A construction project has been halted after an Austrian psychiatric hospital graveyard was found to contain the remains of what are believed to be Nazi victims, the BBC is reporting.
The remains of 220 people are buried at a cemetery in Hall in Austria's Tyrol province, and authorities believe many were physically or mentally disabled people who died as part of the Nazi euthanasia program. Thousands of people with disabilities were deemed unfit to live and killed by Nazi troops under the program.
"We know that murder was actively carried out at other psychiatric institutions, by overdosing patients, neglect or undernourishment," Oliver Seifert, a historian who recently found documents relating to the graveyard is quoted by the Guardian as saying, noting that the remains are expected to be fully exhumed by March. "At this stage we can't say that all 220 people were victims of the Nazi euthanasia program, but one of the central questions we will be looking into is how they died."
While the existence of the cemetery had long been known, hospital officials say it was not considered to be connected to the Nazi killing campaign until the discovery of a list of those buried there while hospital archives were being moved.
Hospital spokesman Johannes Schwamberger released a statement confirming that a planned construction project had been suspended indefinitely to allow an investigation and to identify the dead. Deputy hospital director Christian Haring said in comments cited by the Associated Press that suspicions were aroused in part by the fact that there was "a noticeable increase in deaths at the Hall Institute" between 1942 and 1945.