A treasure that had been buried under the fence in the yard behind the building at 23 Północna Street in Łódź since 1939, was unearthed last Hanukkah, the Polish news website Fakt reported last week. Fragments of the Talmud, elements of costumes, Hanukkah menorahs, Shabbat candlesticks, cigarette cases, perfume bottles, and a huge collection of everyday household objects were found. It’s the largest discovery of its kind in the city that used to be Poland’s second-largest Jewish center before WW2.
“These objects speak to me,” David Gurfinkiel of the Łódź Jewish community told Fakt.
The treasures were found during construction works. When workers were insulating the foundations of one of the buildings, they came across a large cluster of objects wrapped in newspapers and wrapping paper about one and a half meters underground. They immediately notified the monument protection office that summoned an archaeologist to the site.
Bartłomiej Gwóźdź, an archaeologist working for the construction company Warbud, emphasized that this is an extremely valuable find. “We managed to extract about 350 objects. Some are still being processed. They are caked with earth, mud, and corrosion,” he explained.
Gurfinkiel couldn’t hide his emotions: “The discovery of the treasure, most of which contains objects important to the Jewish religion, and exactly on the days when the Hanukkah holiday began, must be seen as a Hanukkah miracle. It’s a touching moment for me. I feel that these objects want to tell us something.”
Another member of the Łódź Jewish community, Michael Schudrich, noted: “For me, it is also meaningful and extremely valuable that the Hanukkah Menorah features a patriotic meaning. It is crowned with an eagle with spread wings (the symbol of the Polish state – DI). It’s important and meaningful to me. Jews were deeply rooted in Poland and were patriots, and Jews from Łódź were proud of being from the City of Łódź.”
According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Łódź was occupied six days before Rosh Hashanah, on September 14, 1939. The next few months saw daily round-ups of Jews for forced labor, random beatings, and even the murder of Jews on the streets. As of November 16, 1939, the Nazis ordered Jews to wear an armband on their right arm, a precursor to the yellow Star of David badge which was imposed on December 12, 1939.
On February 8, 1940, the Nazis announced the establishment of the Łódź ghetto. Jews from throughout the city were ordered to move into the sectioned-off area with few belongings. They were packed tightly, with an average of 3.5 people per room. In April, a fence went up surrounding the ghetto. On May 1, 1940, the Łódź ghetto was officially sealed, with some 230,000 Jews inside. Hunger and disease grew rampant, and soon tens of thousands of additional Jews were forced in. The deportations to the labor and death camps began on January 6, 1942. On June 10, 1944, Heinrich Himmler ordered the liquidation of the Łódź ghetto. On August 4, 1944, a final liquidation transport of 74,000 Jews from Łódź was sent out from the ghetto on its way to Auschwitz.
on January 19, 1945, the Soviet Red Army liberated the Łódź ghetto. Only 877 Jews remained from a quarter million who had been interned there.