The chilling discovery was made near Poland’s modern-day border with Germany, in the village of Swiecko, west Poland. Archaeologists led by the Polish Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) have recovered the remains of 20 people, including six who were buried in a mass pit. The remains have been linked to the German Oderblick labour camp, which operated in Swiecko, or Schwetig, between 1940 and 1945.
The camp was subordinate to the Nazi secret police, the Gestapo, and housed hundreds of inmates, who frequently died due to its poor conditions.
IPN’s Bureau of Search and Identification (BPiI) said: “The Schwetig camp launched in October 1940, when construction works on the motorway between Frankfurt and Poznan began.
“Perhaps some of the barracks for German motorway builders from the period before the outbreak of WWII stood in this place earlier.
“From 1940, it was the camp of the Reich Austostrada enterprise as well as the Gestapo’s ‘educational labour camp’ from Frankfurt on the Oder.
“The ‘educational labour camp’ was a tool ensuring the efficient operation of the forced slave labour system.
“The police delivered prisoners, officially only as ‘pre-trial detainees’ for eight weeks on average.”
After the motorway’s construction was halted in 1942, daily columns of prisoners were marched to work in Frankfurt on the Oder.
By 1944, the prison was further expanded, increasing the number of prisoners it handled.
These were mostly Poles, Jews, Russians, Belarussians and Ukrainians.
The Nazi camp also handled prisoners from Italy, Belgium, Bulgaria, Francy, Holland and the former Yugoslavia.
At first, the camp was built to handle about 360 inmates at any one time.
But eyewitness reports state overcrowding was a regular problem with many hundreds more being held there at once.
When the camp was dissolved on January 31, 1945, nearly 800 people were imprisoned.
Historians estimate up to 11,500 prisoners have been held at the camp in the five years of its existence.
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These prisoners suffered from horrifying conditions, prison guard brutality, overcrowding, torture and disease.
In the autumn of 1941, typhus fever swept through Schwetig, leading to a camp-wide quarantine.
According to the BPiI, nearly all of the prisoners in the camp died.
The labour camp was then opened once again in May 1942.
The BPiI said: “According to the camp’s survivors, there were numerous deaths of prisoners every week or even every day.
“Even if we cautiously estimate at that at least one person died every day, the number of the camp’s victims would be about 1,500 to 2,000 people, not counting those who died during the camp’s liquidation in 1945.
“The causes of death in the camp were exhaustion due to malnutrition, the cold, hard work and constant mental and physical terror, accidents at work, suicides, deliberate murder by guards, executions, injuries resulting from torture, disease and blood sampling for wounded Wermacht soldier – especially towards the end of the war.”
The camp was dissolved on January 31, 1945, just before the arrival of the Soviet Red Army.
Some 800 prisoners from Schwetig were joined by another 800 prisoners from other Nazi camps and the column was marched towards their death in the west.
Those who were too sick or unable to march were locked up in the prison’s barracks and torched alive.
After passing Berlin, some of the prisoners were sent to work in Potsdam.
By March, the prisoners reached the Buchenwald concentration camp near Weimar, where one prisoner managed to hide and escape.
The remaining prisoners were marched off towards an unknown fate.
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