Arnsberg Forest massacre

The Arnsberg Forest massacre (also known as the Massacre in Arnsberg Woods) was a series of mass extrajudicial killings of 208 forced labourers and POWs (Ostarbeiter), mainly of Russian and Polish descent,[1][2] by Nazi troops under the command of Hans Kammler[3] from 20 to 23 March 1945.

Arnsberg Forest massacre
Part of World War II
Massgrave Suttrop-Dig graves for the bodies of 57 Russians.jpeg
German locals from Suttrop dig graves for the bodies of 57 Russians, including women and one baby, exhumed from a mass grave nearby.
LocationArnsberg Forest, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Coordinates51°22′43.95″N 8°20′9.76″E / 51.3788750°N 8.3360444°E / 51.3788750; 8.3360444Coordinates: 51°22′43.95″N 8°20′9.76″E / 51.3788750°N 8.3360444°E / 51.3788750; 8.3360444
Date20–23 March 1945
Attack type
Extrajudicial killing
WeaponsFiring squads
Deaths208 people
VictimsRussian and Polish forced labourers and Prisoners of War
Perpetrator Nazi Germany

As of 2021, only 14 of the 208 victims have been identified.

First massacreEdit

The first killing occurred on 20 March in the Langenbach Valley, near Warstein, when 71 prisoners were marched by Hans Kammler's forces into the Arnsberg Forest, where they were instructed to hand over all their clothes and belongings and leave them on the side of the road. As they were led to a streamside escarpment, they were executed en masse via firing squad. The majority of the civilians were women; adult men only made up 10 of the total number of prisoners.[2][4]


A study by archaeologists in 2019 found a number of different artifacts at the site where the victims were buried in a mass grave, including colourful buttons, shoes, and a Polish dictionary.[2][5]

The archaeologists also found bullets scattered around the location, which suggested some of the prisoners tried to escape.[6]

Second massacreEdit

A German man holding the body of a murdered baby exhumed from the mass grave of 57 people killed by the Wehrmacht.

In the second massacre, the Waffen-SS and the Wehrmacht made another group of 57 prisoners dig a zig-zagged series of trenches. Right after finishing the project, they were gunned down by the Nazi soldiers and thrown into the trenches, meant to be a mass grave.[4]

Third massacreEdit

On 23 March, the Wehrmacht blew a deep hole in the ground near Eversberg using grenades. Eighty labourers were lined up in front of the hole and shot in a manner so their bodies would fall into the pit. The burial site was covered with a cow paddock.[2]


In 2019, an archaeological study found 50 different artifacts at the site. While the Nazis had robbed most of their victims' possessions, they did leave behind materials they considered to be worthless, such as Soviet coins (indicating that many of the victims were Russian), a comb stand, and a harmonica.[2][7]


German civilians exhume the 51 bodies of the second massacre as American soldiers supervise them.

A few weeks after the massacres, the area around Arnsberg Forest was liberated by American troops, who discovered the first and second graves. The Americans heard about the killings from German informers. The soldiers, intending for the massacre to be revealed to the public, proceeded to organize the entire local German population (civilians and informers) to view the exhumation of the bodies.[7][1]

Stele in Fulmecke Cemetery to Soviets killed during the massacres

The third site was not found until 1946, when the British military located it after being told by an informant. The grave's bodies were exhumed the following year and placed in the Fulmecke Cemetery in Meschede, which was also where the remains of the other massacres' victims were reburied.[7]

In 2019, a major scientific study analyzing all three sites occurred, resulting in the discovery of over 400 different artifacts by the archaeologists.[1][2]


  1. ^ a b c Rogers, James (2019-03-13). "Hundreds of chilling items discovered at Nazi massacre sites". Fox News. Archived from the original on 2021-06-26. Retrieved 2021-10-28.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Magazine, Smithsonian; Solly, Meilan. "400 Artifacts Unearthed at Site of Nazi Massacre Targeting Polish, Soviet P.O.W.s". Smithsonian Magazine. Archived from the original on 2021-04-26. Retrieved 2021-10-28.
  3. ^ "The Massacre in the Arnsberg Forest: Nazi crimes perpetrated on Russian and Polish forced labourers in 1945". Archived from the original on 2021-07-28. Retrieved 2021-11-04.
  4. ^ a b Welle (, Deutsche. "German forest reveals clues to Nazi-murdered victims | DW | 08.03.2019". Deutsche Welle. Archived from the original on 2020-11-29. Retrieved 2021-10-27.
  5. ^ Gannon, Megan (2019-03-19). "Traces of Infamous Nazi Massacre Unearthed in Germany". Archived from the original on 2021-10-28. Retrieved 2021-10-28.
  6. ^ Dier, Arden (2019-03-21). "Remnants of Nazi Massacre Found in Germany". Newser. Archived from the original on 2020-11-07. Retrieved 2021-11-04.
  7. ^ a b c Mustermann, Erik (2019-04-03). "German Archaeologists Unearth Three Mass Graves in the Arnsberg Forest". WAR HISTORY ONLINE. Archived from the original on 2021-10-28. Retrieved 2021-10-28.

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