Beads, Buttons and a Bible Found In Uncovered German Massacre Forest

Credit: LWL and Thomas Poggel

Recent excavations in the Westphalia-Lippe region of Central Germany have revealed shocking discoveries, attesting to an atrocious mass-killing of Polish and Russian forced-labourers, “one of the biggest crimes in the final stages of the war in Germany“.

The sites are the final resting places for at least 208 prisoners of the Hitler Regime, who were unexpectedly and brutally shot down by soldiers of the Waffen-SS and Wehrmacht during spring of 1945.

The findings not only testify to the last hours in the life of the murdered, but also provide information about the course of the cruel deeds.

From a recent LWL press release

Across three sites in the Arnsberg Forest, a collection of lost possessions – which include books, shoes, combs, buttons and a Polish prayer book – were dug up and inspected by archaeology teams of the LWL through late 2018 and early 2019.

Dates and inscriptions on Soviet coins and spoons were important reminders of the victims’ homelands and give us a valuable insight into the timing of the incidents.

At the first murder site, Langenbachtal near Warstein, prisoners were told to leave their only possessions by the side of a road in the belief that they were being moved to new accommodation, according to LWL.

Credit: LWL and Thomas Poggel

These forced labourers were then marched to a sloped stream, where German soldiers unleashed their guns on them unexpectedly, causing the deaths of 71 people. More than eighty percent of the victims were women, and the death tally included one child.

It is also highly likely that the prisoners attempted to make desperate escapes, verified by the number of bullets lodged in the earth around the massacre site.

Many of the projectiles were found scattered around the surrounding forest.

From a recent LWL press release

There was a similar killing at Warstein-Suttrop – the second location – where the prisoners were ordered to dig zig-zag trenches – which would eventually serve as their graves.

More astonishing items were found at Meschede-Eversberg, were archaeologists found pieces that likely came from a harmonica, just one of the only possessions of the poor victims.

Gun parts and shovels were unearthed nearby, proving that the merciless killers tried to hide their terrible deed.

American and Allied soldiers passing through the area discovered the bodies of the dead, exhumed them and ensured that they received a fair burial. Fulmecke Cemetery was used for similar prisoners of war.

Shortly after, the Allies had the dead exhumed, lined up and gathered the local population.

From a recent LWL press release

Volunteers were given metal detectors to help out with the work.

The findings were presented at an LWL conference by archaeologist Dr. Manuel Zieler last Friday, with the main speakers including Director of Archaeology Matthew Löb and historian Marcus Weidner.

We must take blame for these killings, as they are part of our history.

Matthew Löb
Credit: National Archives and Records Administration, Washington

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