WWII medical equipment and clothing found at German POW camp where over 40,000 Allied prisoners died
Archaeologists digging at one of the largest German prisoner-of-war camps in World War Two have discovered a vast array of artefacts from the former camp hospital.
Doctor's needles, a fragment of a razor, underwear and uniform buttons, metal utensils, and cast-iron elements of heating stoves were all found during the August excavations at the site of the Lamsdorf POW camp now in Łambinowice in the Opole province.
Dr Dawid Kobiałka, head of the research project at the Institute of Archaeology at the University of Łódź, said: "It was a part of the camp that had never before been the subject of field research.
“Even the precise location of its individual buildings and their present state of preservation was unknown."
The archaeologists were investigating the hospital barrack in the Lamsdorf sub-camp Stalag VIII B.
Currently, the area is overgrown with forest. However, when the team removed a few centimetres of forest undergrowth the outline of the floor of the hospital appeared.
During the excavation, the concrete floor of the building was uncovered. It turned out that it was a large building, 63x15 m in size.
The researchers also came across the base of a tiled stove and fragments of clay stove tiles, some with floral motifs and maker's marks.
They found many objects, mainly connected with the life of the prisoners of war and the camp hospital that functioned there: hospital needles, buttons, and a fragment of a razor.
The team is using modern methods of non-invasive and invasive archaeological research to inventorise, map and document camp relics, the results of which will be compared with historical sources.
3D models of the soil around the camp are being made to help identify areas where there may be mass graves.
During the II World War, Lamsdorf was one of the biggest German camp complexes with a prisoner population of 300,000 allied soldiers from almost 50 nations. It is estimated that around 42,000 prisoners died at the camp.
Most of those who perished are buried in mass graves in the nearby village of Klucznik and at the local cemetery.
In October 1944, soldiers and officers were brought here from the Warsaw Uprising, including over 1,000 women. Later, most of them were transferred to other camps.
After the war, the camp was used by the Polish communist authorities in 1945-1946 as a labour and resettlement camp for Germans. The number of people who were held at the camp at that time is assessed at about 8,000.
The hospital facilities at the camp were housed in eleven concrete buildings. Six of them were self-contained wards, each with space for about 100 patients.
The others served as treatment blocks with operating theatres, X-ray and laboratory facilities, as well as kitchens, a morgue, and accommodation for the medical staff.
The hospital was headed by a German officer, but the staff was made up entirely of prisoners. They included general physicians and surgeons, even a neurosurgeon, a psychiatrist, an anaesthesiologist and a radiologist.
The research team will return to Łambinowice in October and also for longer research next summer. When the project comes to an end, an exhibition and a documentary film will be made about the joint discovery of the history buried underground.