Posted on April 1, 2019
The mass grave was discovered as building work began on an elite apartment block.
Since then, specially trained soldiers have unearthed the remains of more than 1,000 Jews, killed when the city of Brest was occupied by Nazi Germany.
“There are clear bullet holes in the skulls,” says Dmitry Kaminsky. His military team usually searches for the bones of Soviet soldiers. Here they have removed the small skulls of teenagers instead, and a female skeleton with the remains of a baby, as if she’d been cradling it.
Before World War Two, almost half the 50,000-strong population of Brest were Jews. Up to 5,000 men were executed shortly after the German invasion in June 1941. Those left were later crammed into a ghetto: several blocks of the city centre surrounded by barbed wire. In October 1942, the order came to wipe them out. They were herded on to freight trains and driven over 100km (62 miles) to a forest.
At Bronnaya Gora, thousands were led to the edge of a vast pit and shot.
It’s thought the grave discovered within the old ghetto includes those who managed to hide at first, only to be rooted out.
“When my parents returned, the city was half empty,” Mikhail Kaplan says, flicking through black and white snapshots at his kitchen table.