In the opening months of the Second World War, Nazi forces executed over 30-35,000 civilians in the Pomeranian region of Poland – the first large scale atrocity in the country. Despite efforts to hide these crimes, research is shedding light on these massacres over 80 years later.
Archaeologists working in ‘Death Valley,’ one of at least 400 locations these massacres took place, have uncovered a mass grave and hundreds of artifacts such as victims’ possessions.
Lead author Dr Dawid Kobiałka, from the Polish Academy of Sciences, and the other researchers also explored archival material worked with the local community to gain more insight into these events.
“As a kid living near Death Valley, I used to play with my friends there,” said Dr Kobiałka, “Three decades later, I discovered a mass grave of approximately 500 Poles there.”
These war crimes, which gave Death Valley its name, were part of a coordinated campaign in which the Nazis executed 12,000 civilians in the area around the village of Piasńica from late 1939 to early 1940. Many historians consider this a prelude to the later Nazi genocides.
The Nazis returned to Death Valley, which is located near Chojnice, in 1945 to hide their crimes. Shortly after the war, the remains of 168 of the victims were uncovered at the site. However, it was commonly known that not all mass graves from 1939 were found and exhumed, and the grave of those killed in 1945 was not exhumed either.
Sources: Antiquity Journal