Probe: No foul play in death of WWII Polish leader

Poland’s leader in exile confronted Stalin shortly before death in a 1943 plane crash

General Wladyslaw Sikorski (photo credit: public domain)
General Wladyslaw Sikorski (photo credit: public domain)

WARSAW, Poland — A five-year Polish investigation has found no evidence of foul play in the plane crash that killed Gen. Wladyslaw Sikorski in 1943, when he was serving as Poland’s leader in exile during World War II, an official said Monday.

Sikorski was the prime minister of Poland’s government-in-exile in London when he died in a mysterious plane crash just after takeoff from Gibraltar. He was on his way back from inspecting Polish troops in Africa at a time when his country was under brutal Nazi occupation.

A British investigation blamed the plane crash on a blocked altitude rudder.

But Sikorski’s dispute that year with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin over the deaths of more than 20,000 Polish officers who had been taken prisoner by the Soviet troops led to speculation of an assassination. Some Polish historians also believe that dispute was angering the Allies, who needed Stalin’s help in fighting Germany’s Nazis.

Poland’s National Remembrance Institute, which investigates Nazi and communist crimes against Poles, opened an investigation in 2008 to check for possible Soviet-instigated sabotage against Sikorski. It examined the bodies of him and three other Poles killed in the crash, questioned witnesses, and examined old files.

Andrzej Arseniuk, a spokesman for the investigators, said it found no proof of a crime and effectively upheld the British investigation. But he also said the Polish probe could be reopened if new evidence emerges.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press

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