First, a nose emerges from the ground. Then an ear. Next, the rest of a head. Workers lay the head on its side with caution and stare at the marble block. “Hitler as I live and breathe,” says one of them in the end.

Adolf Hitler visiting Gdańsk in 1939

Adolf Hitler visiting Gdańsk in 1939

Two workers changing plumbing lines next to the National Museum in Gdańsk, Toruńska street, are about to end their Saturday shift, when the plow of their excavator hits something hard. Kamil Hoppe switches off the engine and gets out of the machine to see what happened. With a shovel he uncovers a boulder that lies several centimeters below the surface. It is quite large and Kamil calls his colleague for help. What they dig out is a World War II Hitler’s bust.

The head is about half a meter. It has lain in the ground for about seventy years. It is a sculpture of an Austrian III Reich artist Josef Thorak, one of Hitler’s personal favourites.

The marble bust in the National Museum in Gdańsk

The marble bust in the National Museum in Gdańsk

How did it come to be buried there?
Before the war in today’s National Museum was the Municipal Museum. Late Gothic building once belonged to the Franciscan monastery, which today is adjacent to the seat of the institution. Almost till the end of the war the museum’s curators were organising exhibitions and purchasing works of art for its collection.

Just before the final defeat of the Third Reich they packed paintings, prints, furniture, sculptures, antique coins in crates and hid them in various small towns of Pomerania. Dutch pottery, Gdańsk tiles and Chinese porcelain were hidden in the cellars.

After the war only about one-third of the works of art was returned to the museum. Bombs did not destroy the fragile pottery in the basement. The marble Hitler also survived, buried under a thick layer of earth in a former monastery garden.

The Gdańsk Hitler of Josef Thorak will be entered into the inventory of the National Museum. It will, however, not be exhibited any time soon. Lech Łopuski, curator of the National Museum, wants to gather as much information about how the sculpture of the Austrian artist came to Gdańsk and where it was located.

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