Polish and German authorities say they have discovered the remains of around 2,000 bodies dating back to World War II. The mass grave was found in the Polish city of Malbork, which is located in a region that only became part of Poland after WWII. Prior to that, the city was German and was called Marienburg.
City officials think that the remains are of former German residents of the town that apparently died as the Red Army marched through Poland in 1945.
As the Red Army was advancing in early 1945, the inhabitants of Malbork were ordered to evacuate. Some refused, while others were prevented from doing so by the general chaos.
The Soviets then bombarded the city with heavy artillery in their assault. After the defeated German military retreated, the remaining civilians found themselves at the mercy of Red Army troops. There are no known living witnesses of what happened.
The first skeletons were discovered by construction workers last October, while digging a hole for the foundation of a five-star hotel by the famous medieval castle located in this city. The work was then stopped and an exhumation, which took six months, was ordered.
Workers found the bones of at least 2,100 men, women and children, but they couldn’t find any documents or personal belongings.
Some of the victims appear to have been murdered, but it’s presumed that the majority died in the crossfire or of cold, hunger and disease during the harsh winter of 1945.
The human remains are going to be transported 200 miles, to the Polish town of Stare Czarnowo, which has one of Poland’s 13 cemeteries for German soldiers.
They will be buried 20 to a coffin in one or two mass graves, and Catholic and Protestant services will be held. Former Malbork residents and relatives of Germans who went missing during that period are to attend.
Malbork is home of the Malbork Castle, one of Poland’s most famous tourist attractions. The castle was founded in the 13th century and is the world’s largest fortress made of bricks. For most of its history, the town was part of German East Prussia, but became part of Poland when the borders were extended to the west, following the war. The Germans that lived in that area were forced to leave.