A pair of mass graves containing 19 tons of ashes of at least 8,000 individuals have been discovered outside the former Nazi concentration camp of Soldau in Poland.
The estimate is based on the weight of the remains, with four pounds roughly corresponding to one body.
Researchers said the victims were assassinated and buried at one point, but then dug up and burned by members of the Nazi party in an attempt to cover up the murders.
A stone monument now stands in the area where the graves were dug, with the inscription ‘Nieznani meczennicy Polegli za polskosc. 1939-1944’ in Polish and reads ‘Unknown martyrs they fell for Polishness. 1939-1944’ in English.
Officials unveiled the monument on Wednesday, noting that the war crimes committed on the land will not be forgotten.
A stone monument now covers the grave, with the inscription ‘Nieznani meczennicy Polegli za polskosc. 1939-1944’ in Polish that reads ‘Unknown martyrs they fell for Polishness. 1939-1944’
Karol Nawrocki, president of the Institute of National Remembrance in Poland (IPN), said in a statement: ‘The Germans decided to avoid the responsibility for the crimes they had committed.’
He continued to explain that the some 8,000 victims were likely taken outside of the camp and executed by a shot to the head in 1939.
The mass grave was discovered last month, but Wednesday marked the official remembrance ceremony outside of the Soldau concentration camp, which stands in ruins.
One of the graves discovered measures 91 feet long and the other 39 feet.
A pair of mass graves containing 19 tons of ashes of at least 8,000 individuals have been discovered outside the former Nazi concentration camp of Soldau in Poland. Pictured is what is left of the camp
Officials unveiled the monument on Wednesday, noting that the war crimes committed on the land will not be forgotten
Tomasz Jankowski from the IPN said during the conference: ‘The people whose ashes are buried here were murdered and robbed.’
The bodies were then tossed into a large grave, but when Soviets moved into Poland Nazi soldiers frantically dug up the victims, burned them and dumped the ashes into a single grave – this is believed to have happened in 1944.
‘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,’ said Nawrocki.
The Soldau camp was setup in the fall of 1939 and initially served as a prison camp for the Jewish elites of Poland. Pictured is the camp when it was operational
IPN is an institute that investigates crimes committed during the Nazi occupation of Poland and the communist era.
The Soldau camp was setup in the fall of 1939 and initially served as a prison camp for the Jewish elites of Poland.
It was located in Działdowo, a town in north-eastern Poland.
This program entailed gassing experiments on people with mental disabilities.
In May 1940, the SS camp was transformed into a labor education camp which was used by all state police posts in East Prussia up until January 1945 when it was taken over by Soviet soldiers.
Pictured is the area where the mass graves were discovered
Construction works go on at the former German Nazi Soldau concentration camp in Dzialdowo, Poland on July 13, 2022, close to the site where the mass graves were found
In the spring of 1944, Nazi soldiers were ordered to carry out a disinterment operation, called Aktion 1005, near Soldau in order to erase the traces of the 1940 and 1941 mass murders.
‘In the spring of 1944, the remains of people were excavated at this site and burned, so that this crime does not see the light of day and no one is held responsible,’ IPN shared on Twitter.
There are several monuments throughout the wooded area surrounding the former camp, which were setup to honor the concentration camp’s 13,000 to 20,000 victims.
Andrzej Ossowski, a genetics researcher at the Pomeranian Medical University, told AFP samples from the ashes in the mass grave 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.