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Holocaust documents trove unearthed in Budapest apartment

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More than 6,000 historically valuable documents, long believed destroyed during the war, discovered hidden in wall cavity by couple renovating apartment

A vast and historically valuable trove of Holocaust-era documents, long thought destroyed during the second world war, has been found hidden in a wall cavity by a couple renovating their Budapest apartment.

The haul of 6,300 documents are from a 1944 census that was a precursor to the aimed extermination of the Hungarian capitals 200,000 Jews in Nazi death camps.

Brigitte Berdefy, co-owner of the apartment overlooking Hungarys parliament, said in August a worker detected paper after jamming a screwdriver through a crack in the wall.

We thought wed ruined the neighbours wallpaper, Berdefy said.

But then her husband Gabor peered through the fissure and saw what looked like handwriting.

Carefully removing each brick, the couple eased out around 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 newspapers were given to the Budapest city archives.

Istvan Kenyeres, head of the archives, was amazed.

Most wartime newspapers are more faded or rotten than medieval documents, on bad quality newspaper due to the rationing, Kenyeres said.

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

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

The May 1944 Budapest census was to identify houses to serve as holding places for Jews before moving them to a schemed walled ghetto in the citys seventh district.

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

The kinds found in the Budapest apartment contain names of each builds dwellers, and whether they are Jewish or not, with total number of Christians and Jews marked in the corners.

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

Shortly after the census, around 200,000 Jews were moved into 2,000 selected houses, 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, the latter are crammed into the ghetto, where some died of starvation or were shot next to the river a poignant commemoration 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, the majority of members of Budapests Jewish population survived.

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

Kenyeres said 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 digitised and be made public if they turned up.

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

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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