Winnipeg Jewish Review  
Site Search:
Home  |  Archives  |  Contact Us
Features Local Israel Next Generation Arts/Op-Eds Editorial/Letters Links Obituary/In Memoriam

Associated Press, Svoray scrapes caked layers of dirt from a shard of glass at the garbage dump, revealing a sunflower at the heart of a Star of David. He carefully turns it, speculating it may have been a bowl used for Passover ceremonies in pre-World War II German Jewish homes.


by Rhonda Spivak, 6 November 2011

Last year, when I went to hear Prof Deborah Shnitzer talk about the upcoming book she was working on, she said something that I had never heard anything about, that sounded pretty unbelievable.

She spoke of the existence of a huge dump, the size of three or four football fields in a town called Klandorf Germany, near Berlin where the remains of Kristallnacht—piles of looted Jewish possessions- had been discovered. No one else in the room aside from Shnitzer had ever heard of this.

I was baffled why the existence of this huge dump of looted Jewish possessions and artifacts was not common knowledge, and after speaking to some journalists who had also not heard of it, I made a mental note to follow up and research this issue.

Things got busy, life intervened and I moved onto other subjects. But this week as Kristallnacht commemoration approaches, I was reminded of Klandorf and had the unquenchable desire to look into this. Kristallnacht, which is also known as the "Night of Broken Glass” was a Nazi pogrom on November 9, 1938 that saw the destruction of more than 200 synagogues and the ransacking of tens of thousands of Jewish businesses and homes. During the night, some 92 Jews were murdered and 30,000 were arrested and deported to concentration camps.

Today, I contacted Shnitzer who wrote to me about how she first heard of the existence of this dump with Kristallnacht remains.

"In terms of the actual sequence of events, I had watched an incredible documentary, Human Failure by Michael Verhoeven which explores the aryanization of German Jewish assets during the Reich by German tax officials. I was simply roaming around as part of my own interests in the re-animation of assets for the novel I am writing and began thinking about Kistallnacht”. This article a 2008 New York Times piece by Rachel Nolan about Klandorf Germany published October 27th –popped up on the net. I’d been in Berlin and gone to the International Tracing Service . . . but I had not known about Klandorf at the time – only found out about after my return and of course wished I had known before hand."

After searching a bit, I found another article in addition to the one mentioned by Shnitzer, written the same time by Roe Mandel in Ynet and another written by Assaf Uni in Ha'aretz as well as other reports, although I can't find any Canadian paper that ever reported about this.
It seems that in 2008 an Israeli investigative journalist and former private detective, Yaron Svoray discovered piles and piles of personal and ceremonial artifacts which were looted from Jews during Kristallnacht in 1938. According to YNet, Svoray unearthed the items “at waste site the size of four soccer fields in Brandenburg, located north of Berlin."

Note that the New York Times, however, referred to the site of the huge dump as being in Klandorf, not Brandenburg. Klandorf is in the district of Brandenburg

As the New York Times pointed out up until this huge discovery by Svoray “physical evidence of [ Kristallnacht] this state-sponsored pogrom had always been extremely scarce. The Jewish Museum [in Berlin], for example, holds many letters describing the night. But the only other related object in its collection is a 38-second black-and-white film of a synagogue burning in Bielefeld, a university town in western Germany.

The waste site with the Jewish remnants of Kristallncht discovered by Svoray is located in close proximity to the former hunting lodge of Hermann Goering, who commanded the German air force (Luftwaffe) during World War II.

According to the New York Times, the approximately 180 locals in Klandorf have always known this dump containing Kristallnacht remains and the matter of its existence would have stayed a local story. That is--but for a chance encounter in December 2008 when Werner Russ, a retired forester, who was gathering mushrooms bumped into Svoray, who was researching stolen artifacts once stashed in a the nearby hunting lodge that belonged to Göring. Russ, 73, "confirmed to Mr. Svoray what people of Klandorf had always known about the local dump' (that it contained the artifacts form Kistallnacht).
Svoray, himself has long been interested in the subject of the Holocaust and is best known for going undercover among neo-Nazis in Germany to research his book, “In Hitler’s Shadow,” which was made into an HBO movie in 1995.

Klandorf is the location for the remains of Kristallnacht because the day after Kristallnacht occurred, trains loaded with personal and religious items arrived in the woods outside Klandorf where political prisoners from a nearby camp unloaded the material and threw it all in a dump there.

“It is no secret in our town that things stolen during Kristallnacht are there,” Arno Gielsdorf, then 49, told the Times. Gielsdorf's family owns a section of the Klandorf refuse heap, and he told the Times that his father told him that the dump was extraordinarily busy right after Kristallnacht.

On reading this, I can't help but think that it is worth noting that for all these years those living in Klandorf Germany, have never contacted anyone from the Jewish Museum in Berlin, or anyone in the Jewish world, who would clearly have been interested in this information and these artifacts. What does that say about the residents of Klandorf? Could it be that they just don't care? Or could it be that they are sitting on a pile of evidence that they would prefer to forget or certainly not notify anyone about?

After learning about the Klandorf dump Svoray spoke with the director of the Kibbutz Lochmei Ha’ Getaot Museum, Simcha Stein, and after confirming the historical importance of what he had found he returned to Germany with a group of volunteers. (As an aside, I have been to Kibbutz Lochmei Ha'Getaot , a kibbutz founded by the survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto, and have been to the Holocaust Museum on the Kibbutz. in 2008, the year of Svoray's discovery).

"Within an hour of digging with our bare hands we found a bottle embossed with a Star of David," Svoray told Ynet in October 2008 . "We were very excited, because the chances of a bottle surviving a war are so slim.' The Kibbutz museum experts confirmed that "with high probability that the glass bottle is from the period before Kristallnacht," Tanya Ronen, who is responsible for the museum's ties to Germany, told Ha'aretz.

"Forty meters (approx. 130 feet) from where we unearthed the bottle I discovered a huge metallic swastika. That's when I knew we had a major story on our hands," Savoy also added.

Svoray's group also found artifacts such as mezuzahs and chiseled windowsills and arm rests from destroyed synagogues, as well as unearthing a swastika-shaped ornament. The dump where these were found has been in existence since the beginning of the 20th Century and WWII.

Mr. Svoray told the New York Times he was surprised that the dump’s contents were not made public earlier.
“As far as detective work, with 10 being the most difficult and zero being nothing, this was a 2,” he said. “What always amazes me in Germany and Austria is that people assume these stories are over and done with.”

Interestingly, Svoray is best known for going undercover among neo-Nazis in Germany to research his book, and according to Ynet, Svoray was continuing to search for additional artifacts on going at the site 'under the constant watch of bodyguards’, after Svoray complained of threats made on his life.

Svoray noted that in his view an organized archeological dig will be required in order to unearth all of the Jewish artifacts at the site.

In the meantime, he was concerned that skinheads would scour the site looking to get their hands on Nazi treasures.

According to the New York Times report, the Kibbutz Lochemai Hagetaot Museum hoped to set up a living history center that would bring young Germans and Israelis together to sift through the contents of the dump.

Schnitzer told me that she sent emails to the Museum in Israel to " find out more information but never received any replies so as far as I know this ‘dump’ is still a ‘dump."


According to the Israeli speakers website, only "a small number of items have been dug up at the Klandorf dump and Svoray is now working on the creation of an ongoing dig and research in the historical area. Svoray is available to speak about this.

Another website has suggested that that Germany wouldnot likely have the funds for an archeological dig at the site:

"'Thomas Kersting, an archaeologist employed by the state of Brandenburg to care for buried memorials and archaeological sites, said Svoray's finds — which he has yet to examine — may give the area historical value. "A place like this where we have objects with a Star of David directly next to a Nazi swastika, that is of course meaningful ... that gives it a certain quality of a memorial," Kersting said. But Kersting played down the likelihood of an archaeological dig, citing a lack of funds and arguing that such a disruption would be in direct opposition to his bureau's aim to maintain the sanctity of such sites. Arno Gielsdorf, who owns the strip of land where the dump sits, said his father told stories the arrival of "garbage" trains after Kristallnacht. Since the collapse of communism in 1989, he said, bands of scavengers have picked over the area, selling their finds at weekly flea markets in Berlin. But he is convinced the dump holds valuable artifacts. "The things from Kristallnacht were buried in the deepest places," Gielsdorf said. "They are still there.",  citing Fox News.

I have sent a message to Svoray on face book to ascertain what  has happened since 2008, when his discovery was made. This story will be updated when I hear back from him.

For those interested in this subject, I recommend reading both the New York Times article at and the Ynet article at,7340,L-3611527,00.html for more details about the dump at Klandorf. There are other reports in De Speigel,1518,585252,00.html, Ha'aretz, and more.

Editor's comment: Yaron Svoray is one speaker that that I would to hear. Maybe some organization wants to bring him in to Winnipeg?

Also: The Winnipeg Jewish Review is looking for a student intern interested in researching and following up on this issue. Contact [email protected].
<<Previous Article       Next Article >>
Subscribe to the Winnipeg Jewish Review
  • JNF NEGEV Dinner
  • Manitoba Chamber Orchestra
  • Jewish Federation of Winnipeg
  • Munroe Pharmacy
  • Manitoba Opera
  • Bridges for Peace
  • Dr. Brent Schachter and Sora Ludwig
  • PFK Lawyers
  • Jewish Federation of Winnipeg
  • Taverna Rodos
  • Coughlin Insurance Brokers
  • Safeway Tuxedo
  • Gislason Targownik Peters
  • West Kildonan Auto Service
  • Orthodox Union
  • Lipkin Family
  • Accurate Lawn & Garden
  • Artista Homes
  • Fetching Style
  • Laufman Reprographics
  • Ronald B. Zimmerman
  • Chisick Family
  • Sandra Kliman and Jeff Norton
  • Lorne Weiss
  • John Orlikow
  • Ambassador Mechanical
  • Erickson Motors
  • Avrom Charach
  • Marr Finlayson Pollock
  • Holiday Inn Polo Park
  • Chochy's
  • Josef Ryan
  • Fair Service
  • Roseman Corp
  • Broadway Law Group
  • Shoppers Drug Mart
  • kristinas-greek
  • The Center for Near East Policy Research Ltd.
  • Sarel Canada
  • Roofco Winnipeg Roofing
  • Center for Near East Policy Research
  • Nachum Bedein
Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.