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World War II-era Nazi mass grave thought found

By Frederik Pleitgen, CNN
  • The remains of 220 disabled people are thought to be buried in the Austrian graveyard
  • Historians think the people were killed by Nazis trying to eliminate "undesirables"
  • A map of the graves was found by historians studying hospital records
  • The company that runs the hospital plans to exhume them starting in March

(CNN) -- Historians believe they have found a World War II-era mass grave containing the bodies of 220 disabled people killed by Nazis in Austria, they announced this week.

The discovery was made by searching files from a mental hospital in the town of Hall, Austria, according to the company that currently runs the institution.

The company believes the remains are those of people murdered under a Nazi euthanasia program designed to eliminate "undesirables."

Tilak, the company running the hospital, says a group of historians led by Oliver Seifert found a map with the outlines of a former cemetery.

"Thanks to the map we know the approximate position of the cemetery and also the number of graves. Right now we believe that 220 people are buried there," a Tilak statement quotes Seifert as saying.

Tilak says it plans to exhume the victims starting in March.

"Tilak sees it as our moral duty to the relatives of those killed to completely clarify the history of the mental institution's graveyard," the press release says.

The Nazis annexed Austria in 1938 after their leader, Adolf Hitler, came to power in Germany in 1933.

The regime systematically murdered about 6 million Jews, as well as millions of other people including Roma (Gypsies), disabled people, homosexuals, political prisoners and others they considered less than human.