Curators at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland made a surprising discovery while examining some of the items that the Nazis had confiscated from Jews after they were taken to the death camp during WWII.
The enamel mug was found to have a fake bottom beneath which a gold ring and necklace were found hidden. Time had taken its toll on the container which led to the fake bottom coming free.
Hanna Kubik of the Memorial Collection informed,"During the works to secure the enamelled kitchenware located at the main exhibition, it turned out that one of the mugs has a double bottom.
"It was very well hidden, however, due to the passage of time, the materials underwent gradual degradation, and the second bottom separated from the mug."
Considering it has been 71 years since the concentration camp was liberated by the Soviet Army, the jewellery could have been remained hidden for much longer. "The ring [and chain] have test properties for gold 583 placed on products produced in Poland in the years 1921-1931. It is the head of a knight with the number three on the right side," Kubik added.
Director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Dr Piotr MA Cywiński explained how the cup came to be part of the collection at the camp. "The Germans incessantly lied to the Jews deported for extermination," he said. "They were told about resettlement, work and life in a different location. They allowed the victims [to] take with them little luggage. In this way, the Germans were confident that in the luggage – including clothes and items needed for life – they would find the last valuables of the deported families."
The mug is one in a collection of 12,000 cups, pots, bowls, kettles and jugs that the museum has, and the secret compartment within it indicates that the victims were aware that the items they were allowed to carry would not remain with them for long.
"[It] proves on the one hand the awareness of the victims as to the robbery nature of the deportation, but on the other hand it shows that the Jewish families constantly had a ray of hope that these items will be required for their existence," Dr Cywiński added.
The museum plans to display the item as it was found, with the jewellery left in the hidden section. Following tests and proper documentation, it will be made part of the exhibition from 24 May.