One of the pits used to burn the Jewish victims. (Yad Vashem Archives) (Yad Vashem Archives)
Ponar Forest Holocaust

An escape tunnel in Lithuania, dug by Jewish prisoners trying to escape their Nazi captors during World War II, was recently exposed by using advanced technologies.

Israel’s Antiquities Authority (IAA) said Wednesday an archaeological team from Israel, the US, Canada and Lithuania used mineral and oil exploration scanning technology to pinpoint the tunnel.

The 35-meter (115-foot) long tunnel is located in the Ponar forest, known today as Paneriai, where the Nazis murdered some 100,000 people.

Toward the end of the war, 80 prisoners were brought from the Stutthof concentration camp and forced to burn the bodies as the Nazis attempted to conceal their atrocities.

Secretly, they dug the underground tunnel out of a pit they were kept in. They cut their leg shackles with a nail file, and 40 prisoners escaped through the tunnel in 1944. Many were shot, but 11 reached partisan forces and survived.

The tunnel existence was known thanks to extensive witness testimony, but it took 71 years and advanced scanning technology for the tunnel’s location to be exposed.

“As an Israeli whose family originated in Lithuania, I was reduced to tears on the discovery of the escape tunnel at Ponar,” said Dr. Jon Seligman of the IAA. “This discovery is a heartwarming witness to the victory of hope over desperation. The exposure of the tunnel enables us to present, not only the horrors of the Holocaust, but also the hope for life.”

Israel’s Minister of Culture Miri Regev congratulated the IAA on “its participation in this international effort that turns history into reality.”

“The exciting and important discovery of the prisoners escape tunnel at Ponar is yet more proof negating the lies of Holocaust deniers. The technological developments, that enable the Jewish people to expose more and more heroic stories the Nazis attempted to cover up, are a benefit for all humanity,” she stated.

The team intends to fully expose the tunnel and turn it into a memorial site.

By: AP and United with Israel Staff