Police in the German city of Leipzig said on Friday construction workers at a prison near the eastern German town of Torgau discovered the remains of a number of people buried together.
The bones are suspected to belong to victims of the Nazi regime, which operated a detention center at the site.
How was the discovery made?
Builders were working on a wall in Torgau prison when they discovered bones belonging to several people, Germany Image reports the newspaper.
Forensic investigators have confirmed that the bones belong to many different people and likely date back to the first half of the 20th century.
The prosecution has opened an investigation into the origin of the bones and the probable circumstances of the death of the individuals.
Police said the site would be further searched for other bodies that may be buried there.
Where do the bodies come from?
According to German website Tag 24, the remains may belong to victims of the German Nazi regime.
Torgau was the center of the Wehrmacht penal system, with two of Nazi Germany’s eight military prisons. Some 60,000 military prisoners were held there. From 1943 it also housed a German military tribunal.
Some 1,400 people have been sentenced to death by the court for crimes described as desertion, “cowardice in the face of the enemy”, defiance of military force or treason during the war. About 1,200 executions took place, either at Torgau or at other sites.
Torgau is also known as the place where American and Soviet soldiers first met
After 1945, the facilities were used by Soviet forces to detain individuals linked to the Nazi Party. They were also used to detain political opponents of the communist regime before deportation to gulags in the Soviet Union.
The site where the bones were found was built in 1811 under orders from Napoleon and was previously known as Fort Zinna. Some of the executions that took place there under the Nazis were at the moat of the old fortress.
The prison was later used to house prisoners from the East German penal system and is now a correctional facility for some 400 inmates.
More generally, Torgau is also known as the place where US and Soviet forces first made contact at the end of World War II, with soldiers from the US First Army meeting those of the Soviet First Ukrainian Front. A photograph of the meeting has become an iconic image of the end of the war.
rc/sms (epd, german media)