Remains of Nazi Massacre Victims Discovered in Poland’s ‘Death Valley’
In January 1945, German forces murdered around 500 Polish resistance fighters in a forest near the village of Chojnice.
Researchers in Poland have uncovered evidence of a Nazi massacre that took place in Poland’s “Death Valley” toward the end of World War II.
As Andrew Curry reports for Science magazine, a team from the Polish Academy of Sciences’ (PAS) Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology discovered the long-hidden mass grave through a combination of land surveys, interviews with local residents and archival research. The scholars published their findings in the journal Antiquity last week.
The burial, located near the Polish village of Chojnice, contained more than one ton of human bone—a figure in line with the roughly 500 prisoners killed at the site in January 1945. After shooting these victims, the Nazis burned their bodies on massive pyres in hopes of destroying evidence of the atrocity.
“We knew the victims were buried somewhere, but until our research no one knew where,” lead author Dawid Kobiałka, an archaeologist at PAS, tells Science.
Locals dubbed the forest surrounding Chojnice “Death Valley” in recognition of the mass executions that took place there at the beginning of the war. Per the study, the Nazis murdered some 30,000 to 35,000 residents of the Polish Pomeranian province between October and November 1939, carrying out mass killings at 400 sites across the region, including Death Valley.
Known as the Intelligenzaktion, this policy of mass murder targeted educated members of Polish society, such as teachers, priests, doctors, activists, office workers and former officials, writes George Dvorsky for Gizmodo. Comparatively, the victims of the January 1945 massacre were mainly members of the Polish Home Army, an underground resistance network.