A mass grave dating from World War II and believed to contain the remains of Nazi-era forced workers has been uncovered at an airport in the southern German city of Stuttgart.
Construction workers discovered the grave while digging a canal
Judging by the skeletal remains, the grave contains at least 34 bodies, which investigators believe are those of Jewish slave laborers who starved to death. They were probably part of a group sent to the Leinfelden-Echterdingen site from the Nazis' Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp in eastern France between November 1944 and February 1945.
Survivors of the workers forced to toil at the site said at least 100 Jews died there of starvation and typhus. The bodies of 66 Jews who worked at Leinfelden-Echterdingen were found in a nearby forest in October 1945, shortly after the end of the war.
Investigators specialized in Nazi crimes have been called in to establish whether the victims died at the hands of Adolf Hitler's regime. A murder investigation has been opened.
The sign reads: Crime scene. Entry forbidden.
"It could be weeks until all the pieces of skeleton are assembled and exhumed," said a spokesman for the Stuttgart prosecutor's office.
Investigators have said that two or three of the victims were still alive when they were thrown into the pit.
Just below the surface
On Sept. 19, construction workers digging a canal in a section of the airport now used by the US Army initially found two skeletons only one meter (three feet) below the surface, Reuters reported. Now investigators are digging deeper.
"The prisoners were supposed to build a runway for the airport and covered parking spots for airplanes in the forest," Eberhard Röhm, head of the memorial initiative Leonberg, told Reuters.
At least 3,200 people died during the final months of the war in the eight camps located in the Stuttgart region, according to Stuttgarter Nachrichten daily.