Auschwitz renovation uncovers objects hidden by prisoners
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Auschwitz renovation uncovers objects hidden by prisoners

Spoons, forks, cobbler’s tools and other objects found tucked under chimney flue in main camp’s block 17, possibly hoarded by inmates planning an escape

This file photo taken on December 5, 2019 shows a man walking by the barbed wire fence enclosing the memorial site of Auschwitz. (Janek Skarzynski/AFP)
This file photo taken on December 5, 2019 shows a man walking by the barbed wire fence enclosing the memorial site of Auschwitz. (Janek Skarzynski/AFP)

VIENNA, Austria — Renovation works at Auschwitz have turned up spoons, forks, cobbler’s tools and other objects hidden beneath a chimney flue — some that might have been used to plan escapes, a national fund said Tuesday.

The objects, which also include knives, hooks, scissors, pieces of leather and parts of shoes, were found last month in block 17 of the main camp, Austria’s National Fund for Victims of National Socialism said. The fund commissioned the renovation and restoration works in the block at the former concentration camp in Poland in preparation for an exhibition.

“These utensils, kept out of sight of the SS guards, were perhaps used by shoemakers, or to prepare an escape or simply to be able to eat,” fund secretary general Hannah Lessing told AFP on Tuesday. The items were likely hidden in the chimney because block 17 was used to house manual workers.

“It is no coincidence that a chimney was used as a hiding place in the very building where chimney sweeps were accommodated,” the fund’s structural consultant Johannes Hofmeister said, according to a press release from the fund.

The objects are not expected to be on display at the exhibition, due to open in 2021, but instead have been handed over to the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum for conservation.

One million European Jews died at Auschwitz-Birkenau, which Nazi Germany set up in occupied Poland in 1940 and which became Europe’s biggest death camp. More than 100,000 others including non-Jewish Poles, Roma, Soviet prisoners of war and anti-Nazi resistance fighters also died there.

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