Digging starts at site of synagogue near Auschwitz

Posted: Friday, June 04, 2004

WARSAW, Poland (AP) Archeologists have begun excavations at the site of a synagogue near the former Auschwitz death camp, looking for a Torah scroll and other objects missing since the Nazis burned down the building in 1939.

Malgorzata Grupa, the archaeologist leading the project, said the only clue guiding the excavation was the account of a Jewish survivor who saw members of his community burying the religious objects in hopes of saving them from destruction by the Nazis.

''We don't have any other information apart from the knowledge that the Torah scroll and the objects were buried in boxes in September 1939 and that an eyewitness is still alive,'' the PAP news agency quoted Grupa as saying.

The excavation, financed by private donors, is expected to take a month.

The synagogue was the largest of about a dozen in Oswiecim, the town where the Nazis built Auschwitz. Nearly 1 million people died there, 90 percent of them Jews.

About 3.5 million Jews lived in Poland before the war: There are only about 20,000 Polish Jews today.

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