(JTA) – The Auschwitz Museum says it has rescued from storage 16,000 personal items belonging to Jews killed at the Nazi death camp.
Museum officials said Tuesday that Poland’s former Communist government stored the items – including empty medicine bottles, shoes, jewelry and watches – and then neglected them, Agence France Press reported.
“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 said in a statement.
The items were first discovered in 1967 in the ruins of the camp’s crematorium and gas chamber, then stored – and almost forgotten – in cardboard boxes in a building at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw.
The museum, which had 1.72 million visitors last year, recently searched for and found the boxes.
“I can only try to imagine why the lost objects were deposited in these boxes just after digging up. … Presumably, they were supposed to be analyzed and studied,” the museum’s director, Piotr Cywinski, said in the statement.
But “a few months later, there was a political turnabout in 1968 and the communist authority took a clearly anti-Semitic course,” he added.
“Perhaps that is why they did not hurry with the implementation and closure of this project. The times then were difficult for topics related to the Holocaust.”
In a separate development last month, the museum found a gold ring hidden in a false bottom of one of the cups on display in the main exhibition.
One million European Jews and more than 100,000 others died at Auschwitz between 1940 and 1945.