Archaeologists in Poland have uncovered a mass grave of around 300 prisoners at the site of the former Nazi death camp Gross-Rosen in southwestern Poland.
The Gross-Rosen concentration camp was established in August 1940 and had about 125,000 prisoners, who were mostly Jewish. Overall, some 40,000 people were killed at the camp, which was considered one of the most notorious Nazi death camps. The camp was liberated in February 1945 by the Soviet Union.
“The discovery of human remains matches the account of one of the former prisoners of the camp, a Belgian man who was the camp doctor and was on the site during the last months before the liberation evacuation,” said Dr. Katarzyna Pawlak-Weiss, a historian studying the concentration camps set up by occupying German forces in Poland, Reuters reported. “In his report, he mentioned 300 people buried here.”
Survivor reports from the camp indicate that the bodies of prisoners who died of illnesses and starvation in the last days of the camp’s operations were thrown into the pit. But archaeologists also found bullet wounds on the bones and will examine the remains further.
Archaeologists also are hoping to identify the prisoners. Unlike concentration camps such as Auschwitz that tattooed numbers on prisoners, Gross-Rosen used small metal plates with numbers sewn to prisoner uniforms. If the plates are found, historians might be able to use the numbers to figure out their names.
“After exhumation, the remains of the people we found in this pit will be transported to the Forensic Medicine Institute in Wroclaw, where an inspection and autopsy will be performed. This will be done in order to determine their gender, age, health condition…and the cause of death,” said prosecutor Konrad Bieron from the Polish Institute of National Remembrance.