Investigators uncover skeletal remains of nuns murdered by Red Army troops during WWII
The skeletons of three nuns butchered to death by the Red Army in 1945 have been found in northern Poland.
One of the victims had her eyes and her tongue cut out, and her body was stabbed 16 times by bayonet.
The remains of the nuns from the St. Catherine of Alexandria order were found in Orneta in the Warmia-Mazury voivodeship by the Institute of National Remembrance, an organisation which investigates Soviet and Nazi-era crimes.
Earlier searches in Gdansk and Olsztyn last year saw the discovery of the remains of four other nuns from the order who were also murdered by the Soviets.
In total, 16 nuns from the St. Catherine’s order were butchered by the Red Army from January 22 to November 25, 1945.
Archaeologists closed in on a 20-square-metre site in a cemetery in Orneta by using local archival records and a hand-drawn burial plan.
This site had been used for later burials, so finding the remains of the nuns required the temporary exhumation of the secondary burials.
The IPN believes that the bodies found in Orneta are those of Sister Rolanda (Maria Abraham), Sister Gunhilda (Dorota Steffen) and Sister Bona (Anna Pestka).
Religious artefacts found alongside the skeletons included articles of clothing associated with the St. Catherine order, small rosaries with polished beads, larger rosaries for wearing on a belt, and a cross.
They are now undergoing anthropological examination at the Department of Forensic Medicine in Gdansk.
The work in Orneta was also the last stage of the search for the remains of the nuns.
In July last year, archeologists in Gdańsk found the remains of Sister Charytyna (Jadwiga Fahl). In Olsztyn in October the remains of Sister Generosa (Maria Bolz), Sister Krzysztofa (Marta Klomfass) and Sister Liberia (Maria Domnik).
The nuns were murdered as part of the mass terror unleashed by the Red Amy as the Soviets stamped their control over areas from which the Germans had just left.
Part of this terror involved looting and burning churches and hospitals.
Nuns from the St. Catherine order were working at hospitals in Gdańsk, Olsztyn and Orneta when the Red Army arrived in February 1945.
Details provided by the IPN state that soldiers beat and stabbed patients and attacked the nuns who intervened, causing horrific injuries.
Sister Rolanda's face was mutilated and swollen beyond recognition and Sister Gunhilda was shot three times, according to the IPN.
Sister Krzysztofa, whose body was found in Olsztyn, died after a prolonged fight with a Soviet soldier.
Her body was repeatedly desecrated, her eyes gouged out and her tongue cut out, and her body was stabbed 16 times by bayonet. She died at the age of 42.
Sister Bona, found in Orneta, worked at St Mary's Hospital in Olsztyn for 14 years. Infected with tuberculosis she was taken to the hospital in Orneta. After being cruelly abused by Red Army soldiers and suffering numerous wounds, she died eight weeks later on May 1, 1945.
Sister Liberia was hiding with her patients, who were mainly children, in an air-raid shelter in St. Mary’s Hospital in Olsztyn when the Red Army arrived.
After leaving the shelter to seek help for one of the sick she was shot by a Red Army soldier. Other soldiers blew up an air-raid shelter with the civilians inside.
The Church is now in the process of beatifying the 16 nuns so that they will become saints of the Roman Catholic Church.