Remains of 4,000 German war dead stored in crates in Usti factory

Wehrmacht soldiers

The Czech media made a grisly discovery last week - the exhumed remains of some four thousand German soldiers are being stored in a factory in North Bohemia. The remains were due to be reburied in a cemetery in Prague, but have been languishing in storage since the project ran out of money.

Wehrmacht soldiers
The Czech daily Mlada fronta Dnes made the grim discovery on Friday, reporting that the remains of 4,000 German soldiers, most of whom fell on Czech soil during World War Two, were being stored in crates in a factory somewhere in Usti nad Labem. The news came as a surprise to everyone, even to local officials.

It soon emerged that a factory making bathroom fixtures and fittings was the unlikely temporary resting place for the remains of 4,000 Wehrmacht troops. They were meant to be reburied in a former German Evangelical cemetery in Prague's Strasnice district. However the plan foundered three years ago when the project ran out of funds, and since then the remains have been stored in Usti. Sebastian Gerhardt, spokesman of the German embassy in Prague.

Photo: CTK
"One problem is definitely the financial aspect. At the moment it's difficult to tell whether the two sides - the cemetery and regional authorities in the Czech Republic and the People's Association for the Care of Wartime Graves - will come to an agreement. There's definitely a lack of finances, but it's an important goal - and also a humane one - to find an honourable final resting place for those soldiers who fell in the Second World War, no matter what side they were on."

Since the mid 1990s the Prague firm Pargent has been exhuming the remains for the German organisation Der Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge, or People's Association for the Care of Wartime Graves. Most of the 4,000 were Wehrmacht soldiers who fell in the final months of the war, as the Red Army approached from the east and the Americans from the west. Many were teenagers, conscripted into the Wehrmacht to defend the dying Third Reich.

Pargent arranged for the bodies to be exhumed from mass graves scattered around the Czech Republic. How they ended up in a fixtures and fittings factory in Usti nad Labem is anybody's guess - local hygiene officers were due to visit the factory on Wednesday. Both the German and Czech authorities are no doubt keen to resolve what is a grisly and highly sensitive problem.