Sunday, March 21, 2010

Austrian Government Finds Mass Graves of Nazi Victims

Nearly 65 years after the conclusion of World War 2, victims of Nazi atrocities are still being discovered.

Austrian government officials say they have identified at least two mass graves of Nazi victims on property used by the army.

Interior Ministry spokesman Rudolf Gollia says talks will be sought with the owners of the site to discuss possible exhumation. He said Friday he did not know whether the army owns the property or rents it.

The graves were identified from wartime photos, made from U.S. bombers, showing open graves and bodies. U.S. authorities made the imagery available on request of Austrian historians tasked two years ago by Defense Minister Norbert Darabos with researching documented war crimes at the site, used by the SS during World War II.

A statement available Friday on the Austrian army web site said up to 219 people were massacred at the location during the dying days of World War II in an attempt to hush up atrocities committed there.

Among other things the probe was meant to "find out more over the identity and the whereabouts of the victims killed in the last days of the Second World War," said the statement. "The systematic violence of the Gestapo ... focused mostly on resistance fighters, prisoners of war, concentration camp inmates and forced laborers but also shot-down U.S. pilots."

The site originally contained hundreds of victims but many were moved by the officer in charge of the wartime facility out of fears that he would be found responsible for the killing. The exhumation and reburials were stopped, however, because of the approach of the Soviet Army.

While the relocated bodies were subsequently found and given a proper burial, about 70 of the dead remained unaccounted for until they were located by the probe.

The army statement said that the investigation also established the identities of two suspected perpetrators who subsequently fled to Germany and could still be alive. It gave no details.

  • Dozens of victims of Nazis have been discovered in mass graves.
  • The graves are located in bomb craters underneath an army sports field.
  • Two suspected perpetrators who subsequently fled to Germany could still be alive.