Wallets with family photos, engraved wedding rings, letters, documents: The ITS archive still holds around 3,200 personal effects. These are personal belongings that were taken from individuals when they were imprisoned by the Nazis. Most of them come from the Neuengamme and Dachau concentration camps.
The ITS now plans to start searching proactively for the relatives of people persecuted by the Nazis in order to return these items. The number of objects returned more than doubled compared to 2015. In 2016, the ITS was able to return keepsakes to 35 families.
Anna Meier-Osiński, Head of the Tracing Investigations into Nazi Victims Branch, explained: “We check to see whether, in addition to personal effects, the ITS also holds documents with potentially helpful clues about these former victims of persecution. Around 500 people came from Germany. In these cases, we’ve started with an external search in places such as registry offices. We’ve also talked with our partners in Poland, who are now spreading the word about the collection of around 600 Polish personal effects. And we’ve begun searching for family members in Poland as well.”
To date I’ve found four families. Sometimes it takes me several days to conduct the research; in the case of Johannes Berens, it took several months (see pp. 66-67). My most recent search had to do with two young policemen. I found out that the Nazis arrested many policemen in the Netherlands. A great number of them died in the Neuengamme concentration camp and its satellite camps. The discovery of the personal effects has sparked new interest in their fate.Ever since he saw a feature about the ITS Online Archive and its personal effects on Dutch television in 2015, Erik Dijkstra has been helping return items to family members.