VIENNA, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- Austrian authorities say they will dig up a newly found mass grave thought to hold victims of the Nazi "euthanasia" program.
Construction workers preparing a site for a new building at a psychiatric hospital in Hall, near Innsbruck, uncovered 220 decomposed bodies.
"We cannot assume that all bodies are euthanasia victims, but there was a marked increase in death in the hospital in the last years of the war," Dr. Christian Haring, hospital director, told The Irish Times. Forensic experts will exhume the bodies for identification, which could take two years.
In the euthanasia program, begun in 1939, 70,000 to 200,000 people deemed "unworthy of life" -- mostly mentally and physically disabled men, women and children -- were killed with drugs or gas. It was halted in 1941 after an outcry led by church leaders, but continued quietly until the end of the war.
The bodies discovered in Hall are believed to come from the latter period.
"It's possible that the graveyard was created in October 1942 as there were plans at this time to create a euthanasia facility in Hall," said Haring.