Thursday, April 21, 2011

German refugee coins returned

A German refugee coins returned to his descendants, a coroner has ruled. A hoard of gold coins, which constituted the smuggled savings of Martin Sulzbacher, a Jew who fled Nazi Germany in 1938, are the property of his son Max Sulzbacher, Dr Andrew Scott Reid, coroner for Inner North London, ruled. The 80 coins, minted between 1854 and 1913, and will be auctioned by Spink auctioneers, Bloomsbury. They are expected to fetch £80,000 to £90,000. One coin will be donated to the Hackney Museum. The coins are on display at the British Museum until the end of the week and one will be donated to the Hackney Museum.

refugee coins

British Museum's head of the department of portable antiquities and treasure, Dr Roger Bland, said the find contributed to the story of Jewish immigration to Britain.

"The case of the Hackney gold coins is one of the most unique and compelling stories that we have been involved with.

"There is an incredibly human element to this story that is absent from many archaeological finds and we are pleased to see the coins reunited with their original owners after so many years."

The coins are not an especially rare design, but their value comes from being made of solid gold and the story of how they came to light, according to experts at the British Museum, where the hoard is on display until the end of the week. The coins were found wrapped in greaseproof paper by Terrence Castle of Stoke Newington, north-east London, in the summer of 2007 while he was digging a frog pond in the garden of the property with three other people.

Martin Sulzbacher bought the coins in Germany after selling all his property and smuggled them to England. When war broke out he was interned as an alien and sent abroad - first to Canada and, when the ill-fated Arandora Star he was sailing on was torpedoed and sunk, to Australia. His wife and four children, including Max, were interned on the Isle of Man. Another five members of the family remained in Stoke Newington and buried the coins before being killed in the Blitz in September 1940. On his release Martin Sulzbacher arranged for the garden to be searched, without success.

The British Museum, the coroner's office and the Museum of London traced Max Sulzbacher, 81, a retired chartered accountant, who now lives in Jerusalem. Mr Sulzbacher, whose father ran a bookshop in Golders Green, north London and died in 1981, said he was "surprised but delighted" by the find.

Source: The Press Association, BBC News.