Possible Victims of Nazi "Euthanasia" Program: Mass Grave of Young Children Found in Germany
A mass grave containing the bodies of at least 20 children has been found in a cemetery in western Germany. Authorities are checking indications that the children fell victim to Hitler's "euthanasia" program which killed thousands of people with mental and physical disabilities.
Members of Germany's war graves commission peer into the mass grave uncovered last Thursday. More bodies were discovered nearby on Friday.
Among the bodies found so far are 20 skeletons of children believed to have been aged between one and seven. Most of them were buried without coffins. Two of the children's skulls show signs of possible physical disabilities. Some of the bodies were found in a war cemetery adjoining Menden's Catholic cemetery.
"There's a vague preliminary suspicion that they may be euthanasia cases," said prosecutor Heiko Oltmanns of the Dortmund public prosecutors' office.
The search for a mass grave containing up to 200 bodies began last week in response to years of rumors about the site and testimony from surviving eyewitnesses who reported seeing frequent transports of bodies to the cemetery at the end of World War II.
They may have come from nearby Wimbern hospital built in 1943 on the orders of Hitler's personal physician Karl Brandt, who was in charge of the euthanasia program.
Some of the bodies found last week had been buried just 70 centimeters deep. Authorities have been studying archive material for several years but haven't been able to ascertain from the documents whether the cemetery contains Nazi victims.
The bodies will now be DNA tested. If examiners find indications that they were murdered by a doctor in the hospital, prosecutors will launch a criminal investigation.
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