Conservators constantly discover new traces of the history of Auschwitz
Thanks to conservation works conducted within the Memorial, the objects – traces of people and their tragic stories in German Nazi Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp – are constantly discovered.
The last discovery was made during the works connected with the creation of a new Austrian exhibition in Block 17 within the former Auschwitz I camp. About 200 historical items were discovered in one of the flues. They are in particular the fragments of cutlery: spoons, forks and knives as well as fragments of metal wire, unidentified metal construction elements as well as nails. They bear traces of burning and shape deformation due to high temperature and are covered with a layer of soot.
“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.
“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 emphasized.
In the course of similar works conducted in Block 14, a dozen everyday objects, such as cutlery, shoes and wallets, were found in the chimney. In Block 27, also during exhibition-related works, prisoner badges were discovered under the floor. Some discoveries were also made under soffit surface.
A lot of objects have recently been found at the Auschwitz II-Birkenau site during large-scale conservation works in brick barracks within the BI sector that are funded by the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation.
“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”, Agnieszka Różanowska-Tanistra, leading Global Conservation Plan, explained.
Among the discovered items there are also some objects of more personalized character, such as for example a small and sophisticated pendant in the form of a four-leaf clover made of copper alloy and decorated with green enamel or a piece of animal bone brought from camp kitchen, on which an anonymous artist sculpted the cross, both of them discovered during conservation works conducted in barracks 26 within the BIb sector.
“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”, Bogumił Pilarski added.
Any archaeological artifacts gathered during conservation works are secured on a regular basis by a team of archaeologists taking part in the project. When the studies are completed and their results compiled, they are forwarded to Museum Collections.
It is necessary to emphasize that, according to the recommendations of the International Auschwitz Council, archaeological research conducted within the Memorial is carried out exclusively for the purpose of preparing and performing the conservation as well as works aimed at securing Museum objects and is strictly connected with their scope.