Some 16,000 personal items from the Auschwitz death camp were recently discovered, the Auschwitz Museum announced on Tuesday.
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The items include flatware, brushes, pipes, lighters, kitchenware, penknives, buttons, jewelry, watches, keys, stamps, medical kits, shoes and documents.
“In most cases, these are the last personal belongings of the Jews led to death in the gas chambers upon selection at the ramp,” the museum stated on its website. The items were transferred to the museum, which is located on the memorial site where the death camp operated.
Museum employees found the items after months of detective work. The operation began after the museum discovered that while some 400 items were dug up near one of the gas chambers in 1967, thousands of more items found in the same archeological dig never made their way to the museum and disappeared. A team from the museum a few months ago contacted the last living people who had witnessed the dig. The information they obtained led them to the Polish Academy of Sciences building in Warsaw, where they found the 16,000 items in some 50 boxes.
“I had considered the discovery of such a huge collection after nearly half a century as unlikely as finding the treasure of the lost Galleon,” said Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywinski, director of the museum. “Presumably, they were supposed to be analyzed and studied, or perhaps someone even had the intention to write an extensive research paper on the subject.”
Cywinski said that in 1968, the year after the objects’ discovery, there was a political turnabout and the Communist government “took a clearly anti-Semitic course,” which would explain why the project was never carried out.
“The times then were difficult for topics related to the Holocaust,” noted Cywinski.
“This is an unexpected, totally unique day in the newest history of our museum,” he added.
The items were brought to the museum on Friday and will soon be examined and preserved.
Last month the museum reported another interesting discovery: a gold ring and a woman’s necklace hidden under the double bottom of an enamel mug, after the false bottom of the mug, which was part of its collection, became detached.