WARSAW, Poland — Fearing the power of their patriotism, Poland's communist leaders killed World War II heroes and anti-communist activists and dumped their bodies secretly in mass graves, hoping they would be forgotten. They were topped with new graves.
But now, a history institute is restoring the memory of the slain heroes and planning proper burials. It is asking to move 194 communist-era graves — including one of a judge who contributed to the death sentence for a man likely buried just a few yards (meters) beneath him.
The move is part of efforts taken by democratic Poland after 1989 to recognize war heroes and anti-communist activists who were persecuted, killed and deliberately erased from records under four decades of communism.
Andrzej Arseniuk, spokesman for the Institute of National Remembrance, told The Associated Press on Monday that a motion to have the graves moved within Warsaw's military Powazki cemetery, at the expense of the state, has been filed with the provincial governor, who will negotiate with families.
The institute is searching for the remains of about 100 independence heroes, from among several hundred killed in a Warsaw prison and then dumped there between 1945 and 1956.
Remains of some 120 others — entangled skeletons and shattered skulls — were discovered in 2012-2013 under a lawn. About 40 have been identified using relatives' DNA. Officials realized that more remains could be reached only by moving newer graves.
Among those missing are Capt. Witold Pilecki, who volunteered to be an Auschwitz inmate and smuggled out word of atrocities there, and Gen. August Fieldorf, deputy commander of Poland's resistance Home Army.
Among the graves of various communist-era military figures, dating to the 1980s, is that of Lt. Col. Roman Kryze, a judge who contributed to Pilecki's 1948 death sentence.