick fetishes and strange insecurities killed millions of people. They fought to fulfill their great schemes and ideas, to secure a bright future for their nations or simply to dominate others. They used great armies, secret police or rough rebels that were at their disposal and who did their dirty works for them. But how many people were personally killed by these evil men? How many infamous leaders pulled a trigger themselves? How many looked into their victims’ eyes before taking their lives? Some probably murdered dozens, or maybe even hundreds, but what about thousands? Can any of them claim such a grand killing spree? What about seven thousand? Seven thousand in 28 days? Nobody can, nobody except for one single man, Vasily Blokhin.
There is not much to know about Vasily Blokhin before his role in the Katyn massacre. He was born on 7th January 1887 in small town called Suzdal. His youth is unknown and quite unimportant. He joined and served in the Tsarist army during World War I. Whatever he did during the Great War earned him a spot in the Soviet state security agency Cheka. He probably done his share of torturing and executions, because his deeds caught Stalin’s attention and, soon enough, Blokhin was the head of Administrative Executive Department of the NKVD. His team was responsible for hundreds of thousands of executions during Stalin’s reign, and Blokhin personally killed many high ranking prisoners, such as Mikhail Tukhachevsky, Genrikh Yagoda and Nikolai Yezhov.
In 1939, the Soviet army entered Poland without a proper war declaration. They captured and detained over 20,000 of Polish officers and sent them to numerous prison camps all over Eastern Europe. That was a lot of prisoners, and Stalin decided to purge them all and in process cut off the head of the Polish army. Vasily Blokhin was the perfect man to carry out the purges and he was quickly despatched to the Ostashkov prisoner of war camp. He enlisted 30 other man with him, some to help with the killings, others to move alive and dead prisoners before and after the executions. That was the beginning of the infamous Katyn Massacre.
Blokhin took his job to heart and made some preparations. He brought a bag full of German Walther Model 2 .25 ACP pistols with him to use for the executions, as he did not trust the reliability of any Soviet handgun. A sound proof room was specially designed for the task, with sloping floors and good drainages, a powerful hose to wash off blood and a wooden wall to catch fired bullets. Not to spoil his uniform, Blokhin wore a leather apron, leather hat and long leather gloves. A row of flat-bed trucks were ready to transport dead bodies to their final destination, and fresh graves were dug every night to hide the evidence of committed atrocities.
For 10 hours every night, as Blokhin preferred to work when the moon was out, prisoners were escorted into a basement, where their identifications were confirmed, then cuffed and forced into the execution room. There were no hearings, no accusations, no last words spoken. Every time when a prison was brought before him, Blokhin would simply raise his gun, aim and pull the trigger. The unmoving body would be dragged away, the floor washed and the next prisoner dragged in. On average Blokhin managed to kill a man every three seconds, rounding 300 executions per night. For 28 days he laboured, working tirelessly, cleaning his weapon carefully, supplying his men with a steady ration of vodka and mercilessly taking human lives. In total he killed 7000 men.
For his hard work Vasily Blokhin was awarded the Order of the Red Banner. After Stalin’s regime was over, he was forcibly retired and stripped of his rank. On 3 February 1955, after succumbing to alcoholism, he committed suicide. It is hard to tell if he took his own life as a result of unbearable guilt caused by the horrors he committed, or simply out of self-pity.
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