A multinational team of archaeologists has unearthed a trove of personal items at the site of the Sobibór death camp, including a pendant which could be tied to Anne Frank.
The excavations, in Poland, were conducted in the area of the so-called “Pathway to Heaven,” the path along which Jewish victims were force-marched on their way to the gas chambers. The path is the one on which the victims were forced to shave their heads and undress. The items would have apparently fallen through the floorboards and remained buried underground.
“The recent findings from the excavations at Sobibór constitute an important contribution to the documentation and commemoration of the Holocaust, and help us to better understand what happened at Sobibór, both in terms of the camp’s functioning and also from the point of view of the victims,” said Prof. Havi Dreifuss, Head of the Center for the Research on the Holocaust in Poland at Yad Vashem’s International Institute for Holocaust Research.
The archaeologists discovered a Star of David necklace, a ladies watch and a metal charm covered in glass with an etching of the image of Moses holding the Ten Commandments; on the reverse side of the charm is an inscription of the essential Jewish prayer, “Shema.”
Researchers said the most significant find is a pendant, believed to have belonged to a child from Frankfurt who was born on July 3, 1929. The pendant bears the words “Mazal Tov” written in Hebrew on one side, with the Hebrew letter “ה”, representing God’s name, as well three Stars of David.
They said the pendant bore a specific resemblance to one owned by Anne Frank, author of the The Diary of a Young Girl. Cohn’s pendant bears similarities to the one of Anne Frank in design, and experts conjectured a potential familial connection since both girls were originally born in Frankfurt.
Retracing the steps of the pendant by using the pan-European Deportation Database “Transports to Extinction,” experts tracked the pendant to 14-year-old Karoline Cohn, who was deported from Frankfurt to Minsk in 1941 and reached Sobibór sometime between November 1941 and September 1943 when the Minsk ghetto was liquidated.
Archaeologist Yoram Haimi said “the significance of the research and findings at Sobibór grows with every passing season of excavation. Every time we dig, we reveal another part of the camp, find more personal items, and expand our knowledge about the camp.
“In spite of attempts by the Nazis and their collaborators to erase traces of their crimes, as well as the effects of forestation and time, we enhance our understanding of the history previously known to us only through survivor testimonies. In this way, we ensure that the memory of the people killed there will never be forgotten,” claimed Haimi.
Prof. Haimi and his colleagues, Polish archaeologist Wojciech Mazurek and Dutch associate, archaeologist Ivar Schute, have been excavating Sobibór since 2007. The project is underwritten by the steering committee for an international project to establish a new museum and memorial site at the former Nazi extermination camp, in conjunction with Yad Vashem’s International Institute for Holocaust Research.
“This pendant demonstrates once again the importance of archaeological research of former Nazi death camp sites. The moving story of Karoline Cohn is symbolic of the shared fate of the Jews murdered in the camp. It is important to tell the story, so that we never forget,” concluded Haimi.