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A recent Beltrone & Company appraisal of artifacts brought home by a World War II American combat veteran was almost completed, when the client said, “Oh, I forgot to show you these.”


“These,” a faded and delicate bouquet of paper flowers, turned out to be the most significant item in the entire collection. It was an artifact exemplifying the best of humanity during a jubilant yet somber 1945 historical, wartime event.


The client’s husband had been an officer with the 4th Infantry Division in late April when his unit liberated a sub-camp of the infamous Nazi Dachau concentration camp. It was at this camp that slave laborers, many Jews skilled in special production trades, were forced to manufacture late-war German jet-propelled aircraft.


Shortly before the veteran passed away, his wife helped him re-organize his home office. On his desk sat a vase holding faded brown paper flowers. She offered to remove and discard the flowers and he quickly and emphatically said “no.” He then proceeded to tell a story she had never heard.


“I was part of the Dachau sub-camp’s liberating force. When the slave laborers were freed, one of the workers approached me and offered the paper flower bouquet,” he explained. The American soldier, an officer, accepted the paper flowers as the freed prisoner exclaimed emotionally with joy, “Thank you.”


The ensuing artifact examination process indicated the paper flowers were made from official German requisition forms, used to order parts for the jet aircraft production.

Additional historical information about the concentration camp production plant and its liberation was found in military records at the National Archives. This information added more to the bouquet’s historical significance and the vet’s wife decided the artifact, now with added provenance, should be shared with the public.


She donated the paper bouquet of faded flowers to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C.

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