More than 16,000 items belonging to victims of Nazi death camp, Auschwitz were recently rediscovered in Poland.

Their whereabouts have been known since 1967, but shortly thereafter, communist upheaval stalled the recovery of these long-lost possessions.

Haaretz reports:

The items include flatware, brushes, pipes, lighters, kitchenware, penknives, buttons, jewelry, watches, keys, stamps, medical kits, shoes and documents.

“In most cases, these are the last personal belongings of the Jews led to death in the gas chambers upon selection at the ramp,” the museum stated on its website. The items were transferred to the museum, which is located on the memorial site where the death camp operated.

Museum employees found the items after months of detective work. The operation began after the museum discovered that while some 400 items were dug up near one of the gas chambers in 1967, thousands of more items found in the same archeological dig never made their way to the museum and disappeared. A team from the museum a few months ago contacted the last living people who had witnessed the dig. The information they obtained led them to the Polish Academy of Sciences building in Warsaw, where they found the 16,000 items in some 50 boxes.

“I had considered the discovery of such a huge collection after nearly half a century as unlikely as finding the treasure of the lost Galleon,” said Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywinski, director of the museum. “Presumably, they were supposed to be analyzed and studied, or perhaps someone even had the intention to write an extensive research paper on the subject.”

Reuters added:

“We began the investigation of several months by verifying archival documentation.”

The museum said its staff had managed to track down the last surviving members of the 1967 project and had brought the items to Oswiecim last week. They will now be checked and documented.

Between 1940 and 1945, about 1.5 million people, most of them Jews, were killed by the Nazis at Auschwitz-Birkenau in German-occupied Poland.

NBC documented some of the discovery here:

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