New mass grave site located at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp

A new mass grave at the site of the Nazis’ Bergen-Belsen concentration camp has been discovered by researchers from the Netherlands.

70 years ago the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in northern Germany was liberated by Allied troops. But this week a group of Dutch researchers say they have been excavating the site in and around the camp, and have located a new previously unknown mass grave.

The researchers say it measures around 52 feet x 13 feet and was located with the help of a veteran prisoner who had been held at the camp. It is thought to include the remains of Dutch resistance operative Jan Verschure.

It was Jan’s grandson, Paul, who has been researching the site and speaking to survivors in order to locate his grandfather’s grave. One of the survivors had a map and marked where he believed Jan had been buried.

Bergen-Belsen is thought to have seen the deaths of around 70,000 prisoners between 1941 and 1945.

The grave site is at the end of the camp’s main road and is now just a deserted field.

Today, little of the original concentration camp remains since Allied troops set the site on fire and destroyed all of the buildings after it was liberated in April 1945. This was common practice as Allied and Soviet troops advanced across Europe to Germany in order to prevent the spread of disease, such as typhus, The Times of Israel reports.

Most of the dead bodies from the camp were buried in mass graves around the camp. As many as 10,000 bodies are thought to be buried in the area.

The researchers asked Dutch archaeologist Ivar Schute to visit the site and identify whether the location could be a mass grave. Ivar says that he believes the ground has been disturbed and agrees there could be a mass grave there.

Regardless of all the research, the local Jewish community and the Bergen-Belsen Memorial group has said that they do not want any further digging or excavation of the site, since it would be against their religious laws.

The entire camp site has been declared a cemetery, and no further digging has been approved. It is yet to be seen as to whether the Dutch will make further appeals to excavate the site.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE