POW camp archaeology

Today we visited the site of the former prisoner of war camp for Soviet soldiers on the border between Lohja and Raseborg S. Finland. The camp was in use from late 1941/early 1942 until it was moved to Hanko some 70 km to the west. We didn´t do any real digging during this initial visit but concentrated on monitoring and mapping the area for future scientific research in 2020 and 2021.

The old monument on the massgrave and the new one, erected in 2011, commemorate the Soviet soldiers who died in the camp in 1942.

We started off with documenting the area of the massgrave of 112 Soviet soldiers who died of decease and exhaustion in the camp in the early months of it´s existence. The grave site is a sinister place but interesting in it´s own right with many signs of different visits to honour the dead including a recent flower arrangement by Finnish communists.

WW2 conflict archaeology is political archaeology. Finnish communists had left flowers and a card stating ”Down with the EU” by the grave monument.

The area of the POW camp itself is very badly preserved. After the war it saw use as a fox breeding facility which contaminated the soil. In the 1980´s the topsoil (to a depth of 30 cm.s9 was bulldozed into large heaps on the margins of the former camp area. Our work today consisted of trying to locate preserved areas of the camp that would be suitable for archaeological excavations.

My long time colleague Lasse Nyman has found the first WW2 item on the site! Photo Jan Fast.

POW or trench art. Hand cut piece of a mess tin, probably intended to be used as a bracelet or similar. Photo Jan Fast.

Due to the bad state of preservation of the site we were not very optimistic about finding much of interest, especially in the bulldozed area. Still here and there medicine related finds popped up and led our minds to the horrific circumstances in the camp during the freezing early months of 1942.

Aluminum 1940´s medicine containers for fighting diarrhea and glass medicine bottle fragment+cap. Photo Jan Fast.

Items like the one´s found to day in a Museum.

The day came to an end way too fast but we were very happy about the results. Although heavily affected by recent activities the area has potential for at least one excavation season. Let´s hope we can be back with a larger team to collect and document the last evidence of what happened here almost 80 years ago.

A collapsed recent building built on what appears to be the last preserved foundation of one of the original POW barracks of the camp. Photo Jan Fast.

Before we left the area we stopped by the km stone by the road to the camp on which the POW´s walked to the camp. The stone was the location of much misery and death but I will write about that later.

The ”stone of sorrow” by the road to the camp. Photo Jan Fast.


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