RICHARD WRIGHT: The allegations were that the SS had organised the killing and done most of the killing but in addition Polyukhovich who was a forester, Ukranian forester, in this village had assisted them in that work.. and had gone beyond, as it were, passive assistance and had himself rounded up some people who he noticed were missing from the 500, 600 or so who were taken to grave and had taken them to the grave afterwards and personally killed them.
NARRATOR: An eye witness claimed proof of Polyukhovich's guilt lay in a mass grave. So in June 1990, Richard and his hand-picked team arrived in the little village of Serniki.
RICHARD WRIGHT: When we got there, the Red Army was helping us and they had set up a camp. It was in the middle of a pine forest. I was told the pine forest had been planted after the killings. I could see nothing on the surface at all.
RICHARD WRIGHT: I'd never faced having to deal with hundreds of bodies before. I'd dealt with skeletons but here we might have, I assumed there would be, soft tissue attached to these bodies. So secretly, I suppose, and irresponsibly I hoped that there wasn't a grave there.
I can vividly remember finding the first body which showed up about two metres down. It was the skull of a woman with an exit hole of a bullet and with plates down to her waist and that certainly made me feel that I had a big, a big adjustment problem ahead as well as a big physical excavation problem.
NARRATOR:Richard and his colleagues carried on, as if they were excavating a conventional archaeological site. But were the bodies they gently unearthed victims of Polyukhovich? Holocaust deniers often attribute mass murders to Stalin or the Russian KGB. It was, therefore, vital to date the event and identify the killers.
RICHARD WRIGHT: These we found at the grave at Serniki. They're 9mm parabellum hand gun ammunition of the sort that come out of Luger pistols that Germans carried. They are stamped with the place of manufacture in Germany and the date of manufacture, and the most recent one we found was dated to 1941. So now as we do with a coin at an archaeological dig, the killings must have taken place in or after 1941.
We found a lot of hair, whole plaits of hair, and it occurred to me that we could use a radiocarbon assay of the hair to determine if the person died before the hydrogen bombs began to be let off. When hydrogen bombs were let off in the early 1950s they created an enormous amount of radiocarbon. You can measure the amount of radiocarbon in somebody's hair and determine if they died before or after the hydrogen bombs were let off.
If we ignore all historical information, all eyewitness statements, and just use archaeological techniques, we sandwiched the killings between 1941 and say 1952.
NARRATOR: The archaeological evidence helped to reconstruct events at Serniki.
RICHARD WRIGHT: What happened there was that there were indeed mass killings by the SS and the people had been stripped, had been then forced down this ramp into the grave. Some had gone to the left, some had gone to the right. They had laid down in rows like sardines and then been shot in the back of the head. In the middle of the grave that was unused by the SS killings, were these 20 or 25 or so bodies, of people who were wearing clothes and many of whom had been clubbed to death and not shot to death and that's consistent with the eye witness statements.
The eye-witness and circumstantial evidence point to this mass grave being the work of the Germans. The alternative hypothesis, that the Soviets, even in 1990, were trying to pin their own misdeeds onto the Nazis, strikes us as implausible. How could they be certain that the contents of the gravesite would not implicate them in some way?