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.
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.
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.