An eerie, disturbing sight greeted hikers near the Muzeum Stutthof w Sztutowie in Poland. The grounds around the museum, located on the site of the former German Nazi Stutthof death camp, yielded haunting Jewish artifacts. Items seem to be possessions of inmates interned there during World War II. Fox News Science reported Oct. 21, that hundreds of belts, pairs of shoes and pieces from prisoners’ uniforms were scattered. Stutthof museum archivists say they’ve never seen any of the items found in the forest. Danuta Drywa says she has worked at Muzeum Stutthof for 30 years and this is the first she’s heard of those particular inmate artifacts.
Why did these items turn up at the Nazi Stutthof death camp now, 70 years later? The museum takes up only a tiny corner of the sprawling former German concentration camp.Abandoned Nazi concentration camps are preserved as a shrine to those who died there, particularly the millions of Jewish people. Visitors tread carefully. Museum curators don’t go poking around for artifacts. They may inadvertently find things, such as these artifacts that had been hidden by foliage. Found items are preserved. Curators treat the death camp like the graveyard it is. Body parts from the Stutthof gas chamber were only recently found on the grounds of the death camp. Stutthof curators lovingly cared for these remains and gave them the dignity they deserved.
Are these found items prisoner artifacts? Drywa says they may have belonged to Jewish prisoners or others interned at Stutthof concentration camp, but adds that this would be surprising. Nazi death camp officials stole prisoners’ possessions. They took inmates’ shoes and gave them wooden ones. Belongings that inmates came with were sent to people in Germany or stockpiled by Nazi captors. They typically weren’t left lying around. Specialized testing will be needed to determine who owned the found possessions. The uniform pieces are clearly from prisoners at the death camp.
Some 85,000 of the 110,000 prisoners died at Nazi Stutthof death camp. Stutthof was the Nazis’ first concentration camp outside of Germany, built in occupied Danzig (present day Gdansk). After Germany seized control of Poland and the Free State of Gdansk, they set about building more death camps as part of their “Final Solution.” The plan was to rid the world of those whom the Nazis deemed undesirable, particularly Jews. So the largest number of concentration camp inmates were Jewish, but there were countless others: Catholics, Protestants, mentally impaired, homosexuals, gypsies and political prisoners from countries occupied by Nazi Germany. Many Poles were imprisoned at concentrations camps set up by German Nazis in Poland. Stutthof was used by the Third Reich to make and test soap made from the fat of Jewish and other prisoners. Just how many inmates were housed at Stutthof, depended on what the Nazis needed. It was originally built to hold 3,500 but the labor camp cum death camp was expanded to hold 57,000 in 39 sub-camps at the height of the Nazi killing machine.