A mass grave containing human ashes equivalent to 8,000 people has been discovered near a former German Nazi concentration camp in Poland, the country’s Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) reported on Wednesday.
The institute, which, among other things, investigates crimes committed during the German occupation of Poland during World War II and the communist era, said the remains were unearthed near the Soldau concentration camp, now known as Działdowo, northern Poland.
📢The IPN finds proof of #WW2 German crime – a grave of several thousand prisoners of the Soldau German concentration camp has been discovered and several tons of human ashes have been unearthed. Details will be revealed today at a press conference held near Działdowo at noon. pic.twitter.com/DInHxYugNo
— Institute of National Remembrance (@ipngovpl_eng) July 13, 2022
Nazi Germany built the camp when it occupied Poland during WWII, using it as a place of transit, internment and extermination for Jews, political opponents and members of the Polish political elite.
Estimates have put the number of prisoners killed at Soldau at 30,000, but the true toll has never been established.
According to investigator Tomasz Jankowski, the grim discovery of around 17.5 tonnes of human ashes means it can be claimed that at least 8,000 people died there. The estimate is based on the weight of the remains, with two kilograms roughly corresponding to one body.
The victims buried in the mass grave “were probably assassinated around 1939 and mostly belonged to the Polish elites,” Mr Jankowski said.
Further analysis to be performed
In 1944, the Nazi authorities ordered Jewish prisoners to dig up the bodies and burn them to wipe out evidence of war crimes.
Andrzej Ossowski, a genetics researcher at the Pomeranian Medical University, told AFP samples from the ashes had been taken and would be studied in a laboratory.
“We can carry out DNA analysis, which will allow us to find out more about the identity of the victims,” he added, following similar studies at former Nazi camps at Sobibor and Treblinka.
‘Cover-up has failed’
“The Germans decided to avoid responsibility for the crimes they had committed. In the spring of 1944, the bodies of people buried here were excavated and incinerated. The unburned remains were ground, so that the crime would not see the light of day and no one could be held responsible,” Karol Nawrocki, IPN’s head said.
“The cover-up has failed because the IPN is determined to search for the victims and heroes of WW2 and will never allow even one of them to be forgotten,” he declared.
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