Researchers uncover hidden passage where 80 Jewish prisoners painstakingly dug their way out of the Ponar forest death pits by hand
An international research team has located a forgotten tunnel in Lithuania dug by Jewish prisoners trying to escape their Nazi captors during World War II, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Wednesday.
A team of archaeologists and mapmakers from Israel, the US, Canada and Lithuania used mineral and oil exploration scanning technology to pinpoint the tunnel, the authority said in a statement Wednesday.
The 35-meter (115-foot) tunnel is located in the Ponar forest, known today as Paneriai, where the Nazis killed 100,000 people – mostly Jews – during the Holocaust.
Israeli researcher Dr. Jon Seligman, whose family originated from Lithuania, said the discovery of the Ponar tunnel “reduced him to tears.”
“This is a heartwarming testimony to the victory of hope over despair,” he said according to the IAA statement. “The discovery of the tunnel allows us to not only expose the horrors of the Holocaust, but also the hope for life.”
Seligman led the team of researchers together with US Jewish History Professor Richard Freund of the University of Hartford in Connecticut.
Thanks to advances in archaeological technology — namely ground penetrating radar and electrical resistivity tomography — Freund said his team was able to examine the site without disturbing the remains of the some 100,000 people buried there.