Receding water of Ukraine’s Kakhovka Dam reveals skulls of WWII soldiers

A human skull that was recovered. Photo: MIKHAIL MORDASOV/AFP/Getty Images

A human skull that was recovered. Photo: MIKHAIL MORDASOV/AFP/Getty Images

Published Jun 19, 2023


The Kakhovka Dam has recently been in the news due to claims that the Russian military was responsible for its collapse on June 6.

In addition to allowing 72% of the reservoir’s water to overflow into adjacent residential areas, the collapse has caused an environmental catastrophe that has impacted food supplies, animal life, and the integrity of drinking water.

In Ukraine, as the water recedes, a wholly unrelated discovery has been made: the skulls of German soldiers dating back to World War II.

War History Online’s Clare Fitzgerald discovered reports of skeletal remains on the Telegram channel, “Politika Strana”. The skeletal remains were discovered in the mudflats at the reservoir’s base following the Kherson Dam explosion.

Some of the skulls still have military helmets on resembling those worn by Wehrmacht soldiers during World War II, as evidenced by video footage widely shared on Twitter.

The skulls may trace back to the Battle of the Dnieper, which was fought in the region during World War II, according to Ukrainian historians. It was one of the largest campaigns of the war in terms of personnel, with 2.6 million Russian Red Army soldiers facing only 1.1 million Germans.

Germany was defeated by the Soviet Union over the span of four months, from August to December 1943.

Oleksii Kokot, an expert on Ukrainian German military relics, told The Guardian that “dead German soldiers were just left lying in the fields”, implying that “these could be German soldiers”.

Andrii Solonets, director of the National Museum of the History of Ukraine in World War II, told The Guardian, “the losses of German and Romanian personnel were as high as 20 000. Theoretically, this video depicting the helmet and skull could be associated with these occurrences”.

The discovery of the skulls has not been confirmed, as the Ukrainian government has not yet commented on the matter.

This has led some to believe the video is a hoax, with one Twitter user stating, “The skull with helmet makes me dubious. I cannot imagine how the helmet could remain affixed to the head.”

While the authenticity of the skulls has been questioned, other artefacts from World War II have been discovered in the same region of Ukraine.

The country’s interior ministry had previously cautioned citizens against walking along the reservoir, as ammunition had been uncovered. On June 10, a controlled detonation to eliminate the dangers was conducted.

According to The Guardian, if the remains are determined to be those of Wehrmacht combatants, the German War Graves Commission will be involved in their recovery. Officials will likely have to wait for the Russia-Ukraine War to end before they can visit the site.