Concentration Camp Excavation May Reveal Connection to Anne Frank

Photo Credit: Getty Images
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Holocaust researchers excavating Sobibor, a Nazi death camp in eastern Poland, have unearthed a pendant that may be linked to diarist Anne Frank.

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According to NBC News, the pendant seems to have belonged to Karoline Cohn who, like Frank, was a Jewish girl born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1929. Frank owned an identical pendant—with “Mazel Tov” written in Hebrew on one side, together with the girl’s date of birth, and then three Stars of David and the Hebrew initial for “God” on the other.

Screengrab via YouTube
Screengrab via YouTube
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Cohn died at Sobibor, whereas Frank died in 1945 at a camp in northern Germany, Bergen-Belsen. Having uncovered the second pendant, researchers are seeking out relatives of both Cohn and Frank to discern if there is any relation between the families.

The excavations at Sobibor began in 2007, initiated by the Israel Antiquities Authority and Yad Vashem. While some camps made a weak effort to conceal their murderous operations, Sobibor was clearly a death camp: prisoners were often taken straight from the trains to the gas chambers. After an uprising in October 1943, Nazis destroyed the camp and attempted to eradicate all evidence of the killings. But researchers have located the foundations of the gas chamber, as well as the train platform. Now they are finding tokens connecting us to the humans who lost their lives there.

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DISCUSSION

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IkerCatsillas

While some camps made a weak effort to conceal their murderous operations, Sobibor was clearly a death camp: prisoners were often taken straight from the trains to the gas chambers. After an uprising in October 1943, Nazis destroyed the camp and attempted to eradicate all evidence of the killings. But researchers have located the foundations of the gas chamber, as well as the train platform. Now they are finding tokens connecting us to the humans who lost their lives there.

This is so important. In the West, we often have the mistaken impression that “Holocaust = Auschwitz,” but that’s only because it had more survivors than the other extermination camps, and because it was the destination for most of the deportations from Western Europe. The victims of the other camps, particularly those from countries that would end up on the other side of the Iron Curtain, are much less well known. In a lot of cases, we don’t even know their names.

At Sobibor, where this locket was found, over 250,000 people were murdered, with only 58 survivors. And that’s pretty standard for these places — the other two “Operation Reinhard” camps, for example, Belzec and Treblinka, had even higher death totals with the same number of survivors, or even fewer. Nearly a million people died at Treblinka, a total only surpassed at Auschwitz itself. Less than seventy survived to the end of the war. At Belzec, where scholars think between 400,000 and 600,000 people were murdered, only seven people survived. We don’t even have the same eyewitness testimonies of Allied liberators, because these camps were never liberated; they closed before the end of the war, and the sites were either destroyed or left to decay.

Meanwhile, during the so-called “Holocaust of bullets,” two million Soviet Jews were slaughtered by mobile killing units and buried in anonymous, unmarked pits. In those cases, we don’t even have the remains of structures to help guide research, and it’s well accepted that there are many as-yet unlocated mass graves in Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, and the Baltics.

The amount that we still don’t know, the amount that was lost forever, is staggering. At this point, archaeology is our best bet to tell these people’s stories.