Workers at a US Army airfield near Stuttgart, Germany have uncovered a World War II-era grave believed to contain the bodies of Jewish slave laborers used by the Nazis, German authorities said Wednesday.
The skeletal remains of an undetermined number of people were found Monday during work on the airfield next to Stuttgart s airport, said Ulrich Heffner, a spokesman for police in the southwestern city.
Preliminary examination of the remains indicated that they were of the right age to be the bodies of Jews used as forced laborers in the area, Heffner said in a statement.
According to Heffner, Jewish inmates from a camp adjacent to the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp were used as slave laborers at the airbase between November 1944 and February 1945, and more than 100 died of hunger and typhus during that period; nineteen were cremated at the time, and another 66 corpses were found in October 1945, shortly after the war ended.
Authorities are now trying to determine the identities of the bodies and are looking for possible witnesses as they look into the case.
The dead would have worked at Hailfingen. It was one of more than 50 sub-camps in the extensive subsystem of the Natzweiler-Struthof camp where Jewish prisoners were to repair the runway of the old Echterdingen airfield for German aircraft, which were flying night raids.
Of some 600 Jewish inmates at Hailfingen, as many as 400 were reported to have died there. Lengthy exposure to the bitter winter was the cause of numerous deaths.
After the war, the US Army repaired Echterdingen and set up an airfield.
The Natzweiler-Struthof camp was situated on French territory. It housed some 40,000 inmates from several countries, including prisoners of war from other armies and political prisoners. Also among the tortured and murdered were Gypsies, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses and socialists.
While Natzweiler-Struthof was used primarily as a slave labor camp, it also housed a gas chamber and crematorium while grotesque experiments using mustard gas, typhus, phosphene gas and sterilization were conducted on German criminals, Russian prisoners of war, and on Jews.
Overall, the extremely high death rate among inmates was attributed to brutal work, malnutrition and harsh treatment by the SS guards.