Pendant of teen, possibly linked to Anne Frank, found at death camp
Researchers at site of Sobibor extermination camp discover items dropped as victims walked to gas chambers
Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.
An archaeological dig at site of the Sobibor death camp in what was once Nazi-occupied Poland has uncovered several personal items from victims that were apparently dropped as their owners were forced to undress before being sent to the gas chambers.
Among the articles found in foundations where a building once stood was a pendant bearing the date of birth and hometown of a girl who would have been a teenager at the time, the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum said in a statement Sunday.
The piece of jewelry bears a close resemblance to a pendant owned by Holocaust diarist Anne Frank, who was murdered by the Germans at the Bergen-Belsen concentration in Germany, some time in early 1945, when she was 15 years old.
In another link tying the girls together, they were both born in Frankfurt, Germany.
The dig was carried out at the site where victims were made to undress and their heads were shaved before being forced to walk along the so-called “Road to Heaven” — the grim name given to the path that led to the gas chambers where they were murdered.
Researchers believe items dropped at that point slipped through the floorboards into the foundations below, where they were discovered over 70 years later.
Among other things found were a Star of David necklace, a woman’s watch, and a metal charm covered in glass with an etching of the biblical figure Moses holding the Ten Commandments.
“On the reverse side of the charm is the inscription of the essential Jewish prayer ‘Shema,'” the statement said.
The Frankfurt pendant has the inscription Mazel Tov in Hebrew with the date July 3, 1929, on one side and on the other, the Hebrew letter hey — used to symbolize God’s name — along with three stars of David.
Frank was born on June 12, 1929.
After searching a database of Holocaust victims, researchers came to the conclusion the pendant might have belonged to a girl by the name of Karoline Cohn, who was born on July 3, 1929, in Frankfurt and then deported to the Minsk ghetto on November 11, 1941.
Cohn’s fate from there is not known. She may have died in the ghetto. The pendant is believed to have reached Sobibor some time between November 1941 and September 1943, when the ghetto was shut down and 2,000 Jewish prisoners inside were sent to death camp.
If she was still alive and in possession of the piece, it was there that 14-year-old Cohn dropped the pendant.
“This pendant demonstrates once again the importance of archaeological research of former Nazi death camp sites,” Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Yoram Haimi said. “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.”
Digs have been going on at the Sobibor site for 10 years and in the past researchers have found the foundations of the gas chambers, the train platform, and personal artifacts from victims.
As both Frank and Cohn were born in Frankfurt, researchers are now looking for relatives who may be able to shed light on any connection between the girls.
“Relatives of Karoline Cohn, or any member of the public who can assist with details regarding her family or Sophie Kollmann, who filled out Pages of Testimony in April 1978 for Richard Else Cohn and Karoline Cohn, are requested to contact Yoram Haimi via email [email protected],” Yad Vashem said in the statement.
Polish archaeologist Wojciech Mazurek, Haimi, and their Dutch associate, archaeologist Ivar Schute, led the excavations at the site of the Nazi-operated death camp, where as many as 300,000 people, mostly Jews, were murdered during the Holocaust.