Started in Bellagio, Italy, in 1999, the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience has expanded from 9 members — including New York’s Lower East Side Tenement Museum, the Terezin Memorial in the Czech Republic and the Slave House in Senegal — to 110 museums and historic sites in 29 countries. The coalition has helped push into the mainstream the once-controversial idea that history museums should foster discussions about contemporary issues.
In 1939, following the Molotov-Ribbentropp pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the eastern part of Poland was annexed by the USSR. As a result of this annexation, more than 20,000 Polish officers were taken to other parts of the Soviet Union. Over 6,000 of them were interned at the Ostashkov camp in the Tver region. In the spring of 1940 these Ostashkov camp Polish officers – policemen, border-guards and correctional officers – were all executed on orders from Stalin. Bodies of these officers were then brought to the Mednoe forest for burial in mass graves. Today, the remains of approximately 6,300 Polish officers have been identified at the site. Prior to 1989, when Mikhail Gorbachev opened the NKVD archives to the public, the Soviet government had blamed Nazi Germany for the executions.
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