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January 4, 2015 11:07 pm

Personal Possessions of Jewish Family Slain by Nazis Discovered in Slovakia Attic 70 Years Later

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

In this photograph, taken between 1940 and 1945, Jews are awaiting transport to the gas chambers. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Personal possessions belonging to a Jewish family killed by the Nazis were discovered hidden in an attic in Slovakia 70 years after the Holocaust victims perished in concentration camps, the UK’s Daily Mail reported on Friday.

While fixing his neighbor’s leaking roof, handyman Imrich Girasek found the stash of jewelry boxes, documents and pictures between the roof beams of a home located next to a Neolog synagogue in the city of Presov.

“The old roof needed to be checked so I went there because the owners are my friends. They have owned the house since the 1960s,” Girasek, 46, said. “The owners of the house weren’t interested in the things, but I couldn’t bring myself to simply throw them away.”

Among the treasured possessions Girasek found were letters, newspaper clippings, a Jewish songbook, and cutlery stowed away in 1942, the year the deportation of the city’s Jews began. Girasek said all the photographs, which included wedding pictures and family portraits, were dated back to before 1942. The discovered documents were written in German, Hungarian, Yiddish and Hebrew, the Daily Mail noted.

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It is believed that the items belonged to a man named Samuel Gottschall and his loved ones, who were murdered by Nazis during World War II. Several of the papers bear the surname Gottschall, including musical scores signed by him. The items were found next to suitcases from that time period but Girasek, a former soldier, thinks they were looted.

“I believe the things were initially stored in the suitcases and then hidden in the attic, but that somebody searching for valuables must have taken them out and left them lying about,” he said. “The jewelry boxes were all empty. Somebody must have stolen the jewelry years ago.”

Presov’s Museum of Jewish Culture discovered that the items belonged to Gottschall and his family after Girasek gave them the possessions, hoping that the family could be identified and relatives located.

“It would make me happy to know that the things had been passed on to people close to the family who used to own them,” he said.

Gita Eckhausová, head of Presov’s Jewish Religious Community, said the material was researched and the photographs were compared with historic photos from their archives.

Lubica Tatranska, the museum’s employee responsible for the restoration of historic items, said Jews would hide personals and valuables before they were deported. She added, “Most of them thought they were going to labor camps and would eventually return.”

The items will become part of the museum’s collection in the coming weeks. Any relatives who want to get in touch with the museum can claim the items discovered by Girasek.

Gottschall, born in 1878, and his family were deported to a concentration camp in 1942, the Daily Mail reported.

Further research in the Australian Dictionary of Biography indicated that Gottschall may have had son named Benjamin Bela Vojtech who survived the war and became a rabbi. He secretly carried out religious services during World War II before he and his wife were transported to Auschwitz in Poland. Vojtech’s wife died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp but he survived and was liberated in May 1945, according to the Daily Mail.

He served as a communal rabbi to the surviving Jews in Prague after the war and remarried in 1946. Three years later he left Czechoslovakia for Australia with his then pregnant wife and one child. Vojtech died of cancer in 1978 in Sydney.

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