Ancient Coins Found in Hungarian Home May Have Belonged to Holocaust Victims

A family in Hungary working on their cellar earlier this year unearthed a trove of 2,800 ancient coins, which may have belonged to Holocaust victims.

AFP reports that the family was working on the cellar of their home in the town of Keszthely, 120 miles southwest Budapest, when they came across five buried glass jars. According to Ferenc Redo, an archaeologist and coin expert who spoke to AFP, jars contained the antique gold and silver coins from around the world, including a Roman Empire province that covers modern-day western Hungary; pre- and post-revolutionary France; 19th-century German territories; both Tsarist- and Soviet-era Russia; as well as South America, Africa, Asia and British-ruled India.

The home is in what was a wartime Jewish ghetto; the unknown owner is presumed to have died in the Holocaust.

The coins are being exhibited now in Keszthely’s Balatoni Museum. In a letter to the museum, the family wrote that it hopes the coin collection “can return to its legal owners one day.”

The family has requested anonymity, and the museum has declined to reveal the home’s precise location.

The jars also contained jewelry. Engravings on the on jewelry suggests that it may have belonged to a well-known Keszthely Jewish family of traders named Pollak.

The museum will digitalize the findings, and have professionals search the Pollak family tree in the hope of finding descendants.

If an owner is not found, the items will become property of the state.

“We also hope the exhibition will spread the word about the coins, and that a legal owner will turn up,” Balint Havasi, the museum’s director, told AFP.

The Jews of Keszthely were put into a ghetto in May 1944; the ghetto included the house where the coins were found, Gabor Rejto, head of the EMIH Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation in Keszthely, told AFP. Two months later, the Jews were sent to Auschwitz. Of the 829 Jews in Keszthely before the war, only 64 survived.

Around a dozen Jews live in the town today.