WWII Nazi execution site found in Poland's 'Death Valley'
Mass grave discovered in Poland’s ‘Death Valley’: Second World War Nazi execution site containing remains of 500 people is found by archaeologists as they unearth treasured possessions including wedding ring, earrings and watch
- Execution site was found on the outskirts of Chojnice in northern Poland
- The SS executed 1,000 locals as part of their ‘action against the intelligentsia’
- Fountain pens, cigarette cases, glasses and cufflinks were also found
- Execution site was discovered last year but remains have only just been found
A mass grave described as ‘one of the most important findings’ of Nazi war crimes in Poland in the Second World War has been uncovered in a site known as Death Valley.
The discovery, on the outskirts of the northern town of Chojnice, has revealed ‘a ton of human bones and remains taken from three burial pits.’
Filled with the remains of about 500 people, the horrific find is said to be linked to the horrific ‘Pomeranian Crime’ that took place in Poland’s Pomerania province.
The exact number of people murdered is unknown, but it is believed Adolf Hitler’s men killed up to 35,000 people in the region at the start of the war in 1939.
Also discovered in the grave were treasured possessions belonging to those who died, including a wedding ring, earrings and a battered watch.
Fountain pens, cigarette cases, glasses, cufflinks and even the remains of what were believed to be pocket Bibles were also among the artefacts found, the researchers said.
And, in a horrendous indication of the crimes which took place, nearly 250 bullet shells from German Walther PPKs and other weapons were found in the soil.
The execution site was discovered last year but it is only now that researchers have found and excavated ditches containing the human remains and artefacts.
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A mass grave described as ‘one of the most important findings’ of Nazi war crimes in Poland in the Second World War has been uncovered in a site known as Death Valley. The discovery, on the outskirts of the northern town of Chojnice, has revealed ‘a ton of human bones and remains taken from three burial pits’
A picture taken by SS guard Waldemar Engler shows a firing squad about to shoot a group of Poles in the nearby town of Piajnica
Researchers from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences used a combination of eye-witness accounts and technology to find out where the ditches containing the remains were.
In the early stages of WWII, German SS shot dead more than 1,000 locals as part of their ‘action against the intelligentsia’ near Chojnice.
In addition to 40 civilians and a priest, around 200 psychiatric patients are known to have been murdered at the site.
Also discovered in the grave were treasured possessions belonging to those who died, including a wedding ring
This earring, complete with a pearl surrounded by gems, was also among the artefacts discovered
Pictured: Members of one of the Selbstschutz paramilitary groups in the Pomeranian region of north Poland
This was followed by a series of systematic killings against Poles and Jews in the town and surrounding villages.
Mass shootings also took place at the location in January 1945 and scientists believe over 1,000 bodies could be buried there.
Lead researcher Dr. Dawid Kobialka previously said: ‘The bodies of the victims were thrown into shooting ditches and many were burnt to hide the evidence.’
Despite attempts to keep the execution secret and to cover up traces of the crime by burning some of the bodies, residents knew about the murders and dubbed the place Death Valley.
The remains of this wristwatch was among the artefacts unearthed in the mass grave
These teeth were also found by the researchers. Historians already knew mass killings took place in the area but had not previously been able to pinpoint the exact location of the graves
Lead researcher Dr. Dawid Kobialka previously said: ‘The bodies of the victims were thrown into shooting ditches and many were burnt to hide the evidence’. Aboce: Researchers clean some of the discovered artefacts
This tooth, found in the mass grave, is seen being handled by a scientist after being cleaned
After the war, exhumations took place but were done half-heartedly.
Dr. Kobialka said: ‘They were held in a hurry, many smaller human bones were not picked up, no detailed photographic and drawing documentation was made.’
The new venture was more systematic, with researchers using airborne LiDAR (light detection and ranging) technology to find the ditches.
They also analysed historical aerial photographs and satellite imagery and carried out field surveys.
Following the outbreak of WWII in September 1939, the SS formed paramilitary groups called the ‘Selbstchutz’, made up of German nationals living in Poland, to help them manage the local population after their invasion of the country.
Under the command of the SS, the factions were of particular danger to Poles because of their knowledge of local relations and social conditions.
The factions used the opportunity to settle old-time neighbourhood disputes and to loot the property of murdered Poles.
The first executions were carried out on September 15, 1939, with three residents of Chojnice gunned down in a nearby forest upon the orders of SS-Standartenführer Heinrich Mocek, who was head of the local paramilitary group.
Pictured: An unnamed eyewitness helping with the initial investigation (left) points to the shooting ditches where SS guards murdered 1,000 locals near Chojnice in northern Poland. Researcher Dr. Dawid Kobialka, from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, stands next to him (right)
From October 1939 through to January 1940, they carried out extensive exterminations across the whole region as part of their Polish Intelligentsia Action, which saw around 30,000-40,000 Poles living in the Pomerania region murdered.
In the last days of the occupation, the Chojnice Death Valley again became a place of mass executions.
At the end of January 1945, the Germans murdered a column of between 800 and 1000 prisoners from the doomed Warsaw Uprising and those from the nearby city of Bydgoszcz being driven west.
After being shot their bodies were burned.
According to a town court survey conducted in 1945, 1,431 people were murdered in Death Valley.
An exhumation carried out shortly after the liberation of the town uncovered 352 bodies.
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