Skeletal remains of men, women and children murdered by Gestapo finally laid to rest
The remains of men, women and children murdered at a Gestapo prison in northern Mazowsze have finally been laid to rest 75 years after their deaths.
The 75 victims buried today, which include three infants, were discovered during archaeological work carried out earlier this year by a special section of Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance.
In the testimonies of survivors, Fort III is frequently singled out for the bestiality of the German guards.
The camp is second only to the Treblinka death camp as the largest killing site of citizens of the Polish second republic, Poles and Jews, by the Germans in Mazowsze.
Today’s burials were for those victims who were exhumed in the third and last stage of the search for victims that started in October 2018.
Funerals took place that year for 57 victims and in 2019 for a further 43 victims.
Adam Siwek, head of the Office of Commemoration of Struggle and Martyrdom, which organised the exhumation of the victims, told TFN: “These funerals are always highly emotional events. Although the identities of the victims are unknown, families who lost members at the fort come to take part.”
He added that archaeologists know that the bodies of victims were burned on scaffolds and the ashes were buried somewhere within the fort.
“We found parts of the scaffold but not the ashes,” he said.
Identification of some of the victims will take place later on the basis of genetic samples taken from the remains, which can be matched to samples taken from the families who lost members during the German reign of terror.
Personal items found during the exhumations in November also offer the hope that some of the victims can be identified.
One item is a gold wedding ring with the initials "OW" engraved inside and the date 17.03.25.
Other personal items found by the archaeologists include a rosary and a First Communion medal.
Describing the discovery of the remains, the Office for the Commemoration of Struggle and Martyrdom said: “This is the true face of the occupier's crime: the bodies of fallen defenders of the homeland thrown into a pit by the victorious invader; the execution victims buried in a pit together with shot dogs; the mass grave of the prisoners of the camp, on top of which we find the remains of babies and a bottle of alcohol emptied by the murderers.”
During the archaeological work, the bodies of eight Polish soldiers were also found. They are due to be buried at a later date.
Adam Siwek said: “By the way the bodies were arranged, it suggests that the soldiers were simply dumped into the grave by the German perpetrators, or by prisoners.”
In one of the excavation sites, the destroyed bicycles of the 28th Infantry Division of the Polish Armed Forces, which was part of the fort's crew, were found.
According to the Fort III Pomiechówek Foundation, the exact number of prisoners murdered at the fort is impossible to determine. It is estimated that around 50,000 people could have passed through the fort, of whom up to 15,000 died.
People were brought here in large numbers from northern Mazovia from elite towns and villages. Underground soldiers, members of the intelligentsia, priests and ordinary inhabitants of Mazowsze were killed there.
After the German victory in September 1939, the fort served as a prison for the defenders of Modlin Fortress and the surrounding outposts. It lasted for a short time, because as early as February 1940 the prison was transformed into a camp for the forcibly displaced inhabitants of the Nasielsk and Płońsk regions, who from March 1941 were taken from there to Germany for work.
The fort was also used for murdering crippled and elderly people from the surrounding social welfare homes.
For several months, the fort served as a ghetto and extermination centre for Jews from northern Mazovia.
From May 1942 to the end of July 1944, a Gestapo penal and investigative prison was opened at the fort, where torture and executions took place on a large scale. The Germans valued the location of the fort away from built up areas.
Survivor Irena Fałkowska-Iglicka described the camp in February 1945: “We could see piles of ashes from burnt human bodies. Almost all over the square, human bodies were buried in shallow graves. In many places, arms, legs, backs or parts of clothing protruded from the ground.”
The fort is relatively anonymous in the public consciousness mainly due to it not officially being a concentration camp. Also, after the war, the site was taken over by the army and remains so today.
The caskets buried today were placed in temporary graves as a final state funeral for all the remains of the victims of German crimes found in Fort III will take place in a new war cemetery that will be built specially for this purpose.
To read more about Fort III in Pomiechówek click HERE.