SS papers, personal belongings and a model train set part of WWII ‘Wałbrzych Treasure’ uncovered by plumbers in sealed basement
Three mysterious sealed metal containers recently discovered in Wałbrzych were opened yesterday amid heightened expectations that they could contain valuable Nazi artefacts from World War Two.
The welded-shut containers were part of a treasure haul of around 70 boxes and packages hidden by one or more German families in a walled-off basement of a building in the Lower Silesian city nearly 80 years ago.
The Wałbrzych Treasure, as the find has been dubbed, was discovered on 17 November when plumbers were called to the building to fix a burst pipe.
When the workers dug into a wall to get access to the pipe, they discovered a room filled with the possessions of Germans, the then inhabitants of Walbrzych. The room and its contents had not been touched in almost 80 years.
The baskets and cases that were opened shortly after contained a vast array of valuable porcelain, cutlery, clothing, as well as documents, carpets, musical sheet music and countless household items.
One standout item is a model train set with an engine, carriages and a section of track.
The items were carefully packed and walled up in the basement. The papers include documents and letters relating to a member of the SS, possibly a relative of the family.
After the initial haul was examined, there remained three metal boxes that had been carefully sealed. The areas that had been welded were even painted over to hide the marks, suggesting that someone had gone to great lengths to protect what was inside.
Speculation among historians and locals in Wałbrzych about their contents was high. Some suggested that they may contain a secret Nazi archive, while others speculated the boxes may contain stolen art.
Before the containers were opened, they were checked by sappers, who took X-rays and looked inside using an endoscope.
When they were finally opened in the presence of firefighters, heritage protection officers and staff from the Institute of National Remembrance, they revealed mainly carefully folded clothing.
“The owner of the deposit was most likely a tailor. There were men's suits and women's clothing. Everything is from that period. There are also unique items like underwear," said Anna Nowakowska, a heritage protection officer.
Wałbrzych mayor Roman Szełemej said: “The mysterious chests had revealed their secret. Well secured and arousing everyone's curiosity, they turned out to be a hiding place for clothes from the time. The whole find perfectly reflects the life of Wałbrzych residents from 80 years ago.”
Experts are still working on identifying who the owners were.
Jacek Drejer, director of the porcelain museum in Wałbrzych, said: “They were certainly not poor people. We would judge them to be middle class."
“We will be able to identify who these people were a bit by their possessions and a bit by the documents.
Maps, books and architectural plans suggest that one of the owners of the deposit was a builder or engineer.
Another owner may have been a dressmaker, indicated by pattern books and fashion magazines.
Under Polish law, the owner of the find is the State Treasury, and the future of the items will be decided by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.
It is likely that some of the objects will go to the Silesian Home Museum in Ziębice and to the Porcelain Museum in Wałbrzych.
The documents will likely go to the State Archives, while those that relate to SS members will go to the Institute of National Remembrance for analysis.