A trove of synagogue artifacts, including four menorahs, several chandeliers and a "ner tamid" (eternal light), were dug up at the site of the Great Synagogue in Oswiecim, Poland. Oswiecim is better known by its German name, Auschwitz.

The unearthing of the pre-Holocaust Judaica was the culmination of a fantastic, six-year saga recounted in the New York-based Forward newspaper. In 1998, a man named Yariv Nornberg from Ramat HaSharon, having just finished his IDF service, entered a local shop looking for an Israeli flag for the upcoming Israeli Independence Day celebrations. The store's owner, a 90-year-old man named Yeshayahu Yarot, told Nornberg that he had no flags in stock and asked him to come back in a week's time. Nornberg explained to the man that he could not return the following week, as he was going to Europe to see the concentration camps. Yarot then told Nornberg his story, beginning with, "I was born in Poland, in Auschwitz..."

Two hours later, Yarot went to the rear of his store and returned with a piece of paper on which he proceeded to draw a map. Yarot said that immediately prior to the Nazi occupation of the town in the autumn of 1939, Yarot walked by the Great Synagogue a large structure with the capacity to hold 2,000 people and saw three men, among them the gabbai (sexton), taking Torah scrolls and ornaments, placing them in two metal boxes and burying them in the ground. Yarot handed Nornberg the detailed map indicating the spot on which he thought the scrolls were buried. "You be the emissary," Yarot commanded Nornberg, who until two hours before had been a complete stranger, "and find it."

According to Nornberg's interview in Oswiecim with Israeli director and producer Yaheli Gat, who has been filming a documentary about the search, he spent years contacting other survivors in the hopes of corroborating Yarot's claim and supplementing his provided map. Nornberg says that a few survivors backed up the story; one man named Shlomo Betar, for instance, told him that the burial was a popular legend in the area ghetto of Sosnowiec. Nornberg himself discovered an entry in the local Jewish registry book housed in an archive in the city of Bialsko-Biala, reading: "And on that day I told Salinger to get two large crates lined with clay and to assemble the Torah scrolls."

After a three-week effort, the diggers finally unearthed the buried Torah scrolls, holy books and holy Jewish objects that were hidden by the Jewish community of Oswiecim below the synagogue floor. The Jewish holy items had been buried immediately before the building was blown up by the Nazis. Mr. Yarot was informed that the search had begun, but died before the objects were found, three months ago.

Some of the found objects apparently date from the 19th century, according to Auschwitz Jewish Center officials. The relics are rusted, but still intact, and researchers won't know their value until they have more time to study them. The synagogue was the largest of about a dozen in Oswiecim. More than 1 million people died at the town's Auschwitz camp - 90% of them Jews. "These discoveries remind us that before the Nazis built Auschwitz, there was a thriving Jewish town of Oswiecim," said Julius Berman. Berman chairs the group that funded the excavation, the New York-based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.

Join our official WhatsApp group