Massacre Sites in Central Germany reveals clues to Nazi-murdered victims:
Historians and archeologists in Germany’s Westphalia-Lippe (LWL) region on Friday presented Four hundred artifacts excavated in recent months at three rural sites were in March 1945 German troops gunned down forced laborers.
Advancing American troops subsequently directed Nazi adherents to exhume bodies at two forest sites in the Arnsberg/Sauerland region for cemetery reburials.
An informant’s anonymous tip in late 1946 led to a 3rd site, where bodies had been concealed under a cow paddock.
Last moments forensically ‘reconstructed’
Regional Westphalia-Lippe executive head Matthias Löb on Friday said his staff’s work, aided by volunteers equipped with metal detectors, had turned up forensic clues on the victims last moments, including bullets lodged in forest soils marking victims‘ apparent attempts to escape.
“These murders are part of our history that we must own up to,” said Lob, adding that the project also sought to thwart current far-right downplaying of Germany’s Nazi past.
3 groups executed General Hans Kammler ordered squads of his Division für Vergeltung (Reprisal Division) to execute 3 groups of Polish and Russian forced laborers over 3 days.
LWL archeologist Manuel Zeiler said the team’s “interdisciplinary and systematic” approach had been “unique” among the probes of Nazi-era crime sites in Germany – 7 decades after World War II.
400 artifacts found
Many of the 400 artifacts were found in forest soils in Langenbach Valley near the town of Warstein, said LWL historian Marcus Weidner, adding that the items uncovered included shoes, colored buttons, pearls, a prayer book and lexicon in Polish, cutlery and textile fragments.
Reconstructing events at that site, the LWL said 71 victims — comprising 60 women, a child, and 10 men — were apparently told to leave their meager possessions on the edge of a forestry road before being shot dead at a stream escarpment.
Money stolen from them ended up in the divisions cash box. Projectiles were found spread throughout the surrounding forest. The murderers left behind spades said the LWL.
Atrocity’s aftermath documented by Americans
At a 2nd site, at Suttrop near Warstein, laborers were forced to dig trenches laid out as a zigzag, in which 57 people were then shot dead by Nazi troops, said to comprise Waffen-SS and Wehrmacht soldiers.
The Americans later ordered exhumations, summoned the local population and filmed the atrocity’s aftermath. Records from the-then US 95th Infantry Division about Warstein are held in the USA’s Eisenhower Archive.
“A short while ago I took a phone call from an elderly woman who was involved in the operation,” Weidner told regional WDR public broadcaster.”And, in the literature, there are many accounts by persons who still remember the scenes, the smells, that are strongly etched in their minds.
“Harmonica, Soviet coins
The 3rd site re-examined from last year into January 2019 had turned up a harmonica, a spectacle case and a comb, said the LWL, as well as Soviet coins and a spoon.
At that site, Eversberg near the town of Meschede, Nazi troops had detonated mortars to make a cavity, in which they shot Eighty people and then concealed the victims under the paddock.
The tip given to British military sector forces in November 1946 led to those remains being exhumed in 1947 and being placed alongside other remains at Meschede’s Fulmecke Cemetery, which is soon to be renovated.
Only 14 identified
Weidner said only 14 of the 208 victims had been identified, thanks in part to research conducted abroad.
The latest work offered the chance to link victims to potential descendants and overcome past reticence in finding out “who was shot dead here.
More than 13 million people were conscripted by Hitler’s regime as forced laborers, many to work as slaves as part of the Nazi arms buildup.
The LWL is a regional conglomerate that runs schools, clinics, and museums servicing nine cities and 18 counties on the eastern fringe of North Rhine-Westphalia state.