Remains of Ashkenazi Jews found shot at Sobibor death camp in Poland

The remains of ten people at the site of the Sobibor death camp in Poland were discovered in 2013. The find was very surprising for experts, as the Nazis burned all concentration camp prisoners in ovens. In order to find out information about the victims and possibly to identify them, experts conducted a lot of research. The results were published today in Genome Biology.

Between 1942 and 1943, the Nazis are believed to have murdered up to 180,000 people in the Sobibor death camp in German-occupied Poland. However, testimony from witnesses, guards and surviving prisoners testified that all of the dead were cremated.

Since the remains found at the Sobibor camp site in 2013 showed no signs of cremation, experts initially assumed that they were from later times, probably buried in the 1950s and belonged to Polish opponents of the Soviet Union. In addition, certain features of the burial indicated that the people had died after the massacre in the concentration camp.

The remains were studied in detail by researchers at the Pomeranian Medical University in Szczecin. Specialists analyzed mitochondrial and Y-chromosome DNA and found that all of the dead belonged to Ashkenazi Jews and were probably murdered by Nazi guards. The skeletons of four people showed signs of trauma consistent with shots to the head. Also found in the graves were remnants of the clothing and shoes of the dead.

The prosecutor of the Institute of National Remembrance in Lublin, who initiated the identification process, ordered that the remains be reburied. A rabbi presided over the ceremony according to Jewish rites, and the victims were buried in separate graves where they had been found.