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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Vergessene Schlachtfelder – Gräbersuche in Lettland | Terra X + English Subs

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In Latvia, a team of archaeologists is looking for the remains of fallen in the Second World War.

Grave robbers and dangerous munitions caches impede their work. We accompany the team throughout one of their searches.

Forgotten Battlefields: Grave Excavation in Latvia.

Latvia during the Second World War. The Soviet Red Army and the German Wehrmacht are engaged in bitter combat.

It is the last months of the war and from October 1944 the Latvian Courland has become a war zone.

There are still the remains of tens of thousands of soldiers hidden in the enormous woodlands of the Courland.

There are still the remains of tens of thousands of soldiers hidden in the enormous woodlands of the Courland.

For twenty years members of the Latvian associationLegendahave been trying to search for and identify missing soldiers.

The military-archaeological association receives support from people the world over. It works closely with the Latvian, Russian and German War Graves Commissions.

Today they have found a rare object: a flask, tightly sealed, containing a rolled-up paper.

It will soon become clear whether the researchers are holding a message from the past.

In the meantime, another team fromLegendahas uncovered a burial site. Many places in the wood are hard for technology to access.

Here muscle-power and manual labour are required.

The team`s focus is not on uncovering archaeological artefacts. Their main concern is to find and identify the fallen.

The goal of our association is to keep the memories of the war dead alive.

It is our goal to re-bury them and to inform the bereaved of the fate of their loved ones in order to bring them peace.

Footage from the private archive: In 1999, the year in whichLegendawas founded, they pulled a tank out of the Moor, but what happened to itscrew?

It is such questions that involve discovering peoples fates that interests the association.

75 years after itsend reminders of the Second World War are everywhere: many buildings bear the scars of battle.

Around 100,000 German soldiers are thought to still be lying undiscovered under the Latvian earth.

In October 1944 the Soviet Red Army encircled German forces, creating the infamous Courland Pocket.

Hitler ordered the Wehrmacht to hold their ground at any cost.

It was quite clear that the task of the German Courland Army within this pocket was to hold their position for as long as possible

so that it could be used as a space for refugees escaping across the Baltic Sea.

The war meant that there was no time for a proper burial as we see here.

Many soldiers were hastily buried in the Latvian soil; nameless.

Even this barn was said to have been used as a field hospital by the Wehrmacht.

The team is searching for the signs of a mass-grave.

Among their ranks are qualified archaeologists, historians, and doctors as well as students and volunteers.

While digging they discover what appears to be an insignia, but it is barely recognisable.

Then they stumble across metal dog tags, which dead soldiers were buried with.

Because of the information on these dog tags the dead are able to be identified.

However, not only military archaeologists like those fromLegendaare excavating the Latvian earth.

The illegal trade in such finds is increasing.

Dog tags and insignia are sold or auctioned on the Internet, without any information on their origins.

It is mostly young people who illegally dig up war relics in the forests of Eastern Europeand then post videos online.

The self-titled "treasure hunters" are mainly interested in satisfying a dubious desire to collect - and of course for the money.

This is the reason that theLegendavolunteers are often too late:

they search in vain for dog tags, insignia or other information that has already been removed.

In their work, the Legenda members strictly abide by Latvian laws, and they obtain a permit before each excavation.

The ultimate goal is to identify the fallen.

Here lies a buried German soldier who didnt live to see 23. One of thousands.

In Courland, we are unearthing many young soldiers who fought here and fell between 1944 and 1945.

During this period many who were enlisted when the Eastern Front was opened were already dead.

Therefore they enlisted those who had just turned 18 or 19.

In the mass-grave near the barn, there are more bodies than expected.

All remains are cautiously removed from the ground and prepared for transportation.

Pietät und Respekt vor den Toten, unter diesen Kodex haben die Mitglieder von Legenda ihre mühsame Arbeit gestellt.

Reverence and respect for the deadthis is the code that Legenda members work by.

Finally, at this site 22 German soldiers were able to be recovered; 22 people who will be given a dignified posthumous burial.

Many dog tags are still easily decipherable even 75 years after these men were reported missing.

Even their families, until now, had no knowledge of what happened to them.

Finally, all burial sites are closed again and mapped in detail.

But the search for missing persons is not the only task that the volunteers here in Latvia have set themselves.

In their retreat, soldiers once had to leave behind large parts of their equipment on the battlefields, including weapons and ammunition.

Legenda staff also takes care of this legacy.

Time and again they discover dangerous objects such as grenades during their search with metal detectors.

Despite the risk, the business of the so-calledpothuntersis flourishing.

Abandoned weapon and ammunition caches are particularly sought after by theircustomers”.

Some grave robbers earn a fortune from tainted soil. In many places in Courland, militaria-dealers have irrevocably devastated the graves of the fallen.

Even high prison sentences of up to four years cannot deter them.

Legenda excavations often last several days, sometimes weeks.

No technology is able to replace deft human hands in their work. Layer by layer the volunteers uncover one fate after another:

Layer by layer the volunteers uncover one fate after another:

Human lives, which ended abruptly and so far without a trace, in the anonymous earth of Latvia.

The bones and all other finds are examined in detail for clues.

Can the objects be assigned to individual corpses?

Using a metal detector we discovered a helmet, which is now at the dig site. However, the helmet was empty and was lying at the feet of a man.

From the bone structure, you can see that it was a young man, about 1.78 meters tall.

He probably died from a splinter injury to his chest. We found a splinter about four centimetres between his ribs.

It's possible that this splinter was the cause of death.

The dog tag reveals that it is a German soldier.

In the woods, fields, and gardens, there are still many remains of soldiers. They are all missing:

We don't care if it is a Russian, Kazakh, Latvian, German, Italian or Romanian.

For us, these are all missing soldiers from the Second World War.

But not all of them can be identified.

We sometimes turn up and there are human bones scattered around. We dont know which army this soldier belonged to.

He is nameless. The worst part is when someone has taken his name away from him.

Examining hundreds of individual bone pieces is an enormously time-consuming jigsaw puzzle.

But every detail can provide clues to their identities.

However, attributing all bones to one soldier and nationality is a goal that can rarely be achieved.

Especially for former Soviet soldiers.

In contrast to the Germans, they had no dog tags; but identification tubes with handwritten documents inside.

After 70 years buried in the earth, most of them have rusted and rotted away and are now illegible.

Around 70% of Germans can be identified, perhaps even more. In contrast, only around 2% of those from the Red Army can be identified.

The remains of all Russian soldiers are collected and, once a year, buried in a small town cemetery near Riga

with military honours and in the presence of high-ranking representatives of the Russian and Latvian governments.

It is an almost impossible task: How many soldiers are still lying undiscovered in the forests and fields of this region?

Even though peace reigns today, the scars of war are still visible.

Beneath the surface lies the bloody legacy of the past.

If you want to learn more about the Second World War, we have linked two more videos.

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The Description of Vergessene Schlachtfelder – Gräbersuche in Lettland | Terra X + English Subs