A gruesome previously unknown mass grave of 1,362 Nazi victims – including 675 children – has been unearthed in western Russia.
The dead – all believed to be civilians – were found in a macabre unrecorded genocide burial close to the base of an invading Hitler SS unit during the Second World War, say experts.
The victims – almost all without visible wounds – were naked and without shoes when they were buried.
One harrowing theory is that younger remains here were from a notorious nearby concentration camp where at any one time 300-plus children were brutally incarcerated solely to supply blood for wounded German officers and soldiers fighting near Leningrad – now St Petersburg.
The bodies of 1,362 Nazi victims have been discovered at a grave in Novaya Burya village, in the Lomonosovsky district of Leningrad region (pictured)
The victims – almost all without visible wounds – were naked and without shoes when they were buried
One theory is that the younger remains were from a notorious nearby concentration camp where at any one time 300-plus children were incarcerated solely to supply blood for wounded German soldiers. Pictured: A memorial to the child victims of the Vyritsa camp
Many newborns-to-teenagers perished here from chronic blood loss.
Head of the mass grave search team Viktor Ionov said: ‘We are digging and digging, but there is no end to it at all.
‘And – morally – civilians are harder to dig out than military victims.’
He said: ‘The victims were not wearing clothes and shoes.
‘Usually something decayed remains, for example soles – but not here.’
All of the victims uncovered at the site were found to be naked and without any shoes on their feet
A tag, with the number 1410, was also uncovered by the excavation team – though the significance of the tag is not yet known
Pictured: Blue bags filled with the remains of the victims lie to the side of the dig site in Russia
This week 50 sacks of human remains were taken from the burial pit in Novaya Burya village, in the Lomonosovsky district of Leningrad region.
These contained the latest 415 victims – more than half of them children – to be collected from the mass grave.
‘In total the bones of 1,362 people, 675 out of them children, have been dug up here,’ said search volunteer Sergei Beregovoi.
Most of the adults were women, including at least three who were pregnant.
There are no gunshot wounds while very few victims show signs of blows, but most have no indication of their cause of death.
The majority of the bodies that have so far been recovered were those of women, with at least three believed to have been pregnant
Viktor Ionov (pictured), who is leading the search team, said that the strangest thing about the new discovery is that almost nothing is known about it at all – with local historians also currently stumped
It is expected more victims will be found when searching resumes after the winter.
One tag numbered 1410 was found, but its significance is so far unclear.
The first hint of a mass grave came to light when the remains of two adults and a newborn child were found a year ago during a land survey.
Soon afterwards, another 20 skeletons were discovered, and a criminal case for mass murder was opened by the Russian Investigative Committee.
This is now likely to be recategorised as a genocide investigation, say reports.
Investigators believe the bodies were dumped by trucks at the burial site, and they lie a few feet below the surface.
‘The remains were lying in piles,’ Beregovoi told 47news outlet.
‘Some had their arms stretched.’
The first hint of a mass grave came to light when the remains of two adults and a newborn child were found a year ago during a land survey
The bodies were initially categorised under a criminal investigation, but with more and more victims being unearthed, it is likely set to be reclassified as a genocide investigation
He had never seen such a distressing burial despite years working on finding lost graves, he said.
‘To be honest, I was utterly horrified, despite all my experience.’
Nazi troops were stationed some 300 metres (985ft) from the site between 1941 and early 1943, during the Siege of Leningrad, now St Petersburg.
An SS unit was also based nearby.
‘The most mysterious thing is that neither the elderly, nor local historians, remember anything about what happened here,’ said Ionov.
During the Second World War, Nazi soldiers were stationed just 300 metres from the site where the bodies have been found, as they fought during the Siege of Leningrad in 1943
A second theory that has been put forward, is that the victims died from famine, during the harsh winters between 1941-43, but this is far from certain
‘There is no evidence in the military archives.’
Nor was the site suspected as a graveyard or cemetery.
Ionov said: ‘I do not understand why no-one knows anything at all about what happened here.’
One version is that the victims died from famine, during the harsh winters between 1941-43, but this is far from certain.
Experts involved in the mass grave discovery are also examining whether children from the evil Vyritsa ‘blood transfusion’ concentration camp, near Gatchina, were buried here.
Pictured: The scale of the sig site where the bodies of more than 1,000 Nazi victims have been discovered
This week 50 sacks of human remains were taken from the burial pit in Novaya Burya village, in the Lomonosovsky district of Leningrad region
More than 300 ‘juvenile prisoners’, aged from newborns to 14, were kept for one purpose: pumping out blood for the soldiers and officers of the Wehrmacht who fought near Leningrad.
Mothers were permitted to be with the younger children in this camp, but the mass grave is some 30 miles from the notorious Nazi facility.
One survivor reported: ‘My sister, Elena, died there, in the infirmary.
‘She was begging me, ‘Alexander, please take me away from here. I have no blood left, but they keep coming for more.’
Search volunteer Sergei Beregovoi (pictured) said he had never seen such a distressing burial despite years working on finding lost graves
‘She died the next day.’
This version may explain why locals around the grave never reported a mass execution at this place.
It could also be consistent with the child victims’ bones having no visible wounds.
There is a Soviet-era memorial to the camp victims.
Around 100 graves were found close to its site but other child blood transfusion victims from Vyritsa were never found.