Sunday, May 03, 2009

Jewish Mass Grave to be Excavated in Germany

By Sachin Seth
April 25, 2009

On February 2 1945, just seven months before the end of World War II, more than 753 sick Jewish men and women are thought to have been killed by the Waffen SS at the Nazi camp of Lieberose in Brandenburg state. Efforts to excavate the site, which is one of the last undiscovered mass graves of Jews killed by Nazis, began on Wednesday after a long court battle over land rights.

The excavation, interestingly enough, is taking place in the garden of a two-story home just 75 miles south-east of Berlin, according to the BBC. Guenter Morsch, director of the Brandenburg memorial foundation, claims evidence strongly suggests that the garden is the site of the ill-named “recuperation barracks” used to house sick Jews at the Lieberose concentration camp. The grave would have to be very close.

Morsch says the Waffen SS killed all 1,342 prisoners at the camp after they were declared unfit to evacuate as the Soviet Red Army advanced on their location in early 1945. The remains of 589 victims, who were shot and killed the next day, were uncovered nearby in 1971 but the other 753 victims are yet to be discovered. It is thought they lie beneath the garden site.

Until last year, the owner of the land had forbidden any investigation on his property. It wasn’t until this year’s lengthy court battle that local authorities reached a deal with the owner to purchase the property. Joerg Schoenbohm, Brandenburg’s interior minister, says the excavation is expected to take 21 days. If bodies are discovered a memorial will most likely be erected in the victims’ honor.

“We need to end the uncertainty surrounding the crime so that we will have time for mourning and remembering,” he said.

Sachin Seth is the Blast Magazine world news reporter. He writes the Terra blog.