Forgotten Engineer: Tadeusz Felsztyn

Coat_of_arms_of_Poland-officialTadeusz 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).

Zeitschrift Schiess-u Sprengstoffwesen 1931In 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.

Editor’s note: Felsztyn testified in London, along with other witnesses. That section of the Katyn hearings testimony is available at Archive.org. 

https://ia802701.us.archive.org/26/items/katynforestmassa04unit/katynforestmassa04unit.pdf

TESTIMONY OF TADEUSZ FELSZTYN

Mr. Felsztyn. I speak Enghsh.
Chairman Madden. Will you give your name?
Mr. Felsztyn. Tadeusz Felsztyn.
Chairman Madden. Before you make your statement, it is our wish that you be advised that you will run the risk of actions in the courts by anyone who considers he has suffered injury. At the same time, I wish to make it quite clear that the Government of the United States and the House of Representatives do not assume any responsi- sibility in your behalf with respect to libel or slander proceedings which may arise as a result of your testimony.

Mr. Felsztyn. Yes, I understand that.
Mr. Dondero. Do you agree to that?
Mr.Felsztyn.Yes. Thank you very much.
Chairman Madden. Do you swear by the Almighty God that you will according to the best of your knowledge tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

Mr. Felsztyn. I do.
Mr. Machrowicz. Where do you reside, Mr. Felsztyn?
Mr. Felsztyn. I reside in Spink Hill near Sheffield, in England. Mr. Machrowicz. Were you an officer of the Polish Army?
Mr. Felsztyn. I was, yes.
Mr. Machrowicz. When?
Mr. Felsztyn. Since 1914 of the Polish Legion.
Mr. Machrowicz. Where were you in 1939?
Mr. Felsztyn. In 1939 I was in the Institute of Armament Re-search.

Mr. Machrowicz. In what capacity?
Mr. Felsztyn. I was head of the general department; it was investigation of new discoveries.

Mr. Machrowicz. Were you taken prisoner by the Russians? Mr. Felsztyn. Yes, I was taken prisoner on the 17th of September 1939.

Mr. Machrowicz. Where were you taken to?

Mr. Felsztyn. I was taken as prisoner near Mizocz. I was a Commander of the Military Transport and the Institute of Research of Armament.

Mr. Machrowicz. Wliere were you taken from there?

Mr. Felsztyn. From there I was taken to Szepeitowka and from Szepeitowka to a camp in the Uki-aine near Sumy, and from there to Kozielsk.

Mr. Machrowicz. Wlien did you arrive at Kozielsk?
Mr. Felsztyn. It was the 1st day of November 1939.

Mr.Machrowicz. How long did you remain in Kozielsk?
Mr. Felsztyn. I remained until the end of April—the 26tli of April. Mr. Machrowicz. What happened on the 26th of April 1940? Air. Felsztyn. We were taken to a military transport. There was a personal search. I was one of the last and it was rather a very superficial one, so that I could keep many of the papers which I had with me without any difficulty. The first were searched very exactly.

Chairman Madden. Talk a little more slowly.

Mr. Felsztyn. Yes. The first were searched very exactly, but as I was one of the last, I was searched very lightly. I could keep many papers with me without any difficulty.

Mr. Machrowicz. Where were you taken from Kozielsk?

Mr.Felsztyn. From Kozielsk our train went to Sukienniczc. It is a Russian name.

Mr. Machrowicz. Were you released there?

Mr. Felsztyn. No; we saw an inscription in our train. We were waiting to go west to Smolensk. There was an inscription that we were alighting “west of Smolensk. —

Mr. Machrowicz. What do you mean by “inscriptions” -where were they?

Mr. Felsztyn. You see, the Russian cars are done in such a way that at the end there is a hinge, and on a hinge is a bench, so that you can put it this way or horizontally.

Chairman Madden. The witness indicates the moving of a bench up and down.

Mr. Felsztyn. Yes. There was an inscription below the bench. The bench was horizontal; and in the corner of the bench—in a dark corner—there was a Polish inscription.

Mr. Machrowicz. Do you know how that got there?

Mr, Felsztyn. Yes. The inscription was: “We were unloaded two stations west of Smolensk”; and there were some signatures. I did not know any of the signatures. I do not remember the names. There were three or four people who signed their names.

Mr. Machrowicz. What happened to you after that?

Mr. Felsztyn. After that the train stopped there. We were stopped some hours, and after I was moving, instead of west, to east, and were taken to Pavlishchev Bor.

Mr. Machrowicz. How long did you remain at Pavlishchev Bor?

Mr. Felsztyn. At Pavlishchev Bor Camp I think we remained a month.

Mr. Machrowicz. Then where did you go to?
Mr. Felsztyn. Then we came to—what is the name?-—Griazowiec.

Mr. Machrowicz. What happened at Griazowiec?
Mr. Felsztyn. I was in Griazowiec till General Anders came to us.

Mr. Machrowicz. And then you became a part of General Anders’ Army?

Mr. Felsztyn. Yes.
Mr. Machrowicz. Are you an expert in ammunition matters? Mr. Felsztyn. I was Head of the Infantry Research Commissionfor 4 years.

Mr. Machrowicz. That is 4 years prior to 1939?
Mr. Felsztyn. Yes; it was 1926 to 1930. Later I was in the Military Institute of Research, and I was always very interested in ammimition, from my personal point of view, as from the point of view of sport, shooting sport, in which I was connected very strongly.

Mr. Machrowicz. Did you ever have any opportunity to examine bullets allegedly used at Katyn?

Mr. Felsztyn. No.

Mr. Machrowicz. What experience have you had in ballistics? You understand the word “ballistics”?

Mr. Felsztyn. Yes; I understand. I was lieutenant of ballistics, at Warsaw University during 10 years.

Mr. Machrowicz. Are you also an expert in small arms?

Mr. Felsztyn. Yes; I was an expert on a Polish-German incident in 1930 or 1931. I was a Polish expert in this frontier incident.

Mr. Machrowicz. Also on munitions and small arms?
Mr. Felsztyn. Yes.
Mr. Machrowicz. Have you ever seen any bullets allegedly used at Katyn?

Mr. Felsztyn. No. The question that was put to me by the Polish command when the Katyn report came was: How could Russians use the 7.65 German ammunition?

Mr. Machrowicz. You have not seen the bullets?
Mr. Felsztyn. No, I have not.
Mr. Machrowicz. But you were given an account of the fact that 7.65 bullets were used?

Mr. Felsztyn. Not bullets, but cases. Ammunition cases were found in the graves.

Mr. Machrowicz. Shells?
Mr. Felsztyn. Shells.
Mr. Machrowicz. Have you made any report on that?
Mr. Felsztyn. Yes, I have made a report.
Mr. Machrowicz. Will you give us the report of your findings? Mr. Felsztyn. Yes; the report is the following: We had in Poland plenty of German Geco ammunition. The 7.65 caliber was very frequently found in Poland.

Mr. Machrowicz. What is Geco ammunition?

Mr. Felsztyn. It is of German manufacture. It was also of the best German ammunition, and, as we did not produce much ammunition of 7.65 caliber in Poland, we imported plenty of German ammunition, mainly for private purposes, for shooting purposes, for sporting purposes. Many officers had 7.65 revolvers with them.

Mr. Machrowicz. Do you know what type of revolvers were used by Russians?

Mr. Felsztyn. The Russians had a Nagan gun.
Mr. Machrowicz. What caliber is that? Mr.Felsztyn. I cannot tell you exactly. I have not much practice with them. I think it was 7.62.

Mr. Machrowicz. Can you use 7.65 ammunition in 7.62 guns?

Mr. Felsztyn. No; but thej’ have another revolver, a pistol, the Tokarew pistol.

Mr. Machrowicz. What kind of gun is that?
Mr. Felsztyn. It is a pistol which uses 7.65 ammunition.
Mr. Machrowicz. And is that a type of gun used by the Russians?

Mr. Felsztyn. I have seen this gun in Russia myself.
Mr. Machrowicz. Have you seen it in substantial amounts?

Mr.Felsztyn. I cannot tell you. We had two or three of them to teach our soldiers all different kinds of ammunition. I remember very well we had two or three of them as models.

Mr. Machrowicz. Was that a standard issue for NKVD officers?

Mr. Felsztyn. I do not know that it is a standard issue, but I have seen it personally, and cavalry officers carrying these pistols, and I have seen them carry Polish pistols.

Mr. Machrowicz. Could you tell us whether that type of gun could use 7.65 ammunition?

Mr. Felsztyn. 7.65—it is just their caliber.

Mr. Machrowicz. It is their caliber?
Mr. Felsztyn. Yes.
Mr. Machrowicz. 7.65?

Mr. Felsztyn. 7.65.

Mr. Machrowicz. Then do I understand you to state that German ammunition could be used in that type of gun used by Russian officers?

Mr.Felsztyn. Certainly it would. Certainly when you have to shoot much, it is far easier to shoot with the 7.65 pistol than with a Nagan, which has a very hard trigger; it is a very good revolver, but it is rather a tiring one if you have to shoot much.

Mr. Machrowicz. Is there anything further that you wish to add in relation to this matter to which you have just testified?

Mr. Felsztyn. About ammunition, no; but I have two things perhaps to add from the Kozielsk camp.

Mr. Machrowicz. Wliat is there that you want to add?
Mr. Felsztyn. I was living in the same building at the same time with General Minkiemcz, and he reported the talks he had with ComradeZarubin. I remember two talks which are I think characteristic. One was the following one: It could be about February 1940, as this was a psychological seesaw in our camp and plenty of rumours, and General Minkiewicz came to the camp and asked him: “Do not make us nervous, as all the rumours are spreading, but tell us what do you want to do ^dth us.” Comrade Zarubin told him: “I do not think it would be right. Let us suppose we have decided to keep you to the end of the war. It could last 5 or 6 years. You would get mad if I told you. I assure you it would be inhuman. I assure you, general, it is better for you not to know what we want to do with you.”

Mr. Machrowicz. Were you a personal witness of this conversa- tion, or was that conversation reported to you by the general?

Mr. Felsztyn. The conversation was repeated to me by the general immediately after he came back.

Mr. Machrowicz. Do you know anything else having any bearing on Katyn?

Mr. Felsztyn. When the transport started, Captain Alexandrowicz was asked by General Minkewicz: “Where are the transports going?” The answer was: “You are going to the transit camps where you will have to decide: Do you want to be given back to the Germans or do you ask to remain in Russia? Those of you who will have a very strong will can perhaps go to a new country.” This is what Alexandrowicz said the moment the transports were ready to leave.

Mr. Machrowicz. Have you personally ever seen Zarubin?
Mr. Felsztyn. Yes, I have seen him many times.
Mr. Machrowicz. Have you seen Zarubin who was the Ambassador in London?

Mr. Felsztyn. I have seen only his photograph.
Mr. Machrowicz. Do you find any resemblance in the two?
Mr. Felsztyn. It looks to me to be the same person.
Mr. Machrowicz. Your best judgment is that the Zarubin who was at that time at Kozielsk——

Mr. Felsztyn. It is my best impression—only from a photograph.I have never seen the man since. I recognized, when I was shown the photograph, very well the face and especially the hands of the man, as he used to speak keeping his hands on the table. I have a vivid impression of his hands, and when I saw the hands on the photograph, I had no doubt they are the same ones.

Mr. Machrowicz. Is there am’thing further that you wish to add

to the testimony?
Mr. Felsztyn. I do not think so.
Chairman Madden. Well, we wish to thank you for your testimony.

6 thoughts on “Forgotten Engineer: Tadeusz Felsztyn

  1. medic09

    Remarkable. I don’t know how you keep coming up with this stuff.

    I think you could put together a pretty good book with selected posts from the blog.

    As always, thanks for publishing to enlighten us.

    1. Hognose Post author

      Just seeing Felsztyn’s name made me wonder: what happened to him? And his family? They seem to have come better through the Shoah than many of their countrymen, perhaps because of the family’s tradition of military service gave them a motivation to seek exile before escape became inordinately difficult. Still, there are family members whose fates are unknown, but some unknown relative of Felsztyn/Feldstein is updating the genealogy and trying to winkle them out.

      I guess the moral of the story is, if you’re going to be called out for genocide, there’s a small blessing in getting the murderers that are good record-keepers like the Germans, rather than lousy ones like the Soviets. If the Soviet archives ever open up again, people will be finding amazing stuff in them for 1,000 years because they’re so disorganized.

      1. medic09

        I wonder if the Soviets even bothered recording the final end of so many of their own citizens. Stalin and cronies had so many citizens murdered, that I think for many the trail ends at some forsaken railway siding or station somewhere; with no one knowing for sure what the end really was, or at who’s hand.

        You should think about the book idea. You have the makings of a good anthology here in this blog.

  2. Jrggrop

    Regarding the Google Book snippet view – apparently in the past, Google Books assumed that anything printed by the Government Printing Office was public domain, and made them fully available to the public. But some of these documents contained copyrighted material by private firms and contractors, so to protect themselves legally, unless it can be demonstrated that a specific document is fully governmental in origin, nowadays Google tends to set anything from 1923 onward by the GPO to snippet view by default.

    You can often find the same documents in full at Archive.Org or HathiTrust.

    1. Hognose Post author

      Thanks. Copyright law is one hell of a mess. I guess we can’t fault Google for the CYA, seeing as how Google Books has been a lawsuit magnet to begin with.

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