The excavation of mass graves containing victims of mass murder committed by German forces during World War II can be divided into two groups:
- Excavations presumably carried out by German units during the war in attempts to erase traces of their crimes. This is said to have happened during a large-scale operation nowadays referred to as Aktion 1005. These excavations are covered extensively in the entry on this topic.
- Excavations by groups inimical to the Third Reich with the aim to expose National-Socialist mass atrocities. These were carried out already during the war by the Soviets, as they reconquered their territory. In subsequent years, Polish and other judicial authorities, forensic investigators and historical researchers continued this work well into the 2000s.
The reports of Soviet commissions claiming to have excavated German mass graves on Soviet territory are discussed in the entry on Aktion 1005. Polish, Soviet, Israeli, Serbian and British forensic research into mass graves at the various claimed extermination camps are discussed in the respective entries for these camps (Belzec, Chełmno, Maly Trostenets, Semlin, Sobibór, Treblinka). No systematic forensic research on possible (former) mass graves at Auschwitz seems to have been conducted, or at least their results have not been made publicly accessible. Latter-day forensic examination of Einsatzgruppen mass graves are discussed in the section “Forensic Findings” of the Einsatzgruppen entry.