Category Archives: POLAND

World War II Execution Site Investigated in Poland

World War II Execution Site Investigated in Poland

Dawid Kobiałka of the Polish Academy of Sciences, with the assistance of an 88-year-old eyewitness, has found personal belongings, bullets, and charred human bone, including fragments of skulls, teeth, femurs, and a vertebra, just under the surface of the ground in an area of northern Poland dubbed “Death Valley,” according to a report by The First News.

On the outskirts of the town of Chojnice in northern Poland, where at least two mass killings took place at the hands of German death squads in 1939 and early 1945, at a site named ‘Death Valley’ the harrowing discovery was made. Dr Dawid Kobialka, from the Polish Academy of Sciences Institute of Archeology and Ethnology, who made the horrible discovery told TFN: “The bones and bullets are linked with the massacre of the second half of January 1945.

The crime was committed by the Gestapo and members of the German police, according to historical records. The bullets and shells came from the pistols of the Walther PPK and P08 Parabellum, indicating that the victims were executed at close range.” He added: “We found fragments of, among others, skulls, teeth, femurs, a thoracic vertebra. The bones lie just under the ground for one centimetre or two. To see the remains, it was enough to put a shovel in the ground once.

Dawid Kobialka from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences said the bones were discovered one centimetre below the surface. 

“There were more burnt human bones than sand.

“Most of the bones are actually ashes because of the temperature of the cremations. That is why the gasoline was used.” Eye-witness Jan Grunt said gasoline barrels were at Death Valley when the Germans left the site.

He said: “The shootings from pistols were heard almost all night. […]. The bodies were dowsed by gasoline and later burned. Three gasoline barrels that still lie in Death Valley confirm it. The fire was discernible for three days and nights at the Death Valley”. Another eye-witness Kazimierz Janikowski who is now 88 but was 13 at the time of the massacre and helped the researchers locate the site said: “We were going there [to Death Valley] because we were curious about what was happening.

“I was searching there and found [burned human] bones.

“I still see those 200-litre gasoline barrels. There was stench over town when the bodies were burned.”

Kobialka added that “marks of gasoline are preserved on fragments of wood discovered during the research.” The researchers also discovered humbling personal belongings the victims had on them when they were killed. One photo shows a battered wristwatch, another a spoon and plate. Yet another photo shows the fragment of a woman’s broach, confirming testimonies that both men and women were slaughtered.

Named Death Valley by locals, the area covers around 1.5km. Towards the end of the war, Gestapo officers shot dead around 600 prisoners in the ‘valley’ before setting their corpses on fire.

Researchers also discovered the personal remains of victims including a battered wristwatch.
Researchers also discovered the personal remains of victims including a battered wristwatch.

Kobialka said: “There were several columns of people and they went in different directions. One of them was herded to Chojnice and murdered in Death Valley.

“The townspeople saw a glow of light at night on the outskirts of the city in the Valley of Death, and a terrible smell of burning went over the city.

“The most probable version of events is that they were Gestapo prisoners from the prison in Bydgoszcz.

“There, among others, were detained members of the Polish resistance who were captured at the turn of 1944-1945.”

He added: “In materials, we found in one document, there is an annotation that in Death Valley, then it was called Ostrówek, about 600 people were murdered and burned.”

The Chojnice killing fields lie just 50 miles north of the town of Bydgoszcz where the Germans carried out brutal repression following Hitler’s invasion of Poland in September 1939.

By the end of the war, it is estimated that around 36,350 civilians had been ‘liquidated’ by German forces in Bydgoszcz and the surrounding areas.

Kobialka said: “When the Red Army was coming from the south in January 1945, the Germans organised the evacuation of the prison.

“A few columns of prisoners were made, with some of them going to the west.

“One of them went to Chojnice under the supervision of Gestapo guards.

“The guards, according to one of the witnesses, organised the massacre.”

Earlier this year, the Institute uncovered remains from the 1939 massacre where in the early stages of WWII, German SS shot dead more than 500 locals as part of their ‘action against the intelligentsia’ who the Third Reich considered ‘dangerous’. In charge of operations was Heinrich Mocek, a sadistic Nazi officer who between October 1939 and January 1940 ordered extensive exterminations across the whole region as part of the Nazis’ Polish Intelligentsia Action, which saw around 30,000-40,000 Poles living in the Pomerania region murdered.

He was later convicted for a string of atrocities and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1965 by a West German court. But by the time the Red Army arrived he had fled Poland, leaving the question of who ordered and carried out the 1945 massacre unanswered.

Kobialka said: “The massacre in 1939 is relatively well-known. We know some of the victims, we know some of the murderers, we know some of the witnesses.

“But the massacre in January 1945 is a mystery. We found burned human bones close to the meadow.

“So, Death Valley embodies different locations near Chojnice that were the theatre of mass executions during the Second World War.

“We are still looking for historical records that will shed light on the subject.”

2,500-Year-Old Iron Age horse harness found by accident is oldest in CEE, say, archaeologists

2,500-Year-Old Iron Age horse harness found by accident is oldest in CEE, say, archaeologists

Science in Poland reports that some 150 decorative bronze pieces of a 2,500-year-old horse’s bridle were discovered in north-central Poland.

The pieces, which resemble those made by the Scythians, who lived to the north, had been wrapped in leaves and placed in a leather bag. “This secured deposit had been buried on a sandy hill near the bank of the Vistula,” said Jacek Gackowski of the Nicolaus Copernicus University.

After searching a nearby hill, he had returned to the meeting point of the archaeologists, when his metal detector, which was still turned on, began beeping.

The researchers contacted Toruń Provincial Office for Monument Protection when they decided that they might have found something of historical interest that they discovered more than 150 large and smaller bronze pieces which made up a large part of a bridle.

The items were wrapped in leaves, analysis of which reveals they were probably burdock, and the bundles had been placed in a leather bag; its remains are also visible on the harness parts. 

Dr Jacek Gackowski from the Institute of Archaeology of the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń: “This is the first find of this type in Central and Eastern Europe.

“This secured deposit had been buried on a sandy hill near the bank of the Vistula. It can be assumed that someone who hid these valuable items planned their subsequent extraction.

“The preserved artefacts indicate that the bridle was very decorative, as evidenced also by the numerous tubular and ring-shaped harness parts made of sheet metal and wire.

‘It is an almost complete horse bridle. The only thing missing is a bit, the part inserted into the horse’s mouth; it was used to send signals and guide the animal.”

He added that the style of the harness can be traced back to the far north infiltration of nomads, possibly Scythians, in the environment of the Lusatian culture. This most likely took place in the early Iron Age (6th century BC).

He said: “Remember that the remains of Scythian weapons and ornaments are known from the area of Kujawy and the south-western edge of the Chełmno Land. (…) Perhaps the treasure from Cierpice is a trace of dramatic events that could have occurred between the local population and culturally alien, horse-riding visitors from far away.”

In addition, archaeologists also found a locally-made socketed axe inside the leather bag. 

Wojciech Sosnowski from the Provincial Office for Monument Protection in Toruń said that “at the moment, it is difficult to answer” why or how the axe was in the bag, adding: “An interdisciplinary research team will be established to solve all the mysteries related to the discovered treasure. It will include pre-historians, archaeometallurgists, conservators and representatives of the natural sciences. 

“Samples will be taken and their analysis will allow, among other things, to determine the exact time when the treasure was buried.”

But he suggested that the person who buried the metal parts treated them as a raw material for further remelting. During this period, metals were considered very valuable and they were in short supply. The whole treasure weighs about 1 kg; the parts are light so as not to constrain and unnecessarily burden the horse, he said. 

Well Preserved 2,000 Year Old Settlement Found Hidden Under Dense Forest In Northern Poland

Well Preserved 2,000 Year Old Settlement Found Hidden Under Dense Forest In Northern Poland

Archeologists found in almost 2,000 years an entirely untouched old village, the only village of its kind in Europe. The magnificent discovery in northern Poland  revealed farming land complete with boundary strips, homesteads, buildings, and even roads.

Well Preserved 2,000 Year Old Settlement Found Hidden Under Dense Forest In Northern Poland
The archeologists from Toruń made the stunning discovery in northern Poland using Aerial Laser Scanning which revealed an entire estate hidden in the heavily forested region

Hidden in dense forests in the Bory Tucholskie region, the area is one of the least explored by archeologists.

Archeologist Mateusz Sosnowski from the NCU (Nicolaus Copernicus University) Institute of Archeology in Toruń told PAP: “When it comes to research, it was virgin territory.

The discovery revealed farming land complete with boundary strips, homesteads, buildings, and even roads.

“It was a great surprise to discover they’re not only individual elements of a former settlement, but also its surroundings: fields surrounding the hamlet, traces of single homesteads and even tracts connecting them probable with other settlements.”

The remains come from the first centuries of the modern era, Sosnowski and fellow researchers who made the discovery, Jerzy Czerniec, believe.

Archeologist Mateusz Sosnowski from the NCU (Nicolaus Copernicus University) Institute of Archeology in Toruń said:  “When it comes to research, it was virgin territory. We have an entire estate together with its surrounding farmland in the form of fields and pastures, where all the elements come from the same period. It’s unique!” Mateusz Sosnowski

Sosnowski explained that the discovery is unique because archeologists usually only discover individual elements of settlements or other constructions leftover from the activities of ancient people.

Such discoveries usually occur during the building of houses or roads and the digs are rescue efforts. As a result, research is limited to a small area.

In such cases, there is also not usually an opportunity to search more widely to see whether there are other remains or interesting artefacts in the vicinity.

Sosnowski explained: “Here we have an entirely different situation.

“We have tracked down unknown traces of an ancient Bory Tucholskie settlement. It’s not a matter of one house or a fragment of a settlement.

“We have an entire estate together with its surrounding farmland in the form of fields and pastures, where all the elements come from the same period. It’s unique!”

The remains come from the first century of the modern era, researchers believe.

The archeologists discovered the find using Aerial Laser Scanning (ALS), a tool ever more frequently used by researchers.

As part of a project aimed at creating anti-flood defences among other things, the whole of Poland was covered. ALS enables a very thorough inspection of territory, even if it is overgrown with forest and the differences in height are invisible to the naked eye, as was the case in Bory Tucholskie.

The settlement together with its surrounding fields covers an area of over 170 hectares and the fields are surprisingly regular.

Sosnowski said: “Their shape brings to mind the three-field system of farming, known in Poland only from the middle ages. Was it already in use several hundred years earlier? we hope our research will answer that question.”

7,000-Year-old Horned Face Image found Under Ancient Polish Home 

7,000-Year-old Horned Face Image found Under Ancient Polish Home 

In the area of a large, prehistoric settlement populated by a group identified by specialists as the Linear Pottery culture, the discovery in Biskupice was completed.

Marta Korczyńska, Field Work Chief at the Institute of Botany of the Polish Academy of Sciences said:  “The fragments of pottery that we discovered are decorated with a plastic ornament depicting a stylized outline of a human face. There are two bumps on the forehead, reminiscent of horns.”

She added that only a part of the unusual ornament has survived, including the eyes and nose. The preserved fragment measures approx. 10 cm in width.

This photo clearly shows the eyes, nose and two bumps over the eyes that are presumed to be horns.

Project leader Dr Magdalena Moskal-del Hoyo from the W. Szafer Institute of Botany PAS said: “Today we are not able to clearly interpret this image. It seems likely, however, that such an unusual artefact could be related to the sacred sphere to some extent.”

According to Professor Marek Nowak from the Institute of Archaeology of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, who was also involved in the research, this type of artefact is evidence the inhabitants of the settlement had contact with people living in the area of today’s Hungary and Slovakia.

This is indicated not only by the discovery of the broken bowl, but also products made of obsidian, a raw material not found in Poland. It is a volcanic glass with a black and shiny surface.

Korczyńska said that while vessels with similar ornamental motifs are known from that period in Slovakia and Hungary (although they usually do not have stylised horns), this is the first such object been found in Poland.

The archaeologists also found over 3,000 artefacts, including obsidian tools and so-called cores, stone blocks used to strike stone flakes and chips that were later used to make tools. These products were primarily used as leather scrapers, tools for processing wood and bones, and sickle blades.

In addition to archaeologists, experts in the field of botany are also involved in the project. ‘It may be surprising that the employees of the Institute of Botany PAS conduct archaeological research, but in this interdisciplinary project, next to ceramics and other artefacts, plant remains are an equal, unfortunately often overlooked source of information on material culture and old customs’, said Dr Moskal-del Hoyo. 

She added that the remains of plants from sites dating back to the early Neolithic period (the time when farming began) were and are relatively rarely collected and studied by excavation leaders. 

Meanwhile, in her opinion, they can provide very important information about the people of the time and their crops.

The project is financed by the National Science Centre.

1,000-year-old Christian cemetery yields terrifying discoveries

1,000-year-old Christian cemetery yields terrifying discoveries

It is suspected that the nearly 1,000-year-old find is the oldest known Christian burial site in north Poland’s Dobrzyn Region. In the year 966 Poland formally accepted Christianity, switching from paganism to Catholicism.

In the village of Starorypin Prywatny, archaeologists have now discovered possible proof of Christianity, unearthing the corpses of women and children in 30 graves.

Lead archaeologist Dr Jadwiga Lewandowska of the Dobrzyn Land Museum in Rypin said: “Until now, based on uncovered artefacts, we thought the necropolis dated back to the 12th century.

“Thanks to the physicochemical analysis of bones discovered last year, we know that it already existed in the middle of the 11th century.”

The burial site yielded a number of gruesome discoveries, including the body of a woman with a boulder on her chest. Another woman was buried on her side in the foetal position. It is likely the woman was tied up when she was buried.

A 1,000-year-old cemetery was discovered in northern Poland

And the majority of the bodies uncovered at the site were of children. These were children aged two-and-a-half to four-years-old. One of the burials also appears to have been a premature birth.

Professor Krzysztof Szostka of the Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Warsaw said: “What is interesting, it was in this grave that we found probably the most beautiful necklace we have so far been able to find at the cemetery.”

The oldest corpses were of men aged 40 to 45-years-old. And the women were all likely aged 25 to 30-years-old. The corpses all featured grounded down teeth, which is a sign of a diet heavy in poorly refined flour.

Alongside the corpses, the archaeologists discovered a number of small metallic crosses – evidence of the denizens’ Christian faith.

Dr Lewandowska said: “The wealth of the deceased’s items surprised us.”

From the 13th century and onwards, Christians were buried without personal effects.

And the cemetery is likely to yield many more discoveries in the years to come as only a small fraction of it has been explored so far. The 30 graves are part of a necropolis believed to cover nearly five acres of land.

So far, the archaeologists have only explored a few hundred square metres of it. The cemetery was discovered in a cornfield and, unfortunately, many of its graves have been destroyed by the ploughing of the land.

None of the bodies unearthed at the site has been linked to other religious practices outside of Christianity. The archaeologists believe this is good sign Christianity reached this part of Poland earlier than the mid-11th century.

A trove of nazi artefacts found inside the wolf lair; Hitler’s headquarters On the Eastern Front

A trove of nazi artefacts found inside the wolf lair; Hitler’s headquarters On the Eastern Front

In 1941, when the Nazis first planned to enter the Soviet Union under Operation Barbarossa, they constructed a secret Military Headquarters next to the Mountains ‘ Masurian woods; they called it Wolfsschanze or “Wolf’s Lair.” The finding included the armoured doors a staircase to Hitler’s personal barracks and a barrier made to withstand a chemical attack.

The Polish government has made preparations to restructure the lair as an extensive historical museum since its discovery after the war However a trove of secret Nazi artefacts has been discovered by recent work at the military complex.

According to Heritage Daily, Polish officials found a number of significant items, among them the stairs to Adolf Hitler’s barracks, two bunker doors — one of which is believed to be part of the dictator’s personal bunker — and several armoured doors as well.

These discoveries will help researchers to map out where significant events took place in the lair, like a 1944 assassination attempt that was made on Hitler.

“We were convinced that for decades the area had been extensively dug and thought that there would be no more discoveries left to find,” said Zenon Piotrowicz, the forest inspector of the Srokowo forest division.

Excavators have also recovered water fittings for the bunker’s boiler, pipes, and sinks. These explorations have been carried out by the Laterba Foundation from Gdańsk in collaboration with State Forests and the Provincial Conservator of Monuments in Olsztyn.

An assassination attempt was made on Hitler here in 1944.

Among the most notable finds of late is an engraved stone emblazoned with Hitler’s special protection battalion and a painted flag.

According to officials, these new items will likely be kept for an exhibition at Wolf’s Lair, which is already a tourist site that draws revenue for the Masurian Lake District.

“The discovery allows us to determine what barracks they lived in and how the unit was marked,” added Piotrowicz. “It is also necessary to find a context for displaying the find so that it can be presented as a historical fact, without promoting a criminal ideology.”

Indeed, the proposed historical exhibit at Wolf’s Lair has drawn criticism from sceptics who believe that it will be challenging to display the ugly history of this site in a meaningful and appropriate manner.

Those who oppose the creation of an exhibit at Wolf’s Lair are concerned that the location could possibly become a pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis.

Last year, the Wolf’s Lair was visited by 330,000 tourists.

Hitler visits Nazi officers at Wolf’s Lair just days before a coup tried to kill him there.

The Wolf’s Lair was an important site for Hitler and his Nazi henchmen during the Second World War. Not only was it the first significant military base the Nazis established on the Eastern Front, but it also provided their fascist leader with high-level security.

Hitler was so confident that his hideaway in the Masurian woods was impenetrable that he even stayed at the complex for 850 days during the war. It wasn’t until the Nazi defeat appeared imminent that he moved back to his bunker in Berlin. The complex was subsequently destroyed by fleeing Nazis.

But the Wolf’s Lair is also a notable historical site due to a failed assassination plot that took place there in July 1944.

On July 20, 1944, a group of German leaders tried to kill Hitler during a meeting at the Wolf’s Lair. The plot, known as Operation Valkyrie, was led in part by Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, a high-ranking militiaman descended from German nobility.

Hitler is said to have spent 850 days hidden away in the Wolf’s Lair.

The plan was to detonate a bomb hidden away in a briefcase placed near Hitler during a meeting held at the lair. Four men were killed but Hitler miraculously survived. All the men involved in the assassination plot were executed.

As for the future of Wolf’s Lair, there is hope that the new exhibition there will be done in a way that pays tribute to the victims of the Nazis and that will ultimately inform future generations about these grave mistakes of the past.

Unique 3,500-year-old Pig Figurines Discovered in Poland

Unique 3,500-year-old Pig Figurines Discovered in Poland

During excavations at a Bronze Age house in a settlement surrounded by Europe’s oldest monumental stone wall, two clay-pig figurines dating back 3,500 years were uncovered.

The discovery by archaeologists on Zyndram’s Hill in Maszkowice (Małopolska) has been hailed as a rare find as they are the first of their kind.

Research leader Dr. Marcin S. Przybyła from the Institute of Archaeology of the Jagiellonian University said: “These are the first such find of zoomorphic figurines, that is, ones depicting animals.”

He added that the artefacts are small, only a few centimetres long, but very carefully made, with anatomical features, including nipples.

One is brighter, pale brown in colour, the other was fired to be quite dark. In the case of the latter, the animal’s nose is brighter. According to the archaeologist, this is probably accidental, but thanks to this the figurine becomes even more realistic.

He said: “There is no discussion as to what kind of animal it is. You have to remember that pigs back then looked more like wild boars than modern-day domesticated pigs.”

Each of the figurines was made in a slightly different style, in a different manner, as if they were made by two different people.

Presentation of the archaeological find in the form of 3.5 thousand years old pig figurines, August 13th, Maszkowice (Małopolska). This is quite a rare find. The settlement where the discovery was made is surrounded by a stone wall, which is unique for settlements from this period in this part of Europe.

The figurines were inside the relics of a hut, just a metre apart. 

The discovery was made in a residential house from the early Bronze Age (approx. 3,500 years old). There were many animal bones (of pigs, cattle and predators) in the building, clearly more than in other structures identified so far within the fortified settlement. 

The arrangement of post-pits, whose task was to support the roof, was also surprising – three of them were right next to each other.

The house was probably rectangular or square (the size of a typical cottage in this place is 6 by 6 m or 8 by 6 m). Its walls were made of a lightweight braided structure covered with a thick layer of clay. The wall could be about 20 cm thick.

According to Przybyła, the figurines could have been used as children’s toys or cult objects.  Archaeologists are continuing restoration work within the walls of the settlement which was discovered a few years ago.

Dr Przybyła said: “The fortifications defending the settlement are more than two and a half thousand years older than the monuments of Romanesque architecture. Thus, it is the oldest example of a stone wall in the history of construction in Poland.”

This year’s research shows, among other things, that the walls were built on large, flat sandstone slabs (approx. 1.6 m long), which formed a perfectly flat surface.

According to the researcher, they look like screed and it is clear that the fortifications were made in a very thoughtful way, and the builders had experience in similar projects.

Equally, old stone structures are not known in this part of Europe. Researchers are convinced that the know-how associated with their construction came with settlers from the Mediterranean or the Adriatic zone.

Further evidence of this is the discovered fragments of ceramic vessels. Their forms indicate contacts with the communities living in the middle Danube basin.

According to researchers’ estimates, the settlement was suddenly abandoned ca. 1550-1500 BC. However, there are no traces of an invasion or disaster.

While there was a large fire more or less in the middle of its functioning, the wooden houses were later rebuilt. They were larger than the previous ones, but fewer of them were erected.

Medieval Bridges, Artifacts Found in a Polish Lake

Medieval Bridges, Artifacts Found in a Polish Lake

POZNAŃ, POLAND—According to a report in The First News, archaeologists from Nicolaus Copernicus University and the Museum of the First Piast at Lednica used photogrammetry to map the bottom of west-central Poland’s Lake Lednica, which is located between the city of Gniezno, site of the country’s first capital, and Poznań, the seat of the country’s first Christian bishop.

A 10th-century sword which is decorated with a cross and has the remains of its leather scabbard was discovered along with artifacts dating back to the times of the first Piast by archaeologists exploring Lednica Lake, between Poznań and Gniezno.

Scientists from the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń and the Museum of the First Piast at Lednica have conducted research in and around the lake since 1982, though the first works were done there in the fifties. 

The 10th-century sword complete with the remains of a leather scabbard is likely to have belonged to someone of status and power.

Ostrów Lednicki was an important point on the early Piast dynasty Poland’s map, located between the first capital in Gniezno and Poznań, where the first bishop in the country had his seat.

Head of the University’s Centre for Underwater Archaeology professor Andrzej Pydyn said: “This is probably the richest season in a dozen years. Not only because of the number of objects, but also their value and the context in which they were found.”

The researchers focused on the area near two bridges connecting islands Ostrów Lednicki, Ledniczka, and the shore, found in 2017.

The younger bridge dates back to the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries, while the older to the beginning of the 10th. The wood used for its construction was cut down in the years 913 and 914.

The bridges are a marvel on their own – measuring several hundred meters, they were an incredible undertaking at that time.

Underneath the bridges’ remnants, the archaeologists uncovered 21 objects, including the early medieval ornamented sword and two axes, other weapons such as arrowheads and crossbow bolts from the 13th and 14th centuries, as well as a sickle from that period.

Professor Pydyn said: “The most spectacular finding of this research season is the eighth sword found in Lednica Lake, the first in 20 years. But also the spearhead, axes, including the encrusted axe, probably one of the more spectacular ones found here.”

The notable 10th-century sword and axe couldn’t belong to a regular warrior and point to people of the importance of travelling to Ostrów Lednicki. The axe, similar in style to Scandinavian ones, was inlaid with silver and adorned.

The sword was decorated with a cross, a common European trope, but a rare find considering the place and time when it was made. Other findings include ceramics and animal bones.

Using photogrammetry (measuring and scanning the place to create a model), the researchers mapped the bottom of the lake and even 1.5 meters below it and created a detailed 3D model of the area.

The method led to another discovery, which provided new information on the settlement’s role and size. The most valuable seems to be the remains of the shore fortifications, most probably made of solid oak beams.

The finds date back to the times of Duke Mieszko I.

The age of one of them has already been determined by the dendrochronological method. The tree was cut down in 980, during the reign of Duke Mieszko I, the first documented ruler of Poland.

Professor Pydyn said: “They shed completely new light on what took place in this area. Actually, we are becoming certain, that the entire area of settlements around Ostrów Lednicki was important not only in the times of Mieszko I but also for his father or grandfather.”