The archaeological discovery was made near the town of Chojnice in northeast Poland, where Nazi hitmen are estimated to have murdered up to 2,000 people during World War II. Archaeologists leading the excavations believe the recently exhumed remains belonged to members of the Polish underground imprisoned by the Nazi secret police, the Gestapo, in 1945. The areas to the north of Chojnice saw many mass executions at the start and end of the war.
Between October 1939 and Janaury 1940, German paramilitairries called Volksdeutscher Selbstschutz murdered at least 500 people.
The SS-organised troops targetted members of the local intelligentsia as well as patients from a psychiatric hospital in Chojnice.
The murdered also included priests, doctors, political activists, students, teachers and businessmen.
The bodies were disposed of in trenches previously dug out by Poles in anticipation of war.
Just five years later, towards the end of the war, an estimated 800 to 1,000 people were executed.
Many of these were likely partisans arrested by the Gestapo between 1944 and 1945.
The partisans were held at a prison in the city of Bydgoszcz before the advance of the Red Army forced the Germans to evacuate.
Excavations in the fields and farms around Chojnice are now being led under a project dubbed the “Archaeological Valley of Death”.
One of them was probably brought to the Valley of Death and murdered
Dr Dawid Kobiałka, Archeology of the Valley of Death
Lead archaeologist Dr Dawid Kobiałka said: “In the second half of January, the Germans evacuated the prison.
“Inmates were driven out in columns. One of them was probably brought to the Valley of Death and murdered.
“After the execution, the bodies were burnt at the stake and the remains were buried.
“However, there are no direct witnesses to this event.
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“The residents of Chojnice only heard the sounds of firearms, saw glowing lights and felt the horrible stench of burning.
“On this basis, they believed that was where the Germans murdered Poles and burned their bodies.”
The archaeologists used metal detectors to uncover scorched human remains.
Dr Kobiałka said: “It was a very fragmented material.
“Near to the bones, we also found a dozen or so German handgun shells, which in our opinion, proves that this is a place where mass shootings took place.
“Burned wood was also present in the sample we obtained. This confirms the fact bodies were burned.”
The archaeologists will next to attempt to establish how many Poles were murdered at the site.
Dr Kobiałka said: “It will be very hard, but it is possible.
“Ultimately, the bones will rest at the Cemetery of the Victims of Nazi Crimes in Chojnice.”
According to the archaeologist, there are many unknowns surrounding the Valley of Death, including just how many Poles were murdered by the Nazis.
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