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Refugee's coins returned to family

A German refugee's hoard of gold coins discovered in a garden will be returned to his descendants, a coroner has ruled.

The coins, which constituted the smuggled savings of Martin Sulzbacher, a Jew who fled Nazi Germany in 1938, are the property of his son Max Sulzbacher, Dr Andrew Scott Reid, coroner for Inner North London, ruled.

Max Sulzbacher's family hid the jar of American "double eagle" gold dollars in 1940 amid fears banks would be raided by invading Germans. But they were killed when a German bomb struck their Hackney home - taking the knowledge of the precise whereabouts of the coins to the grave.

The 80 coins, minted between 1854 and 1913, and will be auctioned by Spink auctioneers, Bloomsbury. They are expected to fetch £80,000 to £90,000.

Mr Sulzbacher said he would use the cash to restore his family's crumbling gravestones in Enfield cemetery, and give some of the money to the finders. One coin will be donated to the Hackney Museum.

The coins are not an especially rare design, but their value comes from being made of solid gold and the story of how they came to light, according to experts at the British Museum, where the hoard is on display until the end of the week.

They were found wrapped in greaseproof paper in a glass jar when Terrence Castle, of Stoke Newington, north London, was gardening.

Martin Sulzbacher bought the coins in Germany after selling all his property and smuggled them to England. When war broke out he was interned as an alien and sent abroad - first to Canada and, when the ill-fated Arandora Star he was sailing on was torpedoed and sunk, to Australia.

His wife and four children, including Max, were interned on the Isle of Man. Another five members of the family remained in Stoke Newington and buried the coins before being killed in the Blitz in September 1940. On his release Martin Sulzbacher arranged for the garden to be searched - without success.

The British Museum, the coroner's office and the Museum of London traced Max Sulzbacher, 81, a retired chartered accountant, who now lives in Jerusalem. Mr Sulzbacher, whose father ran a bookshop in Golders Green, north London and died in 1981, said he was "surprised but delighted" by the find.

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