Last month, a history teacher cleaning his aunt’s house in Hagen, Germany, after severe flooding discovered a trove of Nazi artifacts hidden behind a wall, reports David Crossland for the London Times.
“I got goosebumps,” Sebastian Yurtseven told local media, as quoted by the Times. “I didn’t think it would turn into such a huge discovery.”
When Yurtseven pulled out a rotten piece of plasterboard, he spotted a foot-wide space behind the wall containing a newspaper dated to 1945, writes Insider’s Sophia Ankel. Investigating further, he found a cache of World War II–era artifacts, including a portrait of Adolf Hitler, a revolver, gas masks, Nazi Party badges, brass knuckles, letters and documents.
As it turns out, the building housed the local headquarters of the National Socialist People’s Welfare organization (NSV) during the Nazi era. Yurtseven and his aunt say the family had no idea of this history when they purchased the property in the 1960s.
Ralf Blank, manager of the Hagen city archive, tells Frankfurter Allgemeine that NSV members probably hid the documents and other materials in the wall when Allied troops marched into the city in April 1945.
“That must have happened very hectically,” he says.
Many contemporary accounts describe this kind of rapid disposal of sensitive materials—but it’s unusual to find an intact trove.
According to Blank, the find may help historians learn more about the NSV and its role in the Nazi regime. The organization ran relief operations and kindergartens. It also benefited from donations of assets and goods seized from Jewish groups and individuals.
“We hope, for example, to come across files on the distribution of so-called Jewish furniture,” Blank says.
Andreas Korthals, an archivist at Stadtarchiv Hagen, a state-run government agency, tells Live Science’s Tom Metcalfe that Nazi stormtroopers probably used the brass knuckles in street fights against communists. The NSV most likely kept them in a “memory corner” of the office alongside badges bearing images of eagles and swastikas.
In addition to the Nazi-era materials, a 1905 love letter sent to a 17-year-old girl named Hedwig Wiedey was found hidden in the hoard, reports Mike Fiebig for Die Westfalenpost. Archivists were able to find more information about Wiedey in the city records, including the fact that she married in 1913 and had two children, but were unable to track down much about her apparently unsuccessful suitor.
Archivists have recovered 12 boxes of materials from the site and are in the process of examining them.
“The amount of material found in the wall is overwhelming,” the city archive said on Facebook on Monday. “For 1.5 weeks, employees ... have been in the process of viewing and sorting the recovered material.”