Belongings of German nobility uncovered

A 14-year-old boy discovered a cache of numerous milk churns that were shallowly buried near the shore of the Jeziorak Lake, near the Gubławki village, North Poland. The containers hidden around 1945 contained family heirloom and belongings of the Prussian noble family von Finckenstein.

Part of the treasure (by Tomasz Waszczuk)

The family of Grafs von Finckenstein were the previous owners of the manor in Gubławki. Most of the family heirlooms found in the containers belong to Graf Hans Joachim von Finckenstein, who was the owner of the estate until 1945. In March that year he was taken by Soviet soldiers and died in an internment camp in Pasłęk. His wife Hildegarde remained at the estate working for the Russians until November, when she left for Germany to find their two daughters, Waldtraut and Margarete, who were sent into the Reich a couple of months before coming of the Red Army. It is possible that the Graf’s wife was the one who has hidden the objects. Most of them had sentimental value, and formed a real family treasure.

The trove was discovered by a 14-year-old Patryk Lessman who was spending holidays at the lake with his parents. The family informed local historians from Iława, Michał Młotek and Dariusz Paczkowski, who secured the find and notified the local heritage office. The objects have been excavated and moved to The Museum of Archaeology and History in Elbląg. Although the discovery was made last year, it was revealed recently after the proper documentation and conservation of the deposit. The area was also swept with metal detectors who discovered further objects connected to the von Finckenstein family, and other archaeological find, such as a Medieval axehead or remains of a Medieval hillfort. Further archaeological investigation of the area is scheduled.

The objects found in the milk churns consist of numerous documents, including the last will of the Graf bearing a wax seal and family’s coat of arms, his private documents, and a journal from World War I. Other objects include glasses, toilet utensils, elements of clothing, hunting utensils, military medals, uniform and equipment of a Wehrmacht soldier, bank notes, jewellery, pocket watch, silver spoon, letters, post cards, notes and albums with family photos. One of the documents was issued by a Soviet officer in Russian and consisted of a safe conduct for the inhabitants of the house, addressed to other Soviet soldiers and officers. Other document written in Russian mentioned the acquisition of cattle and other farm animals by the Red Army. Objects of historic and scientific value are now owned by the Polish State by law. Graf’s personal diary will be translated and elaborated by researchers. The personal belongings have been returned to Waldtraut, now 81 years old, who came from Germany invited by the local officials.

The von Finckensteins were a noble family, one of the most influential in the former Prussia. Their ancestors arrived probably from Carinthia in the beginning of the 14th century, together with other knights aiding the Teutonic Order. The estate in Gubławki belonged to the family between 1880-1945. After World War II it was turned into a State Agricultural Farm and the manor housed offices and flats for the workers.

(after Tomasz Waszczuk, Marcin Boguszewski & Nauka w Polsce)

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