WWII Soldiers Found in Riga
In a discovery resembling something out of Indiana Jones, the remains of 600 soldiers have been discovered beneath a school playground in Riga. The playground, located on Kartupelu Street in the Pardaugava suburb, is now the site of a massive excavation effort led by the "Legenda" search unit, which has been working for days to exhume the bodies. The approximately 600 soldiers had fought on the side of the Axis powers during the Second World War, and were captured and made prisoners of the Soviet Army until their deaths. The soldiers died between 1944 and 1949, and their bodies were buried in a mass grave. While not all of the soldiers' bodies have been recovered yet, the authorities have already identified some and will be able to identify the rest of the soldiers thanks to records from military hospitals kept during the War. Though the soldiers fought on the side of the Nazis, their ethnicities vary, and include Latvians, Germans, Poles, Austrians, Slovaks, Belgians, French and even one soldier from Tatarstan.
The remains of the soldiers will be re-buried at the German cemetery in the town of Pinki, in a special cemetery for Nazi soldiers who perished in Latvia during the War. A memorial plaque for these 600 victims will be put up in Pinki as well. Luckily for the students resuming school in the autumn, once all the remains have been removed from the dug-up playground, it will be levelled again and grass will be replanted on the field.
Helga O'Rourke from United States Reply
Nov. 10, 2008: This article made my heart pound! It is very probable that my father, Karl Derndorfer, an Austrian soldier in Hitler's army, was captured in or around Riga by the Russians in September, 1944. His remains were never found and I wonder whether his body may be among the 600 soldiers found beneath the school's playground. How can I find out more about the identification process of the bodies? Would it be possible for you to direct me to the appropriate office to get more information? Any assistance you may provide to finally bring closure to this mystery is most sincerely appreciated! Thank you, Helga O'Rourke