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Skeletons of WWII-era nuns murdered by Soviets unearthed in Poland

Poland's Institute of National Remembrance previously discovered three of the murdered nuns in Olsztyn.
Poland's Institute of National Remembrance previously discovered three of the murdered nuns in Olsztyn. (图片信用:由国家纪念研究所提供)

Archaeologists recently unearthed the skeletons of three Catholic nuns who were murdered by Soviet soldiers atthe end of World War II. Their discovery concludes a months-long search for the bones of seven nuns who were killed during the former Soviet Union's brutal occupation of the war-torn country.

Russia's Red Army invaded Poland in 1944, as Nazi Germany withdrew their soldiers. During that time, Soviet forces sought to seize control by suppressing Polish militia and religious figures, imprisoning, deporting and killing Polish soldiers, clergy and civilians. Records from 1945 documented Soviet soldiers slaughtering seven nuns in the order of St. Catherine of Alexandria, representatives of the Polish Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) told Live Science in an email.

找出这些murdered nuns were buried, archaeologists first excavated a site in Gdańsk in July 2020, where they found the remains of Sister Charytyna (Jadwiga Fahl),according to a statementfrom the IPN. An excavation in Olsztyn in October revealed what are thought to be the remains of Sister Generosa (Maria Bolz), Sister Krzysztofora (Marta Klomfass) and Sister Liberia (Maria Domnik), all of whom were nurses at Olsztyn's St. Mary's Hospital.


To find the remaining three nuns, archaeologists in December excavated a site in a municipal cemetery in Orneta that measured about 215 square feet (20 square meters), using local archival records, such as a hand-drawn burial plan, to find the nuns' bodies. To reach the graves from 1945, they first had to exhume more recent burials that were on top of them. The remains they eventually found are thought to belong to the last three nuns in the group: Sister Rolanda (Maria Abraham), Sister Gunhilda (Dorota Steffen) and Sister Bona (Anna Pestka),according to a separate IPN statement.


Graves in Orneta, Poland, held the remains of three bodies thought to belong to nuns in the order of St. Catherine of Alexandria who were killed by Russia's Red Army. (图片信用:由国家纪念研究所提供)

"Mass terror ensued"

When the Germans began retreating from Poland in 1944, Russia seized the chance to take control of the country. "Mass terror ensued in the territory occupied by the Soviets,"according to the Warsaw Institute,波兰的地缘政治智囊团。随着红军进入城市和地区,士兵掠夺和烧毁教堂和宗教建筑,尼姑受到“特别残忍”的接受治疗,“IPN代表说。

In February 1945, Russian forces descended upon hospitals in Gdańsk-Wrzeszcz, Olsztyn and Orneta, where nuns in the St. Catherine order served as nurses. Soldiers beat and stabbed patients and attacked the nuns who intervened, causing horrific injuries; Sister Rolanda's face "was mutilated and swollen beyond recognition," and Sister Gunhilda was shot three times, according to the IPN.

Buried objects such as crucifixes helped experts identify the nuns' remains. (Image credit: Courtesy of the Institute of National Remembrance )

Sister Krzysztofora died after "a long fight with a Soviet soldier," the IPN reported. At the time of her death, her eyes were gouged out, her tongue was cut off and she had been stabbed with a bayonet 16 times, according to the statement.


Originally published on Live Science.