Wednesday December 19, 2018

An Auschwitz mug that held a secret treasure for 70 years

Between 1940 and 1945, about 1.5 million people, most of them Jews, were killed at Auschwitz-Birkenau in occupied Poland.

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Secret jewelry, Image credits- Reuters.com
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The staff at the Auschwitz museum have uncovered jewelry secretly hidden in an enamel mug since the liberation of the wartime Nazi death camp in 1945.

The mug, one of the thousands of kitchenware items seized by Nazi guards from those deported to the camp in southern Poland during World War II, was found to have an inside double bottom, under which a gold ring and necklace wrapped in a piece of canvas were hidden.

The objects, believed to have been made in Poland in between 1921 and 1931, were discovered during maintenance of the museum’s enameled kitchenware exhibits.

“When I picked up this mug, it turned out that there were hidden objects inside,” museum staffer Hanna Kubik said.

Recovered mug, Image credits - Reuters.com
Recovered mug, Image credits – Reuters.com

“With time, the fake bottom had detached from the cup, so it was clearly visible that inside there was a bundle and you could see a fragment of the chain and a ring”.

Between 1940 and 1945, about 1.5 million people, most of them Jews, were killed at Auschwitz-Birkenau in occupied Poland.

Those sent there had belongings taken away upon arrival, many of which are on display today.

Many hid valuables inside, items the museum says are still being discovered years later. However, their owners often remain anonymous because of the lack of traces on the objects to identify them.

The museum, which says it has more than 12,000-enamelled kitchen items — like cups, pots, bowls, kettles, jugs — in its memorials collection, said the jewelry would now be stored in “in the form reflecting the manner in which it had been hidden by the owner.”(REUTERS)

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U.N. Chief Returns To Climate Talks To Hopefully Reach a Deal With Countries

One issue that has risen to the fore at the talks is the proposal by Poland for countries to back the idea of a "just transition" for workers in fossil fuel industries

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U.N. Climate Conference
In this Dec. 11, 2018 photo a participant in U.N. climate conference walks by a photo of a satellite in Katowice, Poland. VOA

The United Nations secretary-general flew back to global climate talks in Poland Wednesday to appeal to countries to reach an agreement, as some observers feared the meeting might end without a deal.

U.N. chief Antonio Guterres opened the talks last week, telling leaders to take the threat of global warming seriously and calling it “the most important issue we face.”

But as the two-week meeting shifted from the technical to political phase, with ministers taking over negotiations, campaign groups warned of the risks of failure in Katowice.

Harjeet Singh of ActionAid International said the main holdouts were the United States, Australia and Japan, while the European Union was “a mere spectator.”

U.N., Climate
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses during the opening of COP24 UN Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland, Dec. 3, 2018. VOA

“A new leadership must step up,” said Vanessa Perez-Cirera of the environmental group WWF. “We cannot afford to lose one of the twelve years we have remaining.”

She was referring to a recent scientific report by a U.N.-backed panel that suggested average global warming can only be halted at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) if urgent action is taken by 2030, including a dramatic reduction in use of fossil fuels.

Endorsing the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change became a crunch issue over the weekend, with the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait opposing the move.

Jean-Pascal Ypersele, a former deputy chair of the panel, said whether or not countries believe the conclusions of the report was irrelevant because the science was clear.

Fossil Fuels, Climate
Youth and indigenous groups protest against fossil fuels during US-hosted event at the UN climate talks in Katowice, Poland, Dec. 10, 2018, as the COP24 UN Climate Change Conference takes place in the city. VOA

“Nobody, even the so-called superpowers, can negotiate with the laws of physics,” he said.

Ypersele called for the 1.5-degree target — already mentioned in the 2015 Paris accord — to be recognized in the final text.

“It’s a question of survival for a large part of humanity, and many other species,” he said.

Poland, which is chairing the talks, was expected to circulate a condensed draft text Wednesday running to about 100 pages, down from about 300 at the start of the talks.

The Dec. 2-14 meeting is supposed to finalize the rules that signatories of the Paris accord need to follow when it comes to reporting their greenhouse gas emissions and efforts to reduce them.

Li Shuo, a climate expert at Greenpeace, warned that the current text was riddled with loopholes. “A Swiss cheese rulebook is unacceptable,” he said.

Pollution, Climate
Clouds of smoke over Europe’s largest lignite power plant in Belchatow, central Poland, on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. VOA

Poor countries also want assurances on financial support to tackle climate change.

A third objective of the talks is getting governments to make a firm commit to raising ambitions in the coming two years, albeit without any precise figures.

One issue that has risen to the fore at the talks is the proposal by Poland for countries to back the idea of a “just transition” for workers in fossil fuel industries facing closure from emissions-curbing measures.

Also Read: To Help Poor Countries Adapt To Global Warming, World Bank Doubles Its Funding

Germany’s environment minister, Svenja Schulze, told reporters that her country is committed to phasing out the use of coal, though the exact deadline has yet to be determined.

But in a nod to the recent protests in France over fuel prices, Schulze warned against governments forcing through measures, saying they would lose public support “faster than you can spell climate protection, and then people pull on yellow vests.” (VOA)