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Jewish refugees' gold coins dug up in Hackney garden named one of Britain's best treasure finds

PUBLISHED: 12:19 08 May 2017 | UPDATED: 12:19 08 May 2017

Martin Sulzbacher. Picture: Hackney Council

Martin Sulzbacher. Picture: Hackney Council

Archant

A hoard of gold coins displayed in Hackney Museum has been named as one of England's 20 best collections.

One of the gold American coins on display at Hackney Museum as part of the 'Hackney hoard'. Picture: Hackney CouncilOne of the gold American coins on display at Hackney Museum as part of the 'Hackney hoard'. Picture: Hackney Council

The set of American coins, which once belonged to Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Germany, is in a shortlist of 20 that will be put to a public vote.

Martin Sulzbacher and his family brought the gold – their life savings – when they settled in Hackney in 1938.

It consisted of 80 $20 “Double-Eagle” bullion coins, which Martin stored in a bank vault.

“When the Second World War broke out, Martin was interned by the British government as an ‘enemy alien refugee’,” said a council spokeswoman.

“He was sent to Canada on the ill-fated Arandora Star which was torpedoed.

“After many hours in the water he was rescued and taken to Scotland. A week later he was sent to Australia along with about 2,000 other Jewish refugees. His wife and four small children were interned on the Isle of Man.”

Meanwhile, Nazi soldiers were raiding bank vaults in Amsterdam and other invaded cities – so, back in Hackney, Martin’s siblings and parents decided to bury the 160 gold coins in two jars in the garden for safe keeping.

But the house was bombed in 1940 and all five family members died – taking knowledge of the secret location with them.

After the war Martin tried to find the coins using a metal detector but failed. In 1952, workmen found the first jar, which they gave back to him. The second jar wasn’t found until 2007 but as Martin had died in 1981 it was given to his kids.

They decided to give the collection to Hackney Museum to commemorate Martin’s amazing story.

The hoard is among 20 chosen by archaeology experts at the British Museum as one of Britain’s most interesting and important “treasure” finds. You can vote for it as the overall best here.

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