Tadeusz Felsztyn was an ordnance officer in the Army of the Republic of Poland during that nation’s brief flowering between the power vacuum created by the fall of the absolute monarchical empires of Germany and Russia in 1918, and the rise of their absolutist and totalitarian replacements, unconstrained by the codes of noblesse oblige or considerations of Christian morality that had stayed the hand of Kaiser and Tsar. In September, 1939 the Third Reich and its mirror image, the Soviet Union, crushed Poland under the “heel of a boot stepping on a man’s face, forever,” and it became a very unhealthy place to be a Lieutenant Colonel in Polish service, and doubly so for Tadeusz Felsztyn.
The name suggests he was Jewish, which happenstance of birth marked him for murder by the Nazis; and as a Polish officer he would have been marked for murder by the Soviets (an order signed by Stalin’s own hand; unlike Hitler, he didn’t rely on middle-men to commit his atrocities, possibly because he’d already had so many of the middlemen shot).
What, exactly, Felszteyn designed is not known, but he is reported to be responsible for the remarkable 7.92mm x 107mm anti-tank rifle round, used in the Maroszek-designed Wz.35 rifle. At that time, and at the outbreak of the war, he was a lieutenant colonel and almost 45 years old (he was born Sep. 30, 1894).
We were fortunately able to learn more about him. Here is a genealogical page that clearly refers to him (Colonel, mathematician, physicist, started in Polish Army at age 23), and behold! He lived to age 69, died in Pitsford, Nortants., England, in the industrial Midlands. Later, in England, he anglicized the spelling of his name to Feldstein. He appears to have died without issue, although his siblings have survivors to this day.
Since we know he survived the war, now, we can show that he appeared before controversial Congressional hearings on the Katyn Forest Massacre in 1952. In that appearance, he gave a brief bio, before testifying on the bullets that were used in the murders, and described how he was taken prisoner by the Soviets, and how he came to survive. The Google Books view has a small snippet of this testimony (not sure why they don’t have the whole thing, as a US government document it is in the public domain). Fortunately, Archive.org has it. Because the file at Archive.org is very large (the entire hearings run 2,300 pages! and even the Archive.org splits are 30+MB each) we have excerpted the testimony over the jump.
Felszteyn’s testimony is quite interesting (it’s also quite erroneous, in that he suggests that Geco 7.65mm Browning ammunition might have been used in Soviet issue firearms. We know now that the Soviets used German-made firearms in the Katyn murders).
In 1939, certain of his research appears to have been published in a German journal, by the traces available of a hardcover bound volume of the journal: Zeitschrift fur Das gesamte Schiess und Sprengstoffwesen mit der Sonderabteilung Gasschutz (Journal for the Field of Gunpowder and Explosives with section on anti-gas protection). XXXIII-XXXIV. Jahrgang. (Volume 33-34, 1938-1939). Hardcover – 1939.
(Bound volumes of this journal do turn up; they’re expensive when they do). The image to the right is from the 1931 edition. (Remarkable Art Deco typography, that).
After the war, he seems to have published many books in Polish in London (if it was not another Tadeusz Felsztyn) in the period from 1945 to 1947, and then again in the 1950s and early 60s, books on general science. He also appears to have written a history of the General Anders’s Polish Army in Exile, with which he served after being released from a Russian prison camp for that purpose. (One of the great puzzles of the Katyn massacre is why only some camps of Poles were massacred, and why some were not. The Yeltsin-era openness of some KGB/MVD/NKVD archives has turned back to Cold War stonewalling).
A Very Incomplete List of Felsztyn’s Books
- 1945: Wiara i wiedza w świetle nowoczesnych poglądów fizycznych, which translates to Faith and knowledge in the light of modern views of physics.
- 1957: Swiat w Oczacu Wspólczesnej Nauki which translates to The World in the Eyes of Modern Science
- 1958: Atom W Służbie Ludzkości which translates to The Atom in the Service of Mankind.
- 1959: Rakety i Podroze Miedsyplanetarne which translates Rockets in Interplanetary Travel.
- 1960: Poza Czasem i Przestrzenią. Zjawiska Pozazmysłowe which translates as: Beyond Time and Space: Extrasensory Phenomena.
- 1962: Evolusjonizm which translates to Evolutionism.
No Polish family of 1939-89 avoided tragedy. His younger brother Roman died on April 19, 1919, reportedly in battle in Lvov (L’viv), which would have made him one of the last casualties of the Polish Uprising that produced independence, or one of the first casualties of the Russo-Polish War of 1919-21, which ended in a decisive Polish victory over the Soviets’ most capable general, Mikhail Tukhachevskiy (who himself would meet a similar fate to the Polish officers captured by the Soviets in 1939 — shot in the back of the head on Stalin’s orders).
Click “more” to read Felsztyn’s testimony at the Katyn hearings.