Archaeology news: ‘Death pit’ discovery uncovers skeletal remains of executed POWs

The chilling discovery was made during an excavation at the infamous Penal and Investigative Prison No.III in Warsaw, Poland. The Stalinist facility, commonly known as Toledo Prison, was run by the Soviet secret polive for only 12 years but has been regarded by its inmates as a particularly cruel and harsh place. Potentially hundreds of inmates were executed at the prison, which persecuted political enemies, members of the Polish underground and Polish home army before and after the end of World War II.

Earlier this year, roadworks near the prison’s former site accidentally uncovered the remains of three murdered inmates.

And now, new archaeological excavations have discovered the remains of at least two more inmates.

The excavation was led by Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance (IPN).

IPN said in a statement: “The arrangement of the remains found today is the same as is in the case of most secret burials of victims of communist crimes.”

The bodies were found on the third day of the new excavations.

Alongside the skeletal remains, some personal effects and uniform fragments were found.

Dr Krzysztof Szwagrzyk, IPN vice president, said: “It is extremely important that we managed to obtain the necessary permits in such as short and started exploring the area immediately.

“As you can see, it was a necessary action and it had not been implemented for years.

It is our mission not to leave anyone ‘on the battlefield’

Dr Krzysztof Szwagrzyk, IPN

“The remains found today show that the areas occupied by the institutions of the communist regime after the war should always be carefully examined because it is in such places that the bodies of murdered people were often hidden.

“It is important that today we have found the remains of more victims who will no longer rest somewhere under a wall, in a nameless pit.

“We will protect the remains, genetically test them and bury them with due respect.

“It is our mission not to leave anyone ‘on the battlefield’.”

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Toledo Prison was established in Warsaw’s Praga district before the end of World War II.

Between 1944 and 1956, the prison was run by the NKVD secret police.

Prisoners were executed within the prison’s grounds and buried in unmarked pits.

After 1956, the prison was transformed into a women’s only facility.

It was then demolished between the 1970s and 1980s and council housing was built in its place.

A memorial to the prison’s inmates was erected in 2001.

Anna Szeląg, deputy director of IPN’s Search and Identification Office, said: “Let’s not forget this is only the start of our work in this place.

“We will be here for the next two weeks to thoroughly search the area.

“We must be sure that we have picked up all the remains hidden here.

“We do not rule out that in the coming days day we will discover more ‘death pits’.”

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