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Wreckage of Soviet plane shot down over Auschwitz in 1945 found in Poland

The plane’s wreckage was found in a pond whose owner pumped water out of it in early winter

WARSAW, January 19. /TASS/. The wreckage of an Ilyushin Il-4 bomber that was shot down in January 1945 during the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp by the Soviet troops has been found in Poland, member of the Close Places of Memory Fund Artur Chongala told TASS on Friday.

The plane’s wreckage was found in a pond whose owner pumped water out of it in early winter and noticed the bomber's fragments protruding from the silt. He told the Fund about his discovery. The Fund started examining the plane’s wreckage.

"We recovered several fragments, by which we were able to make it clear that this was precisely an Il-4 plane [a two-motor bomber of the period of the Soviet Union’s 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War against Nazi Germany]," the Fund’s representative said.

"A legend had long been circulated in Auschwitz about a wrecked Soviet plane but no one knew where it was," he stressed.

"Now it is known that the plane fell short of a couple of kilometers to fly to the Birkenau camp," he added.

Nothing is known about the fate of the bomber’s pilots. No remains were found inside it. An effort is under way to identify the names of the pilots with the help of the Russian embassy.

"We would very much like to learn their names," Chongala said, adding that the Fund would demonstrate the plane’s discovered wreckage at an exhibition.

In Auschwitz-Birkenau, fascists killed in gas chambers and burnt in crematorium furnaces over 1 million Jews, and also dozens of thousands of representatives of the Polish intelligentsia and Soviet prisoners-of-war. Estimates indicate that overall from 1.5 million to 2 million people of various nationalities died in that camp. The concentration compound was liberated by the Soviet troops on January 27, 1945.

The Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp was liberated in the course of the Vistula-Oder operation by Soviet divisions making part of the 60th army of the First Ukrainian Front.

According to the 60th army’s roster (the document was declassified several years ago), Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated by combatants of 39 nationalities. Various estimates indicate that from 234 to 350 Soviet soldiers and officers died during the liberation of the concentration camp.