Archaeologists Discover Mass World War II Grave, Uncover Nazi 'Massacre'

While looking for evidence of an infamous "massacre," archaeologists discovered a mass World War II grave in a once Nazi-occupied area of Poland. The grave contained the remains of approximately 500 people, as well as bullets, wedding rings and other relics lost to time.

The discovery was published on Wednesday in the journal Antiquity. According to the study, archaeologists were excavating an area in northern Poland known as Death Valley, where an estimated 30,000 to 35,000 Polish citizens were executed by Nazis in October and November of 1939. According to scientists, the "massacre" became known as the Pomeranian Crime of 1939.

In January of 1945, however, a second massacre took place in Death Valley.

After the war, a witness testified that the Gestapo marched 600 Polish prisoners to the area, executing all of them, but the bodies were nowhere to be found. The witness long believed that the bodies had been burned by the Nazis.

But when the area was exhumed in 1945, only 168 bodies were found. Many people still believed that there were countless more bodies to be discovered.

"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," Dr. Dawid Kobiałka, lead study author from the Polish Academy of Sciences, said in a statement to IFLScience.

Scientists revealed in Wednesday's study that they'd found the mass grave, proving that the massacre took place.

"Despite the Nazis' efforts to hide their crimes, material evidence of the killings, preserved to the present day and discovered in 2020, bears witness to the massacre and tells the story 75 years later," the authors said in their study.

During their field research, 349 artifacts were found, including bullets, buttons and jewelry, among other things. The study's authors also confirmed that they found the area where the victims of the 1945 massacre were killed.

"Preserved fragments of wood confirm the accuracy of the witness testimonies, according to which the bodies, and the stack, were doused with a flammable substance and set on fire," the study says.

Researchers also found cremated bones scattered along the ground. Archival research indicates that those who were killed were most likely members of the Polish resistance movement.

Those behind the study hope to use DNA technology to identify some of the victims.

"We hope to be able to tell some of the families what happened to their relatives who, for decades, were assumed to have vanished without trace in Chojnice in January 1945," they said in the study's conclusion.

Once all of the remains have been examined, the bones will be re-buried in Death Valley, which scientists say will become an official war cemetery.

While looking for evidence of an infamous "massacre," archaeologists discovered a mass World War II grave in a once Nazi-occupied area of Poland. Above, the barbed wire fence of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp in Poland on December 5, 2019. JANEK SKARZYNSKI / Contributor/Getty