Gruesome remains found on housing estate at site of former secret police prison

The skeletal remains were found near the prison known as “Toledo”, which operated from 1944-1956, first being run by the Soviet NKVD, and later by Poland’s communist-era Ministry of Public Security. IPN

The remains of three people have been found on the site of a former communist-era prison in Warsaw, where anti-communist fighters were imprisoned.

Known as “Toledo”, Criminal Investigation Prison No. III in Warsaw operated in 1944-1956. At first, it was run by the Soviet NKVD, and later by Poland’s communist-era Ministry of Public Security.

Research shows that a small area on the site of the former prison, could have been used for executing and burying prisoners during the Stalinist terror in Poland.Kalbar/TFN

The prison was established for opponents of the Soviet forces and the new communist regime, including Home Army soldiers and other underground fighters. Executions were conducted onsite.

Located inside a former army barracks in Warsaw’s Praga district, the prison was surrounded by a high wall. After 1956, it was turned into a prison for women and later demolished.

Officials from the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), set up to investigate WWII and Communist-era crimes, said that “the lack of traces of coffins, as well as the arrangement of the remains may indicate that prison burials from the communist period have been discovered”.IPN

A statue commemorating the people murdered in prisons in Praga in 1944-1956 – which features a man tearing apart prison bars – was built on the former site of the prison in 2001.

Now a mass grave containing the remains of three people has been found on the site of the former prison, where a housing estate is now located.

The prison was established for opponents of the Soviet forces and the new communist regime, including Home Army soldiers and other underground fighters.IPN

Construction works – specifically, the hardening of a parking lot – have been taking place on site in recent weeks, observed by archaeologists from the Search and Identification Office of the Institute of National Remembrance, which investigates crimes committed during the communist period, among other responsibilities.

The prison was considered one of the most severe prisons of this type, famous for torture and numerous executions.IPN

According to its experts, “the lack of traces of coffins, as well as the arrangement of the remains may indicate that prison burials from the communist period have been discovered”.

Specialists have studied the site, combining findings from archival documents with those from prisoners’ accounts, aerial photography and geodetic maps.

A statue commemorating the people murdered in prisons in Praga in 1944-1956 – which features a man tearing apart prison bars – was built on the former site of the prison in 2001.Kalbar/TFN

This research shows that a small area on the site of the former prison, which has still not been built on, could have been used for executing and burying prisoners during the Stalinist terror in Poland. 

Following the discovery, the Office is applying for permission to conduct full archaeological research on the site, to find out more about what happened there over sixty years ago.