In Poland, a mass grave containing the burnt remains of about 8.000 people has been found near the former German concentration camp Soldau. Researchers at the Institute of National Remembrance suspect that these are people from the Polish elite who were killed in the camp in 1939.
Soldau was a concentration camp set up by Nazi Germany in Działdowo. After the Germans overran Poland at the beginning of WW2, the area was officially in East Prussia.
Soon after the German invasion of Poland, prisoner of war camps were set up in various places. The barracks of the Polish 32nd Infantry Regiment in Soldau was one of those places. It only served as a prisoner of war camp for a short time, after which it was also used for a short time as a so-called Selbschutzlager.
Otto Rasch had, after approval from Reinhard Heydrich, to set up a so-called Durchgangslager or transit camp on that spot in the winter of 1939-1940. The purpose of the camp was initially not so much to temporarily concentrate prisoners for further transport, but to secretly execute political opponents. Soldau soon joined the Aktion T4 euthanasia program. Patients from sanatoriums in East Prussia and the Regierungsbezirk Zichenau were deported to Soldau and gassed there by means of a gas van. Between May 21 and June 8, 1940, a total of 1,558 disabled people were murdered.
During the summer of 1941, the camp was reorganized. It was officially given a new function, namely that of an Arbeitserziehungslager. The inmates in the camp were forced to do labor and were divided into groups based on gender. The camp was liberated on January 18, 1945 by the advancing Red Army. The NKVD soon started large-scale arrests of suspected Poles and Volksdeutschen in the surrounding area, who were then deported to the recently liberated camp. As far as we knew between ten and thirty thousand people of the Polish elite died in Soldau.
The researchers believe that the victims found were first murdered in 1939 and when the Russians advanced into Poland in 1944, the Nazi leadership tried to erase the traces of the murders. Jewish prisoners had to dig up and burn the bodies. The ashes were reburied.
The researchers found a total of about 16,000 kilograms of human ashes. According to the researchers, about two kilograms of ash remain after burning a body. That way they arrive at the estimate of 8000 bodies. In an effort to identify the victims, the ashes are examined for DNA traces.
Partially taken from NOS.nl
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