Grisly remains of WWII soldier who died defending Poland against Hitler’s invasion found in shallow grave
Archeologists have discovered the remains of a Polish soldier on Westerplatte in Gdańsk.
Dating back to the outbreak of World War II, they are first discovery of this kind since 1963.
Located on the Baltic coat, the Westerplatte peninsula was the site of the first clash between Polish and German forces as part of the Nazis’ invasion of Poland in 1939.
On 1 September, the German Schleswig-Holstein battleship opened fire on the Polish garrison stationed on Westerplatte without warning.
Over the next days, the Germans bombarded the peninsula with naval and heavy field artillery.
The soldier whose remains were discovered this week may well have died on 2 September, on the second day of the attack, during shelling by German aviation, the Polish authorities have suggested.
The remains – a skull and chest bones – were found by a team of four archaeologists as part of the fifth stage of archaeological works on Westerplatte organised by the Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk.
The skull carries traces of burning. The archeologists also found various other fragments, including smaller bones, pieces of a Polish military uniform and weapon parts.
The discovery was made on a site where the Germans temporarily buried Polish soldiers who had died during the fighting on Westerplatte.
A few months later, in January 1940, they exhumed them and moved them to a cemetery in the Gdańsk suburb of Zaspa.
However, the Germans missed at least one body – as this new discovery shows.
“We suspected that, due to harsh winter conditions, they did it inaccurately and carelessly,” said Deputy Minister of Culture Jarosław Sellin at a press conference on Westerplatte this week.
He added: “And that it is worth seeing if any of the remains of Westerplatte's defender have been preserved here.”
The previous discovery on Westerplatte was made accidentally in 1963 during construction work when the quay on the peninsula was being built.
After their remains were found, Major Henryk Sucharski and corporal Andrzej Kowalczyk were buried in the Cemetery of the Defenders of Westerplatte.
The latest discovery was made nearby.
The archaeologists believe that the remains are those of another soldier who died defending Westerplette, though they will have to wait for genetic tests to be fully certain.