Piaski ghettos housed c.6500 people by mid-1942
Jews from all over Europe were sent to Piaski – a small town 26km from Lublin in Poland – when two ghettos were established in 1940 and 1941 (for its location, see map at bottom of the page).
Following the desecration of the town’s new Jewish cemetery, the Nazis used this place as a shooting and mass burial site for c. 1000 Jews from Germany and other countries.
In November 1942, the Nazis forced local firefighters to dig three ditches in the cemetery.
The Jews destined for execution were then killed next to the ditches and buried in them. The deceased included men, women and children.
"They chased and beat them. And when she went with child, they shoot it, and this mother carried the corpse. And there everyone undressed to underwear, there was a plank. They stood on the plank. There was a mother with a girl on this plank, and this girl went with a doll. She did not know where she was going. But the mother knew. She fell to this pit and this Rudolf Abel, he was a terrible gendarme, stood near this pit and shot a machine gun. And she fell and pulled the child with her, because this child was holding her hand. And then he finished off. "
Witness Marianna Krasnodębska (2007)
The locations of the mass graves have been confirmed
By comparing historical sources and archaeological evidence, it was possible to identify and document the mass graves within the cemetery.
LiDAR data was freely available. It provided a digital terrain model of the site and allowed the dense vegetation to be digitally removed to examine the ground surface beneath.
LiDAR images of the cemetery showed two clear features with mounds and depressions, recorded as areas A and B in the image below.
Human bones and fragments of shoes were found scattered on the ground above and in the vicinity of these features, likely following looting activity.
This information, together with witness testimonies, identified these locations as targets for further archaeological investigation and GPR was used in both areas.
The GPR data showed that both areas A and B contained anomalies consistent with pits.
Two features were found in Area A, one of which was square in plan. A U-shaped feature was recorded in Area B, consistent with witness testimonies. All of these features matched the locations of the surface features described above.
It is possible that there are also individual burials in both areas, but tree roots, animal burrows and subsequent looting activity makes it difficult to confirm this.
Appropriate commemoration of the graves is paramount
The bones and shoe fragments found on the ground surface in the cemetery were collected and reburied in the cemetery with supervision from the Rabbinical Commission.
The areas containing these graves, as well as the whole cemetery in Piaski, requires greater protection to adequately protect them against further disturbance and acknowledge their significance as sites of cultural and physical genocide.
The map below shows the location of the cemetery (marked: Cmentarz Zydowski)
Download the full archaeological report for more details about our work in Piaski's Jewish cemeteries and referencesDownload File