How science is helping unearth an 80-year-old Holocaust mystery

Out of the ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto, remnants of resistance emerge, thanks to advanced geoscientific tools and a team determined to keep the horrors of history from fading.

In a grassy patch of public park in central Warsaw last week, archaeologists dug up a rusted metal coat hook and the tangled chain of a decayed necklace. The objects couldn’t be more ordinary. Or more extraordinary. 

The team excavated them from the buried rubble of the Warsaw Ghetto, where German occupiers sealed hundreds of thousands of Poland’s Jews into crowded, desperate squalor during World War II and over 80,000 died inside the walls of starvation, exposure and infectious diseases. Amid the twisted metal and bits of glass, the archaeologists unearthed small, unassuming remnants of daily life, suspended in hardened earth “like a time capsule,” says Philip Reeder, a professor of natural and environmental science at Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University and chief cartographer for the group working on the dig.

Join Our Mailing List

Stay up to date on conference news and updates