A mass grave containing the remains of 11 people tortured and executed by the Nazis during WWII has been found in a Polish ‘forest of death’.
The grisly discovery near the town of Jedwabne was made by researchers looking for the remains of a father and son who were allegedly shot and buried in the woodland in 1943.
Instead, the researchers found a grave containing the remains of 11 Poles with their hands tied behind their backs and signs of torture.
The mass grave in the north of Poland also contained bullet casing from a German Mauser, a weapon widely used by all branches of Hitler’s military.
Marcin Sochoń from the historical exploration group Wizna 1939 said: ‘We came to Przestrzelski Forest near Jedwabne hoping to find a father and son who had been murdered, but it turned out that it is a mass grave.’
Anthropologist Urszula Okularczyk added: ‘The arrangement of the hands indicates that the victims were bound before they died, the hands were tied behind their backs, the bodies were thrown without care, disrespectfully, and fell one on top of the other.
‘You can also see that the skulls were destroyed by the gunshots, as evidenced by the concentric lines and holes specific to the entry and exit openings.
‘We are not yet able to say whether there are any more bodies under these discovered skeletons. It is possible.
‘Many of the victims have cracked skulls and jawbones.’
The area was dubbed the ‘forest of death’ by locals because of the number of Nazi killings believed to have been carried out there.
It was here that German police officers based in Jedwabne tormented and murdered their victims.
Jedwabne mayor Adam Niebrzydowski said: ‘The forest is located a little bit in the middle of nowhere, between villages, so it was easy to take these people there and murder them in a bestial way.’
The grim find comes just months after the bodies of four other Nazi victims were found in the forest.
Identified as two married couples, they were murdered for helping Poland’s underground resistance movement.
Jedwabne became infamous following the publication of a book by historian Jan Gross which accused Poles of mass murdering the town’s Jews in a 1941 pogrom.
An investigation by Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance concluded that those involved had been forced into it by the local German police and Gestapo.
Archaeologist Ryszard Cędrowski said: ‘The Gestapo, which had its headquarters in the market square in Jedwabne, caught Poles who helped or were innocent, or there were denunciations against them. They shot them.’
Now the researchers want to try and identify the victims in their latest discovery.
Dariusz Szymański said: ‘I would like to appeal to the inhabitants of Jedwabne and the surrounding area, to families who know that their relatives were murdered, to report and provide a sample for genetic testing.’