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'Mass grave' excavations draw blank in Germany

world Updated: May 14, 2009 18:34 IST

Excavations of what had been thought to be a mass grave in eastern Germany with the bodies of Jews murdered by the SS at the end of World War II have yielded no bodies, an official said on Thursday.

A three-week dig near Jamlitz, 90 kilometres (55 miles) southeast of Berlin, has found evidence of forced labour camp on the site.

"But no human remains were found," Geert Piorkovski, spokesman for Brandenburg state government, told AFP.

The authorities were looking for the bodies of around 750 Jews, mostly from Ukraine and Poland, who were at the Lieberose labour camp, a satellite to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp north of the German capital.

Deemed too sick or exhausted to take part in a forced march away from the camp as the Soviet Red Army approached, the SS mowed them down with machine guns on February 2, 1945, but their bodies have never been found.

The communist East German authorities showed little interest in looking for them, and the search only began in earnest after the fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago this November and Germany's reunification in 1990.

The bodies of almost 600 others killed on February 3, 1945 were discovered only accidentally in a gravel pit near Staakow around eight kilometres (five miles) away from Lieberose on two separate occasions in 1958 and then in 1971.

Between the mid-1990s and 2004, around 20 suspected locations were inspected before investigators centred on the site near Jamlitz.