Culture & Society Hungary News

Hungary: ‘Priceless’ antique gold treasure unearthed in former Jewish ghetto

A treasure of 2,800 gold and silver coins was discovered in Hungary

Budapest, Hungary – The owners of a house located in the small town of Keszthely, nearly 200 km southwest of Budapest, randomly stumbled in a former Jewish ghetto upon what experts believe is a priceless treasure of gold and silver coins dating back to the Antiquity period.

According to Gabor Rejto, head of the Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation in Keszthely quoted by AFP, the house is located in an area that used to be a wartime Jewish ghetto set up in May 1944, and from which nearly 1,000 local Hungarian-Jews were deported to Auschwitz.

According to speculation, the treasure, that includes no less than 2,800 gold and silver coins, was buried in the ghetto ground by a Jewish owner before he was deported from Hungary during World War II.

“It’s a priceless collection that can also help us learn about the Holocaust”, said Balint Havasi, director of Keszthely’s Balatoni Museum, where the coins are now exhibited.

In a letter sent to the museum, the owners of the house, who wish to remain anonymous, explained that they were pumping out groundwater from their cellar, when they came across five carefully sealed and buried glass jars.

“When we opened one of them, we were greeted by an amazing sight, just like in a fairy tale: hundreds of coins, real treasure”, the letter read. “We hope that it can return to its legal owners one day”.

The exact value of the treasure hasn’t been clearly assessed yet, but most experts believe that the collection is absolutely unique: while half of the coins come from Pannonia, a Roman empire province that covers modern-day Hungary, other coins span from pre and post-revolutionary France, 19th century German provinces, Czarist and Soviet-era Russia, as well as colonial-era India and others territories in South America, Asia and Africa.

The exact identity of the former owner, as well as how such a treasure was amassed over the years, remain a mystery. And while almost all of the town’s Jewish population was killed during the Holocaust, finding descendants of the owners is also unlikely.

But Balint Havasi is hopeful: “We also hope the exhibition will spread the word about the coins, and that a legal owner will turn up”.

If not, the Hungarian state will assume property over this priceless discovery.