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Maya Hitij/AP
The compound in Jamlitz where the remains of more than 750 Jewish prisoners slain by
the Nazis were buried.

Mass Grave of Nazi Labor Camp Victims to Be Unearthed

April 23, 2009 07:23 AM
by Rachel Balik
German authorities will excavate an estimated 750 unmarked graves from a site near a concentration camp and turn the spot into a memorial.

Long-Awaited Excavation of Lieberose Labor Camp Graves Begins

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The excavation of the gravesite begins on April 22, 2009, the 64th anniversary of the liberation of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. The graves are thought to be those of 753 prisoners at the nearby satellite labor camp, Lieberose. On Feb. 2, 1945, as Soviet forces neared Lieberose, the Nazis shot inmates who were too sick or weak to participate in a forced march from the camp. Hundreds more were killed on the following day and buried at a second site. Many of the Lieberose inmates had been brought from Auschwitz to work at the camp; those who became ill were usually sent back to Auschwitz.

The second gravesite was accidentally discovered in 1971; the East German communist government never looked for the first site. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, interest grew in the search; however, once researchers zeroed in on the general location of the grave, the owners of the property refused to allow digging on their land. After years of legal wrangling, a settlement was reached last fall, clearing the way for the municipal government to buy the land. Once the site has been excavated, a monument will be erected.

Related Topic: Other mass grave discoveries

Although Nazis carefully documented a large number of the killings they conducted, ambiguity about some World War II gravesites remains. In January 2008, 40 bodies were found outside of Berlin. The remains are thought to be slave laborers from an armaments factory, but authorities could not be certain whether the Nazis or an Allied bombing caused the deaths.

In 1990, the Soviet Union finally admitted responsibility for 4,500 graves in the Katyn forest, part of a larger massacre of at least 15,000 Polish prisoners of war. The Nazis found the graves in 1943, but the Soviet Union claimed an investigation proved the Nazis’ guilt in the matter. The world believed them until the government came clean 47 years later.

Reference: Sachsenhausen

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