Tuesday 28 February 2017

Thousands of Holocaust Nazi papers discovered

Joshua Robertson

Historical: Klara Tobi, restorer of the Budapest City Archives, irons document from 1944
Historical: Klara Tobi, restorer of the Budapest City Archives, irons document from 1944

A vast and historically valuable trove of Holocaust-era documents, long thought destroyed during World War II, has been found hidden in a wall cavity by a couple renovating their Budapest apartment.

The haul of 6,300 documents are from a 1944 census that was a precursor to the intended liquidation of the Hungarian capital’s 200,000 Jews in Nazi death camps.

Brigitte Berdefy, co-owner of the apartment overlooking Hungary’s parliament, said that in August a worker detected paper after jamming a screwdriver through a crack in the wall.

“We thought we’d ruined the neighbour’s wallpaper,” Berdefy said.

But then her husband Gabor peered through the crack and saw what looked like handwriting.

One of 6,300 census forms of Budapest’s then Jewish population in Budapest

Carefully removing each brick, the couple eased out some 61 kilogrammes (135 pounds) of dusty papers, many with bits of plaster caked on, but all more or less intact.

With the ink still readable — thanks to a lack of air in the cavity and nicotine from the heavy-smoking former owner — the yellowed papers were given to the Budapest City Archives.

Istvan Kenyeres, head of the archives, was amazed.

“The content and scale of the finding is unprecedented,” he said. “It helps to fill a huge gap in the history of the Holocaust in Budapest.”

Since September, restorers at the archives have been literally ironing the papers to study them, pausing occasionally when they spot someone famous among the scrawled names.

The May 1944 Budapest census was to identify houses to serve as holding locations for Jews before moving them to a planned walled ghetto in the city’s seventh district.

Two months earlier Nazi Germany had occupied Hungary and deportations in the countryside to the gas chambers of Auschwitz began almost immediately.

Shortly after the census, around 200,000 Jews were moved into some 2,000 selected buildings, “Yellow Star Houses” with the Star-of-David Jewish symbol painted on the doors.

© Guardian

Sunday Independent

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