Park reconstruction halted after mass grave uncovered in Latvia

Workers discovered human bone fragments during reconstruction work at Northern District Park in Rēzekne, and based on the location historians estimate that it could be a mass gravesite, according to Latvian Radio on April 21.

Historically the park location was used as a prisoner of war (POW) camp for captured Soviet, then later German soldiers. The park has currently been undergoing reconstruction for more than a year as part of a cross border cooperation project.

“While conducting work on Wednesday human bone fragments were found, the information was immediately handed over to the Brethren Cemetery Committee, and on Saturday the fallen soldier search unit had already begun search operations in this area,” said project manager Nataļja Jupatova.

The area that had been designed for landscaping, a children's playground and an evergreen labyrinth was now being excavated for human remains. The municipality also involved a professional search unit.

Some war medals have been found confirming that Soviet POWs were buried there from the end of 1941 to the beginning of 1942. Taking into account the number of people buried there, many of the searchers have recommended constructing a memorial at the location. 46 people's remains were uncovered while excavating the 21 meter by 26 meter area, but “Legend” fallen soldier search unit leader Tālis Ešmits estimates there could be hundreds in total.

“1941 and 1942 winter battle victims are buried there. Those are Red Army POWs who died during the war,” said Ešmits.

Latgale Culture and History Museum researcher Kaspars Strods said the location contained a World War II Soviet army POW camp through 1944, during which time several thousands of prisoners died. “Mainly from hunger, injury and cruel treatment. The specific number of dead isn't known. After WWII Soviet institutions placed German POWs here, who worked in Rēzekne city and the near surrounding area,” said Strods.

The recovered bones will be reburied at the Miera Street Cemetery. The excavation location is currently cordoned off, but construction works continue throughout the rest of the territory.

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