Curators of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum recently made a remarkable discovery. One of the enamel mugs in their collection contained a gold ring and a necklace, hidden beneath a false bottom. That “lid” of the hidden compartment had slowly eroded, revealing the secret within.
The enamel Auschwitz mug is just one of 12,000 cups, pots, bowls, kettles and jugs on display in the museum. These items were taken by the German forces from the luggage of people who arrived at the concentration camp during WWII.
Inside the small hidden compartment of this particular relic was a woman’s gold ring and a necklace, wrapped in a piece of canvas. Test results confirmed that the valuables were made in Poland sometime between 1921 and 1931.
While the museum staff will preserve the items, they admit that their chances of finding the jewelry’s original owners are slim. So far they have found no trace that might help determine the identity of whoever the items belonged to.
The secretion of valuable objects was common during WWII, as prisoners on their way to the concentration camps attempted to hide their belongings from Nazi soldiers. Their captors would lie to the Jewish people they were rounding up, saying that they were only being resettled and urging them to take a small amount of luggage with them. The Germans soldiers’ ulterior motive was, of course, to find the last valuables of the deported families.
For the staff at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, the newly discovered objects confirm two things. Firstly, that some of the Jewish prisoners were aware of the true intentions of the Germans who allowed them to bring luggage. The second and more poignant fact, however, is that Jewish families went into the darkest of situations with the hope that, someday, they would need these precious items once again.