A museum in Poland has recovered about 16,000 personal items that belonged to victims of the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz.
The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oświęcim said it has obtained thousands of items, including keys, brushes, thermometers, empty medicine bottles, cutlery and jewelry, which were discovered by archaeologists in 1967 while exploring an area where many Jewish prisoners were executed during World War II.
"The objects found during the works are not only a remarkable testimony to the history of the camp and the extermination conducted by the Germans, but also a moving personal testimony of the victims," the museum said.
"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 objects were said to have been placed in cardboard boxes and stored at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw for close to 50 years until they were tracked down recently by officials of the museum.
Looking For The Missing Items
Piotr Cywiński, the director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum, explained that they were uncertain whether the findings of the 1967 archaeological project had already been fragmented or lost, especially after the upheavals in Polish institutions that followed the collapse of communism in the country.
However, they were able to locate members of the 1967 archaeological team who were still alive and who helped them track down the missing objects.
While it is still unknown why the Auschwitz items were kept in the Polish Academy of Sciences' storeroom for decades, it may have come about after Poland went through several changes in political leadership just months following the discovery of the objects.
Cywiński said communist officials in the country at the time chose to follow an anti-Semitic course. This is likely the reason why they took their time in implementing the archaeological project and closing it.
He added that during those times, it was difficult for people to discuss topics that were associated with the Holocaust.
The items are now in the care of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum. They will be properly documented and preserved for years to come.
The Auschwitz concentration camp was part of Nazi Germany's so-called "Final Solution to the Jewish question," which called for the immediate extermination of all Jewish people in Nazi-occupied Europe.
From 1942 to 1944, hundreds of thousands of people from different parts of Europe were transported to Auschwitz for execution in gas chambers. Of the estimated 1.1 million people who died at the concentration camp, about 90 percent of them were Jews.