A simple chest of drawers, which came from the Steinort manor house, probably from the servants' quarters. In 1945 it was still quite new, made of pine, unpainted. Ten years ago, an old gentleman donated it to the Museum of Folklore in Węgorzewo, formerly Angerburg, along with other things he had taken from the manor after the end of the war.
A story of disappearance, preservation and understanding
The piece of furniture with the inventory number MKL/E 5056 is a rarity today – most of the things from the castle have been lost. How and when, we can only speculate. The chest of drawers probably stood in the servants' quarters. Perhaps it was also in one of the Count's children's rooms; a photograph from the time shows a similarly simple piece.
At Christmas 1944, the chest of drawers was probably still part of an inhabited room. Most of the servants had remained after the arrest of Heinrich von Lehndorff on July 22 of that year, and the subsequent expulsion of the Count's family.
In mid-January 1945, the inhabitants of the estate and outworks fled in a hurry, in freezing cold conditions, leaving almost everything behind. Shortly after, the Red Army arrived in
deu. Steinort, deu. Groß Steinort

The village of Sztynort is located in the north of the Masurian Lake District on the Jez Peninsula between Jezioro Mamry, Jezioro Dargin and Jezioro Dobskie. Until 1928 the village was called Groß Steinort, then Steinort.

. In the frenzy of their victory, soldiers looted and ravaged the village. The Lehndorff manor house became the seat of the Soviet command – until the beginning of 1947.
It was one of the locations in East Prussia that served as a military base to supply the troops returning from Berlin, and to collect "trophies": goods of various kinds claimed as reparation: cattle, machinery, cultural heritage objects, including the still existing precious furniture from Steinort Castle. Everything was loaded onto trains at the Groß Steinort station and transported to Russia.
A modest chest of drawers was not deemed worthwhile as war booty. There is some evidence that it remained unclaimed until after the with-drawal of the Russians, in 1947, when the Poles took over the castle and established a state-owned farm – Państwowe gospodarstwo rolne, or PGR for short.
Masuria filled up with new settlers from the East who had nothing and needed everything: furniture, dishes, clothes, tools and building materials. They helped themselves to the now ownerless property of the enemy. Under communist leadership, law and order only gradually prevailed. Perhaps the young militiaman who took the chest of drawers home had certain privileges?
"Maybe he had a guilty conscience?" Says Krystyna Jarosz, curator of the Museum of Folklore, who received the old man's gift more than half a century later. "In hindsight, at least."1  He was already seriously ill at that time and was clearly aware that even banal objects like this one have historical value.
The value of everyday objects
Time and again, the museum had called on the inhabitants of the
deu. Angerburg

Węgorzewo is a city in northeastern Poland in Warmińsko-Mazurskie Voivodeship. It is inhabit by about 11,000 people and is located not far from the border of Poland with Russia.

district to hand in everyday objects in their possession. Established in 1991, after the fall of communism, the museum was dedicated to presenting the history of the region and its inhabitants, free from ideologies or prohibitions. It took a fresh look at the question of what cultural heritage really is.
The attic of the museum is now full of relics dating from German times: under the sloped roof can be found cast-iron pots, a butter churn and a meat grinder, as well as spoons, irons, broken stove tiles, hunting trophies, a goose wing that served as a brush. Objects that bear witnesses to the everyday life of ordinary people – in amongst them, a roof tile from Steinort castle. In a display case, a mildewy copy of Fritz Rahn's "Schule des Schreibens" (School of Writing).
In the center of the room are items that the families of the current residents of the village brought with them from the old eastern homeland: a painted chest from the
deu. Wilna, rus. Вильнюс, rus. Wilnjus, yid. ווילנע, yid. Wilne, bel. Вільня, bel. Wilnja, pol. Wilno

Vilnius is the capital and most populous city of Lithuania. It is located in the southeastern part of the country at the mouth of the eponymous Vilnia (also Vilnelė) into the Neris. Probably settled as early as the Stone Age, the first written record dates back to 1323; Vilnius received Magdeburg city rights in 1387. From 1569 to 1795 Vilnius was the capital of the Lithuanian Grand Duchy in the Polish-Lithuanian noble republic. It lost this function in the Russian Tsarist Empire with the third partition of Poland-Lithuania. It was not until the establishment of the First Lithuanian Republic in 1918 that Vilnius briefly became the capital again. Between 1922 and 1940 Vilnius belonged to the Republic of Poland, so Kaunas became the capital of Lithuania. After the Second World War, Vilnius was the capital of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic until Lithuania regained its independence in 1990.

Already in the Middle Ages Vilnius was considered a center of tolerance. Jews in particular found refuge from persecution in Vilnius, so that Vilnius soon made a name for itself as the "Jerusalem of the North". Not least with the Goan of Vilnius, Elijah Ben Salomon Salman (1720-1797), Vilnius was one of the most important centers of Jewish education and culture. By the turn of the century, the largest population group was Jewish, while according to the first census in the Russian Tsarist Empire in 1897, only 2% belonged to the Lithuanian population group. From the 16th century onwards, numerous Baroque churches were built, which also earned the city the nickname "Rome of the East" and which still characterize the cityscape today, while the city's numerous synagogues were destroyed during the Second World War. Between 1941 and 1944 the city was under the so-called Reichskommissariat Ostland. During this period almost the entire Jewish population was murdered, only a few managed to escape.

Even today, the city bears witness to a "fantastic fusion of languages, religions and national traditions" (Tomas Venclova) and maintains its multicultural past and present.

region, a Ukrainian tapestry, garments from
deu. Wolhynien, pol. Wolyń, ukr. Воли́нь, ukr. Wolyn, deu. Wolynien, lit. Voluinė, rus. Волы́нь, rus. Wolyn

The historical landscape of Volhynia is located in northwestern Ukraine on the border with Poland and Belarus. Already in the late Middle Ages the region fell to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and from 1569 on belonged to the united Polish-Lithuanian noble republic for more than two centuries. After the partitions of Poland-Lithuania at the end of the 18th century, the region came under the Russian Empire and became the name of the Volhynia Governorate, which lasted until the early 20th century. The Russian period also saw the immigration of German-speaking population (the so-called Volhyniendeutsche), which peaked in the second half of the 19th century. After the First World War Volhynia was divided between Poland and the Ukrainian Soviet Republic, from 1939, as a result of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, completely Soviet and already in 1941 occupied by the Wehrmacht. Under German occupation there was systematic persecution and murder of the Jewish population as well as other parts of the population.
After World War II, Volhynia again belonged to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic and since 1992 to Ukraine. The landscape gives its name to the present-day Ukrainian oblast with its capital Luzk (ukr. Луцьк), which is not exactly congruent.

, private photos of couples and families before they were forcibly evacuated from their homes and resettled in Masuria.
It’s a fascinating smorgasbord! Siegfried Lenz, author of the novel "Heimatmuseum", would have enjoyed this peaceful coexistence of things. With no need for commentary, visitors can wander through the exhibits and understand how similar the fates of Germans and Poles are. The third section presents household items from communist times, and also triggers strong feelings – in 1989 a world came to an end, one that still shapes the lives of local people to this day.
For decades people continued to throw away the old stuff – the new consumer society made it all look even shabbier. There wasn't much left by the time the past made a comeback, and things like the militiaman's chest of drawers found their way into the museum.
A common heritage
In the tumultuous period following 1989, a lot of cultural heritage was lost once again. Thieves literally gutted the empty castle. In a final act of vandalism, a green tiled stove, a masterpiece of craftsmanship, disappeared overnight. According to the police, this was a premeditated act carried out by professionals, and the theft caused widespread outrage.
Today, historical sites in the public space are respected, for example, the large brick hole on the castle grounds, where the Count's ice cellar was located. The villagers continued to store ice from Lake Steinort here until the 1960s.
Archaeologists have access to these sites during major construction projects, like the experienced Dr. Jerzy Łapo, curator at the Węgorzewo Museum.2  Recently, he has done excavation work in the foundations of Lehndorff's hunting lodge and discovered three historical layers. Small and tiny fragments, pipe bowls, fragments of pottery, animal bones – identification is often detective work. Analyzing plant fibers and grains from the latrine or assigning a hand-hewn flint to a particular type of pistol.
The idea of reading the past has gained popularity. The Steinort cemetery, for example, has become a history book. For a long time, it lay hidden and overgrown, but after clearing and repair work, the necropolis is once again recognizable: the hereditary burial ground of the Lehndorffs sits atop a small hill, surrounded by the graves of the village people. 107 graves have been found, 50 identified by name, thanks to the German-Polish project "Forgotten Cemeteries".
In archives students have reconstructed biographical data of the de-ceased, detailing their relationships, professions and connections to the noble family. They include day laborers and forestry workers, valets and coachmen, the old-established Sensfuss family, who were potters, the teacher dynasty Puschke – an insight into a long-lost feudal world.
The Puschkes, in particular, have left many traces – four generations of teachers with close ties to the castle. A former student, Klara Karasch, describes a class trip she went on with teacher Richard Puschke in 1913 that led from the cemetery through the old oak avenue finishing at the Count's living quarters.