Germany excavates 'Jewish graves'

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The authorities in Germany have begun excavating a site they believe contains one of the last undiscovered mass graves of Jews killed by the Nazis.

The work on the site of the former Nazi labour camp of Lieberose, near Jamlitz in Brandenburg state, follows a decade-long battle with the former landowner.

More than 750 sick Jewish men and women are believed to have been killed there by the Waffen SS on 2 February 1945.

The remains of 589 victims shot the next day were uncovered nearby in 1971.

Initial excavations began on Wednesday in the garden of a two-storey house, 120km (75 miles) south-east of Berlin, where experts believe the bodies of some 753 Polish and Hungarian Jews are buried.

The bodies of 589 people thought to have been shot dead there on 3 February 1945 were found in a nearby village in 1971. The others are believed to have been killed the day before, but their bodies have never been found.

Investigators were forbidden from excavating the site under communist rule in East Germany because a Soviet camp, where thousands also lost their lives, operated there after the war. Houses were later built on the land.

But after unification, the owner of the land refused to allow any investigations to take place. It was only last year, after a lengthy court battle, that the local authorities reached an agreement with him to buy it.

The excavations are expected to take three weeks. If remains are discovered, the local authorities hope to erect a memorial.

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