Posts Tagged ‘behind’

Nazi holocaust documents found: 6,300 files discovered behind wall of Budapest apartment

November 22nd, 2015

Carefully removing each brick, the couple eased out some 61 kilogrammes (135 pounds) of dusty papers, many with bits of plaster caked on, but all more or less intact.

With the ink still readable – thanks to a lack of air in the cavity and nicotine from the heavy-smoking former owner – the yellowed papers were given to the Budapest City Archives.

Istvan Kenyeres, head of the archives, was amazed.

“Most wartime papers are more faded or rotten than medieval documents, on bad quality paper due to the rationing,” he said.

“The content and scale of the finding is unprecedented,” he said. “It helps to fill a huge gap in the history of the Holocaust in Budapest.”

Since September, restorers at the archives have been literally ironing the papers to study them, pausing occasionally when they spot someone famous among the scrawled names.

The May 1944 Budapest census was to identify houses to serve as holding locations for Jews before moving them to a planned walled ghetto in the city’s seventh district.

Two months earlier Nazi Germany had occupied Hungary and deportations in the countryside to the gas chambers of Auschwitz began almost immediately.

The forms found in the Budapest apartment contain names of each building’s inhabitants, and whether they are Jewish or not, with total numbers of Christians and Jews marked in the corners.

“Jewish people filled in the forms honestly, they refused to believe where this might end up,” said Kenyeres.

Shortly after the census, around 200,000 Jews were moved into some 2,000 selected buildings, “Yellow Star Houses” with the Star-of-David Jewish symbol painted on the doors.

“Thanks to the Berdefys, we know that if a lot of Jews lived in a building then it likely became a Yellow Star House,” Kenyeres said.

In late 1944, they were crammed into the ghetto, where some died of starvation or were shot next to the river – a poignant memorial of abandoned iron shoes today marks the spot.

The arrival of the Russian army in January 1945 saved the rest though, and unlike the Jews from outside the city, most of Budapest’s Jewish population survived.

An estimated total of 600,000 Hungarian Jews perished in the Holocaust, most in Auschwitz.

Kenyeres said that an estimated 23,000 more documents may still be out there which would give further valuable insight into what happened in 1944 and would also be digitalised and made available to the public if they turned up.

“People should look behind their walls, you never know in Budapest what could be there.”

Inside the far-Right stronghold where Hungarian Jews fear for the future


World War Two

The tragic tale behind the Second World War’s silver shipwreck

April 4th, 2014

It steamed around Africa to Freetown, Sierra Leone, where, in January, it joined Convoy SL64 for the perilous voyage across submarine-infested waters to Liverpool.

Then two misfortunes stuck. Heavy storms forced the captain, Gerald Hyland, to burn extra coal to keep up with the convoy. Fearing he would not have enough fuel to reach Liverpool, he was forced to split off and head for Galway, on Ireland’s west coast.

But two days after setting off alone, the crew spotted a German long-range reconnaissance plane, a Focke-Wulf Condor circling above them, and their fate was sealed.

The airmen directed the nearby U-101, captained by Ernst Mengersen, towards the lone, unprotected vessel and in darkness on the evening of 16th February 1941, the submarine attacked, around 300 miles from the Irish coast.

The impact of the torpedo brought down the radio antennae preventing the crew from sending out a distress signal. The submarine then surfaced and sprayed the deck with machine-gun fire, the bullets cutting the ropes of a lifeboat and sending it crashing into the sea.

Silver from the SS Gairsoppa shipwreck, which lies approximately 4700 meters deep in the North Atlantic (AFP)

Thirty one men: eight Europeans and 23 Indian seamen — known as Lascars — leapt overboard and managed to get into the lifeboat and away from the submarine and sinking ship. Second Officer Richard Ayres, 31, took command and set sail eastwards, steering with an oar because the rudder had been lost.

Their food supplies consisted of some tins of condensed milk, some drinking water and dry biscuits. Each man was limited to half a pint of water a day, and half a pint a night. Some of the crew began drinking salt water, which made them go mad and fight each other. Then, after seven days, the water ran out, meaning those left alive had to rely on rain for drinking water.

Towering waves and winter gales battered the boat but finally, 13 days after the sinking, the seven men left alive sighted the Lizard lighthouse on the southernmost tip of Cornwall, 300 miles from where their ship had sunk.

However, as they headed towards a rocky cove to land, a wave capsized the boat drowning all but Ayres, Robert Hampshire, the 18 year old radio operator and Norman Thomas, 20, a gunner.

Another wave righted the boat and the three were able to get back on board, only for another breaker to capsize them again and drown Hampshire. The last two made it to nearby rocks where another wave knocked Thomas back, drowning him only yards from safety.

Ayres only survived after three young girls, evacuees from London, who had been walking along the cliffs, spotted the boat flip over and managed to summon help to recover him from the water.

The vessel was discovered in 2011 after the Department for Transport contracted the US firm Odyssey Marine Exploration to locate it, as well as a second British merchant ship, this one sunk by a German submarine in the First World War, only about 100 miles from the Gairsoppa site, at a depth of one and a half miles.

SS Mantola was travelling from London to Calcutta with 18 tons of silver on-board when it was sent to the bottom in February 1917, 143 miles from Ireland, with the loss of seven lives.

Its wreck was also found in 2011, and the Florida-based firm combined the recovery of its cargo with that from the Gairsoppa.

The wreck of the Gairsoppa – named after a waterfalls in India – was found at a depth of three miles, half a mile deeper than the Titanic. The recovery of its 2,792 silver bars – totalling approximately 3.2 million troy ounces of silver, worth around £38 million at current prices – involved using a remote-controlled robot to cut open the ship’s cargo holds, search inside them and then individually remove each item.

Under the terms of a deal struck with the DfT, Odyssey is entitled to 80 per cent of the value, once it recovers its own costs. The remaining 20 per cent goes to the Treasury. A portion of the haul is being used to make a limited number of 20,000 coins, costing £30 each, available from April 21, aimed at collectors and anyone interested in maritime history. This week, the Royal Mint began striking the coins, which are edged with the name SS Gairsoppa.

It comes more than two decades after the death of Richard Ayres, who died in 1992. Speaking to the Telegraph during the recovery phase, his niece Jane Harbidge, 73, from Old Newton, near Stowmarket, Suffolk, said: “It was a story we knew in the family, but not one that was talked about very much. My uncle seemed to be an upright, maritime sort of person. It is fascinating that they have now found this silver.”

Rev Margaret Mulraine, 90, a cousin of Thomas’, from Broadstone, near Poole, Dorset, said: “He seemed to be viewed as quite a hero in the family because he had kept everyone going in the boat, then died so tragically in sight of land. I can well remember stories being told about him.”


World War Two

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