Polish authorities have been digging up remains behind a prison in the city of Bialystok—and the 280 bodies discovered so far offer a grim reminder of an array of painful periods in the early 20th century. Many of the dead were killed under Nazi or Soviet control, but others are victims of the Poland's postwar secret police, the New York Times reports. "These are not burial grounds,” says a prosecutor heading the project. "These are death fields." And they bring to light history that isn't much discussed, locals say.
First, there were killings of prisoners during Soviet occupation in 1939; then, there were the local deaths of some 6,000 under the Nazis. After the war, Poland's Communist government gave out at least 250 death sentences, but details are murky. As for the local reaction, "some people don’t know about it, others don’t care, and a lot of people just want to forget it," says a sociologist. Still others want to keep it that way. After a historian discovered the existence of the bodies, his team suffered threats and bricks thrown through their windows, the historian says. "Some people still feel it is still safer not to talk about such matters," he notes. "People are also worried about what might be revealed about their own families, or their neighbors." (More Poland stories.)