- Title: POLAND/FILE: World War Two mass grave uncovered in western Polish city of Malbork
- Date: 15th January 2009
- Summary: STALINGRAD, SOVIET UNION (NOW KNOWN AS VOLGOGRAD, RUSSIA) (FILE - JULY - NOVEMBER 1942) (REUTERS) VIEWS OF RUSSIAN AND GERMAN TROOPS IN HOUSE TO HOUSE FIGHTING / GERMAN BOMBERS OVERHEAD / GERMAN SOLDIERS LAYING SWASTIKA FLAG ON GROUND TO SHOW THEIR POSITION / VIEWS OF HOUSE TO HOUSE FIGHTING / GROUP OF GERMAN SOLDIERS IN BOMBED-OUT CORNER OF HOUSE
- Embargoed: 30th January 2009 12:00
- Topics: War / Fighting,History
- Reuters ID: LVA3NXBWB4FHA9FECPBFU53OJXZ
- Story Text: Over 1,800 bodies have been recovered from a World War Two mass grave in western Poland. The bodies are believed to be of German civilians who died in the fighting during an offensive of the Red Army in 1945.
Over 1,800 bodies were excavated from a mass grave in the Polish city of Malbork which construction workers uncovered while digging foundations for a hotel in October 2008.
The remains are thought to be former German residents of the town who didn't flee the advancing Red Army in early 1945.
The archaeologist overseeing the site, Zbigniew Sawicki, said some 30 bodies had gunshot wounds to the head, the rest bear no signs of violence but no personal belongings, clothes or documents to identify them have been found.
"We are dealing with a mass grave of civilians, probably of German origin. Graves of children and very young people suggest that they were civilians. It's very puzzling that no personal belongings were found with them, this is one of the basic questions which we cannot answer so far."
The remains were found not far from the famous Malbork Castle which was garrisoned by the German army defending the city.
According to historical records an artillery barrage destroyed most of the buildings surrounding the castle. Some of the human remains are body parts which suggests they were victims of the fighting, Sawicki said.
"We have a few clues as to the way these people died. There is a high probability that they were war victims. In a few cases, 20 or 30 we found gunshot wounds. The most likely cause of death here would have been hunger and cold, you should remember that all of this happened in the winter of 1945." he added.
Piotr Szwedowski, a Malbork town hall official said he was initially shocked by the finding and he never expect it would reach such a level.
"We found out that there were a few dozen bodies buried in the city centre. These people were buried in an appalling and inhuman manner. That was a serious shock for us. So the subsequent findings which began a few weeks later and which continue until now made us contemplative and sombre. We are trying to excavate these remains in the most humane way possible and ensure them a respectable burial." Szwedowski said.
Local authorities haven't been able to find a storage room large enough to fit all of the bodies and most of them are kept in containers at the local graveyard.
The first 60 bodies excavated have been buried in a single grave, but this was before anyone expected their numbers to grow so dramatically.
- Copyright Holder: FILE REUTERS (CAN SELL)
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