“We Found People…”

The Discovery, Research, Experiences and Artistic Documentation of Mass Graves from 1945 in Death Valley in Chojnice, Poland


  • Dawid Kobiałka University of Lodz




art, crime scene, mass grave, materiality, World War II


This photo essay shows human remains. Viewer discretion is advised.

Death Valley in Chojnice, Poland, is the site of mass crimes committed by officers of the Third Reich against citizens of the Second Polish Republic during World War II. This photo essay describes the circumstances of the discovery of mass graves dating from late January 1945, when several hundred Poles were taken to the outskirts of the town, murdered, and their bodies burned to cover up the traces of the crime. The text advocates the presentation of human remains as irrefutable material evidence of the crime and of the the cover-up attempt. The reason it is presented as a photo essay is because the visual arts, in the context of documenting mass graves, are able to capture aspects of the site – the materiality of the crimes committed and the aura of the exhumation itself – that are not usually taken into account in archaeological field research. Such elements, however, are inherent to any field research that involves the exhumation of innocent victims.

Author Biography

  • Dawid Kobiałka, University of Lodz

    Dawid Kobiałka is an Associate Professor at the Institute of Archaeology, University of Lodz, Poland, and head of the international and multidisciplinary research project “An Archaeology of the Pomeranian Crime of 1939”, which is financed by the National Science Centre, Poland. His research interests include archaeology of the recent past, modern conflict archaeology, forensic archaeology and community archaeology.


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Photo Essays

How to Cite

Kobiałka, D. (2024). “We Found People…”: The Discovery, Research, Experiences and Artistic Documentation of Mass Graves from 1945 in Death Valley in Chojnice, Poland. Journal of Contemporary Archaeology, 10(2), 310-327. https://doi.org/10.1558/jca.26659