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Mass Grave of World War II Victims Found in Belarus

June 18, 1996

MINSK, Belarus (AP) _ A mass grave of about 10,000 people killed by the Nazis during World War II has been discovered in the Belarusan capital of Minsk, a Defense Ministry official said Tuesday.

The 440-yard-long ditch holding the remains of thousands of people apparently executed by submachine guns was discovered on the outskirts of the capital, said Col. Nikolai Yeshchenko.

Judging by their clothes, many of the victims were Soviet Army soldiers, but there were also many civilians, including women and children, Yeshchenko said.

``I was filled with sorrow and horror when I first saw it,″ he said.

Leonid Tormin, who lived in a village near the grave site, said that in the summer of 1941, Hitler’s troops shot people there from a concentration camp in the neighboring village of Drozdy and from Minsk.

Investigators found expensive crocodile handbags, an American fountain pen and Swiss watches at the grave, indicating some of the victims may have been from other European countries, Yeshchenko said.

He said Belarus does not have the funds to properly identify the bodies.

Belarus, a former Soviet republic between Russia and Poland, lost 2.4 million people during the war, almost one-third of its citizens.