Digging down into the dirt at the site of one of WWII’s bloodiest battles, this group of Russian historians could never have predicted what they’d find. Hidden inside a muddy old lockbox was a treasure trove of items offering an astonishing glimpse into the past.
The Soviet Union and Germany had initially not been at odds in WWII, but despite signing a non-aggression pact, the Nazis eventually did a U-turn on the deal. On June 22, 1941, the German army launched a huge attack on the Soviets, creating the Eastern Front. It would lead to huge losses of life on both sides.
The battlefield of Nevsky Pyatachok in northern Russia played a pivotal role in the Siege of Leningrad. The site saw fierce fighting that lasted not for days or weeks but years.
During the Siege of Leningrad – which lasted from September 1941 to January 1944 – the battlefield was of critical strategic importance to the Soviets. And it is estimated that by May 1943, 260,000 soldiers from Russia’s Red Army had been killed or injured at Nevsky Pyatachok.
Thanks to the Soviets’ continued control of this small stretch of shoreline, vital supplies could still trickle through to the besieged city. It was, though, a long, drawn-out and bloody battle. The Nevsky Pyatachok site was under constant assault from January 1942 all the way up to May 1943. But, somehow, the Soviets ultimately managed to hold control of the area – and today Russians flock to it; indeed, it’s now a historical landmark in the country.
In February 2016 – more than 70 years after the fighting – a number of websites began reporting on an amazing, but as yet unconfirmed, discovery. According to various online sources, a group of Russian historians had been exploring the Nevsky Pyatachok area accompanied by local experts.
Using metal detectors – and avoiding any unexploded ordinance that might be left in the ground – the group came across a large trunk buried just feet below the ground. They then cleared the lockbox from the mud that surrounded it and brought it to the surface.
The group of historians had stumbled on a perfectly preserved time capsule – nothing less than a Nazi soldier’s lockbox. It was an exciting find, to say the least.
When the historians pulled the box out of the ground and cracked it open, they must surely have been amazed at what they had found. Yes, inside was what appeared to be the long-lost belongings of a German soldier, including a military cap and a fur hat.
The items, as suggested, appeared to be incredibly well preserved – but they bore the unmistakable insignia of Nazi Germany. This shirt is a clear case in point.
The team also found newspaper clippings in the lockbox, and this gave them a clue as to the exact age of their haul. It was like a window into another world.
Meanwhile, the markings on the uniform found in the trunk indicate that the belongings were no less than those of a Nazi officer. But who was he? Mystery abounds.
Inside the trunk, the historians even found a box of cigars which looked as if they could have been bought just yesterday. Signs of indulgence, then, amidst the horrors of war.
The contents of the box lean toward luxury, it’s true – reflective, it seems, of the soldier’s rank. Alongside the other items there was even a handful of Reichsmarks, the currency used in Nazi Germany when Hitler was in power.
Equally compelling, there were a couple of bottles of Jamaican rum. And if that’s not going to warm you up on a cold Russian evening then nothing will.
It’s worth underlining that not every soldier would have had access to fine cigars and enough money that they could afford to bury it. What’s more, the rum had not been looted; it had been brought from Germany.
But why was the lockbox buried? Perhaps the soldier was deserting and wanted rid of their uniform and anything identifiably from Germany. Perhaps they buried the cigars and rum with the intention of returning to them at a later date. Or perhaps a Red Army soldier buried a captured stash but – for whatever reason – had been unable to return to it. Without more information, we can only guess.
There were some very personal items in the box, too, including what appears to be an address book and a diary. Such effects offer an incredible and intimate glimpse into the soldier’s life.
It’s worth repeating that it’s amazing how well preserved some of these items appear to be. After them being buried for so long under the ground, you might well imagine that there’d be nothing left – a fact which has caused some to speculate that the haul may be a hoax, mixing replicas with real items.
For their part, having discovered this amazing collection of historical artifacts, the historians have begun trying to track down the family of the soldier who owned them. However, this could prove to be a difficult task.
Luckily, there were a few objects in the haul that might make this difficult search a little easier. Among the soldier’s possessions were his wallet and dog tags, offering promising leads to pursue.
If all the finds do turn out to be genuine articles, the historians who stumbled across this amazing find will surely be celebrating. Whatever the case, though, this apparent time capsule is a chilling and poignant reminder of one of history’s bloodiest periods.