JERUSALEM, Israel – Israeli and European archaeologists excavating the Nazi death camp of Sobibor recently uncovered artifacts that give a window into the last moments of the Jewish victims who died there.
Excavators found three metal hand-carved pendants bearing depictions of Moses and the tablets of the Law along with the Hebrew prayer “Shema Yisrael,” (“Hear O Israel”) found in Deuteronomy 6:4.
Depiction of Moses and the tablets of the Law on the pendant found in the area where victims were undressed before being led to the gas chambers in Camp II at Sobibor. Photo: Wojciech Mazurek.
“Little is known about the stories behind the pendants, which is heartbreaking,” said Yoram Haimi, an archaeologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority. “It has been possible to identify a kind of tradition or fashion among the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe with pendants that were inscribed with ‘Shema Yisrael’ on one side and a depiction of Moses and the tablets of the Law on the opposite side. But were they distributed in synagogues by local Jewish communities or possibly produced for individual orders? Research of the pendants is ongoing and we invite the public to provide us with details concerning them.”
Depiction of Moses and the tablets of the Law on the pendant discovered in the area where women were undressed before being led to the gas chambers. Photo: Yoram Haimi, Israel Antiquities Authority
The archaeologists found the pendants in areas where victims were forced to undress before being herded into the gas chambers and near one of the mass graves at the camp. The pendant found next to the mass grave has an inscription that reads: “To the faithful king, Hear O Israel, our God is One. Blessed be the name of the glorious king forever and ever.”
The pendant discovered next to the mass grave. “To the faithful king, Hear O Israel, our God is One. Blessed be the name of the glorious king forever and ever.” Photo: Yoram Haimi, Israel Antiquities Authority.
Researchers suggest the pendants originated in Ukraine, Poland and Czechoslovakia.
“The personal and human aspect of the discovery of these pendants is chilling,” said Eli Eskozido, Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority. “They represent a thread running between generations of Jews – actually a thick thread, thousands of years old, of prayer and faith. This moving discovery reminds us once again of the importance of settlement in our land and our obligation to reveal the past, to know it and to learn from it.”