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Chojnice. Death Valley Research. Investigators completed the exhumations and another victim was identified

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Investigators established the identity of another victim who died in January 1945 on the outskirts of Chojnice (Pomeranian Voivodeship), in the Death Valley, as the local Igielskie Fields are called. This is a woman arrested with her husband and three children by the Gestapo. Probably all of them died, shot by the Germans in a mass execution. Archaeologists of the Institute of National Remembrance discovered almost a ton of human remains – bones and their fragments.

The Institute of National Remembrance in Gdańsk announced on Monday that the exhumation work in the Death Valley was completed. Earlier, thanks to a wedding ring found during the work, it was possible to identify the first victim. It is about Irena Szydłowska, courier of the Home Army. As it turned out, the scientists managed to identify another, second person who also died on the outskirts of Chojnice.

– Based on the initials and the date of the wedding, found on one of the rings recently found by Dr. Dawid Kobiałka’s team, the historian of the Gdańsk Branch Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation, Dr. Dariusz Burczyk, determined that she belonged to Anna Stołowska – prosecutor Tomasz Jankowski said in a press release , head of the Branch Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation in Gdańsk.

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View of the Igielskie Fields in the 1970sprivate collection of P. Szczepanik

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“The Germans also detained almost all of her family”

As they established, the woman was born on May 20, 1890 in Ryszewo.

– This is evidenced by the engraved initials of her husband – Stanisław Stołowski on the wedding ring and the date of their wedding: September 7, 1915 – added the prosecutor. Investigators of the Institute of National Remembrance also established that the woman was born on May 20, 1890 in Ryszewo. She was arrested by the Grudziądz Gestapo on the night of January 15-17, 1945.

– Together with Anna Stołowska, the Germans also detained almost all of her family, i.e. the aforementioned husband Stanisław and their three children: Maria, Jan and Jerzy Szczepan – explained Jankowski.

The arrested Stołowski family was taken to the Gestapo arrest in Grudziądz. From there, after a few days, all of them were transported to Bydgoszcz and, together with other prisoners, “evacuated” in an unknown direction. – In the light of the latest findings, it can be concluded that they were then taken to Chojnice and murdered in the Death Valley, and their bodies were burned to remove the traces of the crime. Only the son Tadeusz survived from the whole family, who at that time was on forced labor near Bydgoszcz – added the head of the Departmental Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation in Gdańsk.

Stanisław Stołowski, Anna’s husband, whose wedding ring was found in the Valley of DeathINP Gdańsk – photo courtesy of Dawid Schoenwald, head of the History Department of the Fr. On Łęgi in Grudziądz

They found nearly a ton of human bones and their fragments

Archaeologists also found more remains of victims of World War II crimes and their personal items or their fragments. – A total of less than a ton of human bones and their fragments were taken from the three burial pits. The largest of them covered an area of ​​nine square meters, and its filling, which consisted of human remains, wood, charcoal, and artifacts, was about 60 centimeters thick, prosecutor Jankowski said.

According to investigators, the revealed burial pits contained human remains from 100 to 500 people.

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So far, more than 4,250 artifacts or their elements that belonged to the victims have also been found. These include wedding rings, medals with the image of the Virgin Mary, silver watches, glasses, spoons, false teeth. – Already on the basis of the huge number of obtained items of the victims, it can be clearly stated that they were not robbed before the execution in the Valley of Death, at best superficially – added the prosecutor.

As he reported, almost 250 shells and shells from the German Walther PPK and P08 Parabellum pistols, which were standard equipment of the German police services during World War II, were also discovered.

– The use of modern methods of archaeological research during the exhumation works in the Death Valley was also associated with the protection of over 100 kilograms of wood and charcoal, which were the fuel used to burn the bodies of the victims in order to effectively cover up the traces of the crime, explained prosecutor Jankowski.

Exhumation works in the Death ValleyIPN Gdańsk

They are trying to find out how many people died and how the Germans were covering their tracks

The Igielskie Fields is an area on the northern outskirts of Chojnice. The place was called the Valley of Death by the inhabitants after the first executions, in the fall of 1939. This crime has been confirmed by historians. Today there is a commemorative cross and two altars. However, the residents knew that there were more victims. In the second half of January 1945, they saw a glow of light that resembled a fire, and there was a “terrible smell of burning” on the city. They suspected that Poles arrested earlier by the Gestapo had died there.

However, these were only stories passed down from generation to generation. The Red Army entered Chojnice on February 14, 1945. According to the stories of witnesses, in the second half of January that year, the Germans were killing Poles there. There was no evidence and this is what Dr. Dawid Kobiałka from the Foundation of Friends of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences together with his team decided to confirm as part of the Death Valley Archeology project.

A cross and an altar in what is now known as the Valley of DeathDawid Kobiałka

Now, for the next months, the experts will analyze the data collected during the work.

– After the end of the exhumation, an attempt will be made to determine the probable number of victims during further research carried out by a forensic specialist, Joanna Chociej. The next task of the expert will be to try to establish the mechanism of the death assignment and to investigate the methods used by German forces to conceal their crimes, the prosecutor said.

He added that the results of the joint work of the IPN’s Gdańsk investigative division and experts from the Friends Foundation of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences and IAE PAN “may become one of the most important findings that have been made in recent years regarding German crimes during World War II in northern Poland “.

There, the devil burns gold, the parents told their children. The truth about Death Valley was too horrible

The Institute of National Remembrance in Gdańsk again asks for contact from people whose relatives lost their lives at the hands of officials and associates of the Third Reich in Chojnice and the Chojnice poviat.

The Institute of National Remembrance in Gdańsk renews its request to all people whose relatives lost their lives at the hands of officers and associates of the Third Reich in Chojnice and the Chojnice poviat, to report to the Institute of National Remembrance in Gdańsk in order to report on the history of their relatives and possibly provide the material. for identification tests to be carried out by the Pomeranian Medical University in Szczecin. Contact: Institute of National Remembrance, Branch in Gdańsk, al. Grunwaldzka 216, 80-266 Gdańsk, phone no. 58 660 67 30.

Memories of the inhabitants of Chojnice and the surrounding area7.08 | The inhabitants of Chojnice called this place the Death Valley after the first executions. In the Fields of Igielskie, during World War II, the Germans murdered even over a thousand people. Just because they were Poles.Death Valley Archeology

Exhumation activities and archaeological research were carried out by archaeologists, anthropologists and ethnologists from the Institute of Archeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, University of Adam Mickiewicz in Poznań, the University of Life Sciences in Wrocław, the University of Łódź, a forensic expert – Joanna Chociej and prosecutors, historians and substantive employees of the Departmental Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation in Gdańsk.

The research project, which is part of the investigation carried out by the investigative department of the Institute of National Remembrance in Gdańsk, was co-financed by the Minister of Culture, National Heritage and Sport from the Culture Promotion Fund. It is also co-financed by the Chojnice City Hall.

Main photo source: IPN Gdańsk



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