Large cache of Holocaust-era Judaica discovered during renovation work in Lodz

Some 400 objects, including menorahs, kiddush cups and silver-plated cutlery, had been stashed underground by their Jewish owners, who never returned for them.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Workers doing renovations on an apartment house in Lodz, Poland, found a box filled with Judaica and other objects believed to have been hidden by their owners during the Holocaust.

Some 400 items were recently discovered about 70 centimeters underground at the foundations of a 19th-century building on Północzna Street, which during World War II was located outside of the ghetto that the Nazis established in the city in February 1940.

The objects were wrapped in Yiddish, German and Polish newspapers dated October 1939, which indicates that that it was right before the owners were forced to move into the ghetto.

The stash included Jewish items ranging from holy books to ritual objects such as Chanukah menorahs, kiddush cups and Sabbath candlesticks, but also everyday valuables such as silver-plated cutlery, beautiful perfume bottles, and cigarette cases.

It is an open question why the Jews didn’t take the more expensive items with them, as they could have been saved to be bartered for food and other necessitie, But this was very early onin the war, and experts theorized that at the time, the owners were simply worried that the German occupiers would steal their property if it wasn’t hidden.

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“This is the largest Judaica find of its kind in recent years in the Lodz region,” said Daria Blaszczynska, spokesperson for the Office for the Protection of Regional Heritage in Lodz.

When the box was discovered and inspected, she added, “it was determined that there could be additional findings, so the entire site was thoroughly scrutinized. As a result, more than 70 additional items were found.”

City official Agnieszka Kowalewska-Wójcik called the discovery “extraordinary,” telling Polish media that “These are very valuable historical objects that testify to the history of the inhabitants of this building.”

The Biegowelove news site reported that on December 22, the fifth night of the Chanukah holiday, Lodz’s Jewish community arranged a public event in which people lit two of the menorahs that had been found.

All the objects are currently being restored and cleaned, and the collection will then be transferred to Lodz’s Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum. Researchers there will try to determine the identities of their owners or, as is most likely, their heirs.

Even that may be a difficult task.

Most of the city’s Jews were deported to the Chelmno death camp until the ghetto was finally liquidated in August 1944. When the Soviet army liberated Lodz five months later, only 877 Jews were still alive in the city. In total, of the 223,000 Jews in Lodz before the Nazi invasion, only 10,000 survived the Holocaust.