Mass grave

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A mass grave is a grave containing more than one often unidentified human corpse. Mass graves are usually created after a large number of people die or are killed, and there is a desire to bury the corpses quickly. In disasters mass graves are used for infection and disease control, while the motivation for mass graves in war and genocide often is to hide war crimes. The debate surrounding mass graves amongst epidemiologists includes whether or not, in a natural disaster, to leave corpses for individual traditional burials, or to bury corpses in mass graves: for example, if an epidemic occurs during winter, flies are less likely to infest corpses, reducing the risk of outbreaks of dysentery, diarrhea, diphtheria, or tetanus, so the use of a mass grave is less necessary. However, recent research indicates that the health risks from dead bodies in mass casualty events are very limited and that mass graves might cause more harm than good.

A mass grave of the Polish officers murdered in the Katyń massacre of 1940

One of the largest wartime mass graves is from World War II, at Belzec, in southeastern Poland, one of the 3,300 concentration camps. At this concentration camp, it is estimated that 300,000 corpses were burned, ground up and mixed into the camp's soil by the Nazis in an attempt to cover up a war crime.


[edit] Iraq

Mass graves in Iraq are characterized as unmarked sites containing at least six bodies. [citation needed] Some can be identified by mounds of earth piled above the ground or as deep pits that appear to have been filled. Some older graves are more difficult to identify, having been covered by vegetation and debris over time. Sites have been discovered in all regions of the country and contain members of every major religious and ethnic group in Iraq as well as foreign nationals, including Kuwaitis and Saudis. Over 250 sites have been reported, of which approximately 40 have been confirmed to date. Over one million Iraqis are believed to be missing in Iraq as a result of executions, wars and defections, of whom hundreds of thousands are thought to be in mass graves.
An Iraqi woman mourns next to remains of bodies exhumed from a mass grave.
Most of the graves discovered to date correspond to one of five major atrocities perpetrated by the regime.
  • The 1983 attack against Kurdish citizens belonging to the Barzani tribe, 8,000 of whom were rounded up by the regime in northern Iraq and executed in deserts at great distances from their homes.
  • The 1988 Anfal campaign, during which as many as 182,000 people disappeared. Most of the men were separated from their families and were executed in deserts in the west and southwest of Iraq. The remains of some of their wives and children have also been found in mass graves.
  • Chemical attacks against Kurdish villages from 1986 to 1988, including the Halabja attack, when the Iraqi Air Force dropped sarin, VX and tabun chemical agents on the civilian population, killing 5,000 people immediately and causing long-term medical problems, related deaths, and birth defects among the progeny of thousands more.
  • The 1991 massacre of Iraqi Shia Muslims after the Shia uprising at the end of the Gulf war, in which tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians in such regions as Basra and Al-Hillah were killed.
  • A massacre of Kurds in 1991, which targeted civilians and soldiers who fought for autonomy in northern Iraq after the Gulf war, also resulted in mass graves.

[edit] Germany

German civilians from the town of Nordhausen bury the corpses of prisoners found in the Nordhausen concentration camp in mass graves. Photo credit: USHMM
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On June 22, 1941, the German army invaded Soviet territory. German soldiers were very brutal in their dealings with the Soviets. Small units of SS and police, some three thousand men in all, were also dispatched to kill the unwanted individuals on the spot - Jews, but not only Jews; communists, Gypsies, political leaders, and the intellectuals were also killed. Almost 90% of the Jews were urbanized, living in large cities where the rapid advance of the army and the swift action of the mobile killing units left them unaware of their fate, paralyzed, unable to act. There were five stages to the killing. The invasion was followed immediately by the roundup of the intended victims. Those rounded up were marched to the outskirts of the city where they were shot. Their bodies were buried in mass graves - large ditches were filled with bodies or people who had been shot one by one and buried in mass graves. The residents of these cities could see what was happening. They could hear the shots and the victim's cries. Most often, they remained neutral, neither helping the killer nor offering solace to the victim. Yet neutrality helped the killer, never his victim. Frequently, local pogroms were encouraged by the Wehrmacht, especially in Lithuania and Latvia. Before this phase of the killing ended, more than 1.2 million Jews were killed. [1]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1.   Berenbaum, Michael, editor. Witness to the Holocaust. New York: HarperCollins. 1997. pp. 112 - 113

[edit] External links

cs:Masový hrob de:Massengrab fi:Joukkohauta fr:Charnier (tombe) id:Kuburan massal nl:Massagraf sv:Massgrav zh:萬人坑

Mass grave

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