Some objects are not inanimate: Prisoners’ keepsakes found at Auschwitz
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Some objects are not inanimate: Prisoners’ keepsakes found at Auschwitz

Items including utensils, tools and scraps of leather were discovered last month hidden beneath a chimney flue in block 17 of the main camp,

  • Pendant in the form of a four-leaf clover discovered in a barracks in Birkenau. Photo: Kamil Będkowski
    Pendant in the form of a four-leaf clover discovered in a barracks in Birkenau. Photo: Kamil Będkowski
  • Objects discovered in Block 17 in Auschwitz I. Photo: Marcin Inglot / Auschwitz Museum
    Objects discovered in Block 17 in Auschwitz I. Photo: Marcin Inglot / Auschwitz Museum
  • Objects discovered in Block 17 in Auschwitz I. Photo: Marcin Inglot / Auschwitz Museum
    Objects discovered in Block 17 in Auschwitz I. Photo: Marcin Inglot / Auschwitz Museum
  • Objects discovered in Block 17 in Auschwitz I. Photo: Marcin Inglot / Auschwitz Museum
    Objects discovered in Block 17 in Auschwitz I. Photo: Marcin Inglot / Auschwitz Museum
  • Objects discovered in Block 17 in Auschwitz I. Photo: Marcin Inglot / Auschwitz Museum
    Objects discovered in Block 17 in Auschwitz I. Photo: Marcin Inglot / Auschwitz Museum

Utensils, tools and scraps of leather were found in a prisoners’ block at Auschwitz during renovation and restoration work.

The objects were discovered last month hidden beneath a chimney flue in block 17 of the main camp, Austria’s National Fund for Victims of National Socialism told the AFP news service.

The fund’s secretary general, Hannah Lessing, told AFP that the objects — knives, forks and spoons, scissors, hooks, pieces of leather and parts of shoes — could mean that the prisoners were planning an escape or they were used to survive the Nazi camp.

They have been handed over to the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum for conservation.

Items still occasionally turn up when work is done on the Auschwitz buildings.

“Those everyday objects most probably originated from ‘Canada’ storage area, where the prisoners sorted the property robbed from the Jews deported for extermination and later illegally smuggled various items to the camp. Cutlery with very similar features can already be found among Museum Collections,” said Elżbieta Cajzer, Head of Auschwitz Museum Collections.

Objects discovered in Block 17 in Auschwitz I. Photo: Marcin Inglot / Auschwitz Museum

“We have heard in the media the interpretations that the discovered hiding place could have been connected for example with preparing an escape or with some resistance movement activities, but these speculations are completely unfounded. On the items we have not found any traces of purposeful adjustment to any other function, such as sharpening. On the other hand, we know from various sources that prisoners would often use such hiding places for storing everyday objects,” Elżbieta Cajzer added.

Agnieszka Różanowska-Tanistra, leading Global Conservation Plan, explained: “The items represent diversified character. Common objects known from their everyday use prevail among discoveries, such as: scissors, cutlery, small bottles, combs or toothbrushes. They are often damaged and bear traces of intense use. We have also found single coins. The context of their discovery is crucial, complementing historical knowledge about the camp and its victims”.

“These discoveries constitute for us a precious source of information for example on social behaviours in the camp”, said Bogumił Pilarski, archaeologist from Global Conservation Plan.

“Objects of this kind also confirm the accounts of extermination eyewitnesses as well as broaden the knowledge and imagination on how camp existence in fact looked like”, Pilarski added.

Objects discovered in Block 17 in Auschwitz I. Photo: Marcin Inglot / Auschwitz Museum
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