Holocaust Archaeology: Ground Penetrating Radar Locating the Nazi Mass Execution Trenches at Fort IX in Kaunas, Lithuania

Authors: Joseph Beck*, University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire
Topics: Historical Geography
Keywords: ground penetrating radar, holocaust
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Napoleon Foyer/Common St. Corridor, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

An international team of researchers were asked to investigate the location of Nazi mass execution trenches at Fort IX in Kaunas, Lithuania in July of 2017. In 1941, under the orders of Adolf Hitler, the Nazis invaded Lithuania during operation Barbarossa. Shortly after the invasion of Lithuania, they began to round up the country’s Jewish populations as part of the Nazi’s “Final Solution”. In Kaunas, Jewish citizens were relocated into ghettos, from these ghettos they were marched to a series of forts surrounding the city. At these forts the jewish captives were imprisoned and later murdered in systematic mass executions. At Fort IX as many as 45,000 people were killed by the Nazi regime. These executions were done in 15 trenches, each containing nearly 3,000 bodies. In 1944, the Nazis knew that they were going to lose the war and needed to eliminate the evidence of these atrocities. The bodies were then exhumed from the trenches, burned, and the remains were spread across the landscape. This left very little evidence. Ground penetrating radar (GPR) grids were taken in the locations where the trenches were thought to be. GPR profiles show the existence of horizontal subsurface disturbances in the underlying stratigraphy. These correspond to eye-witness and past archaeological accounts. The results collected from this ground penetrating radar project provide important evidence in verifying the horrendous mass murders conducted by the Nazi Regime in the 1940’s.

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