A mass grave believed to hold the remains of 220 victims of Nazi euthanasia has been uncovered outside a psychiatric hospital in western Austria.
The grisly discovery was made by construction workers digging the foundation for an extension to the Hall Hospital, in Tyrol province. Work has been halted while investigators study the remains.
The old hospital cemetery is pictured in Hall near Innsbruck, western Austria, on Tuesday. Officials say the cemetery could contain the remains of up to 220 people killed by the Nazis and buried between 1942 and 1945.
DNA tests still have to be done on the human remains, but the company that runs the hospital, Tilak, issued a statement Monday saying the graves are believed to be from between 1942 and 1945. It cited “suspicions that the dead [were] at least partially victims” of the Nazis’ euthanasia program, the BBC reported.
During World War II, tens of thousands of mentally and physically disabled people were put to death by the Nazis, who deemed them unworthy to live. Some 30,000 victims were killed at a single psychiatric hospital in northern Austria. Handicapped people were among several groups targeted by Nazis as part of their “racial purification program,” including Jews, Catholics, Gypsies and religious minorities.
Historians and archaeologists are being brought in to supervise more excavations at the Hall grave site, slated to begin in March, the German press agency DPA reported. Between 100 and 360 psychiatric patients from the Hall Hospital are believed to have been killed in the Nazi euthanasia program, the agency reported. It’s unclear how many of their bodies were ever accounted for.
“The dead shall be identified, the cause of their deaths shall be established and the graveyard shall be salvaged in a scientifically correct way,” Tilak spokesman Johannes Schwamberger told DPA.
The large number of previously unknown graves at the Hall Hospital suggests that the Nazis may have killed more patients than previously thought, Horst Schreiber, a history professor at the University of Innsbruck, told the Austrian broadcaster ORF.
He called the number of bodies “exorbitantly large” and said the find may confirm suspicions that the Nazis locked in mental patients at the Hall facility and let them starve. His ORF interview was excerpted in English by the website lifesitenews.com.