German death site is not Nazi, pathologist says

25th January 2008, Comments 0 comments

Officials say graves date to the 19th century.

Kassel, Germany (dpa) - Investigators of a mysterious grave site in central Germany said Friday evidence strong that it was from the 19th century, not the Nazi period as some suspected.

Murder-squad police at the building site in the city of Kassel have recovered the bones of at least 60 dead.

Marcel Verhoff, a pathologist, examined 35 skeletons at the site Friday and said that two were of women.

"That doesn't rule out their being the dead from a battle, but it makes it less likely," said Verhoff, an expert on the age of buried bones. He said he was also sure they were not from the past 50 years, and were older.

Police later announced that they would end their inquiry, since it could not now lead to any prosecution.

The deaths might be linked to the presence of a military hospital on the site during the 19th century.

Historians are also reviewing whether the dead could be victims of an epidemic of cholera, typhus or the Spanish flu of 1918, though Verhoff said the absence of children's remains made that unlikely.

"They had higher child mortality in the 19th century, especially during epidemics," he said.

For a week, teams of police had been picking the skeletons, some neatly laid out, others jumbled, from the soil as a mechanical excavator dug deeper into the soil of Kassel, north of Frankfurt.

The investigation is now of historical interest only.

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