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Skeletons missing hands and feet found at Hitler's former headquarters in Poland — but cause of death remains a mystery

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Polish prosecutors have discontinued an investigation into human skeletons found at a site where German dictator Adolf Hitler and other Nazi leaders spent time during World War II because the advanced state of decay made it impossible to determine the cause of death, a spokesman said Monday. 

The remains were found Feb. 24 at Wolf's Lair, which served as Hitler's chief headquarters from 1941-44 when the area was part of Germany. The compound of about 200 Nazi bunkers and military barracks hidden in deep woods was the site of the failed assassination attempt on Hitler by Col. Claus Stauffenberg on July 20, 1944.

The spokesman for the prosecutor's office in nearby Ketrzyn town, Daniel Brodowski, said police officers secured the remains after they were found by a local group, Latebra, which searches for historical objects.

A forensic medical expert examined them under the supervision of the prosecutor's office, which was trying to determine if manslaughter had occurred. It discontinued the investigation in late March due to a lack of evidence that a crime had been committed, Brodowski told The Associated Press in an emailed statement.

"The expert stated that the preserved bone remains were of human origin and came from at least four people, three of whom were most likely middle-aged men, and the fourth was a child several years of age whose sex cannot be determined," Brodowski wrote.

But due to advanced decay of the remains, it was no longer possible to determine the cause of death, he said, noting that at least several dozen years had passed.

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German Nazi party leader Adolf Hitler waves to a crowd from a balcony as Storm Trooper commander and Reichstag president Hermann Goering stands by. Corbis via Getty Images

The skeletons, which were all missing their hands and feet, were buried inside the villa of Germany's air force commander Hermann Goering, Reuters reported.

"You'd never expect such things in such a place as it was ... the most guarded place in the Third Reich and after the war, the Russians took over this place," Latebra member Dominik Markiewicz told Reuters. "Everyone wondered what might have happened there ... We tried to think of something, but nothing reasonable comes to mind. We didn't know what we were dealing with at all. Were they some occult rituals of Third Reich fanatics? We have no idea."

After the war, Wolf's Lair  became part of Poland and is now a major tourist attraction.

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People walking at the Wolf's Lair remains are seen on September 2, 2017 in Gierloz, Poland. Wolf's Lair, ruins of Adolf Hilter's war headquarters, is a hidden town in the woods consisting of 200 buildings: shelters, barracks, 2 airports, a power station, a railway station, air-conditioners, water supplies, heat-generating plants and two teleprinters. Michal Fludra/NurPhoto via Getty Images
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