OSWIECIM, Poland, June 9 (UPI) -- Thousands of missing personal items belonging to Holocaust victims who died at the Nazi death camp Auschwitz were discovered at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw.
Some 16,000 items, which include jewelry, watches, thimbles and keys, had been lost since 1967, shortly after they were excavated near the camp's gas chamber and crematorium III. It wasn't until recently, after watching a documentary about the excavation, Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum leaders realized the museum only had 400 items from the excavation. Museum director, Piotr M. A. Cywinski, said a months-long investigation finally uncovered the location.
"Individually verified trails were broken, people working then in the museum were no longer there," he said."Unfortunately the author of the film has already died, the institutions which created the movie have changed, and the archives were silent. Nevertheless, we checked every lead."
Researchers were able to contact the "last living persons" who participated in the project almost 50 years ago. They found the items, packed in 48 boxes, had been stored at the Polish Academy of Sciences, the country's top scientific institution.
Cywinski said the items were supposed to be analyzed and studied and were perhaps left in Warsaw for further review. He said political turmoil in the country in 1968, and an anti-Semitic leaning, may have led to the boxes being tucked away.
"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," he said.
The items were taken to the museum last week and will be documented and preserved.