Wallets with photos, engraved wedding rings, fashion jewellery, letters or identification papers: While being deported to concentration camps prisoners were usually only carrying the few things they had on them at the time of their arrest. Such personal belongings that were taken from the prisoners when they arrived at concentration camps are the so called “personal effects”. The International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen is still in possession of roughly 2,700 personal effects whose former owners are known by name. Of course, personal belongings of prisoners can also be found at other memorial sites and museums, yet knowing the name of the original owners is only possible in the rarest of cases.
The personal belongings generally have little material value but a high sentimental value for family members. More often than not they are a last personal memento. The goal of the ITS is to return the personal belongings to the former prisoners and their family members. Every year this is made possible in some cases, very often through cooperation with memorial sites and partner organizations or through journalistic research. Occasionally family members themselves contact the ITS, in this way also enabling the return of personal effects.
The personal effects are mainly from the concentration camps Neuengamme (2,300) and Dachau (330). In addition there are some personal belongings from prisoners of the Hamburg Gestapo (50), concentration camps Natzweiler and Bergen-Belsen, as well as the transit camps Amersfoort and Compiègne.
The original owners of the effects were primarily victims of political persecution. Their numbers are likely to include members of all nations whose territories had been occupied by the National Socialists, the majority being from Eastern Europe.
Here you can find out more on what the effects can tell us.
Here you will find more background information on the effects.
Heinrich Laubinger‘s Wallet
One of the items found in the effects collection is, for example, the wallet of the Geman Sinto Heinrich Laubinger, who died in Mauthausen Concentration Camp in 1940. With the help of the photos and papers found in this wallet, and using the documents of the ITS Archives, the life of this victim of Nazi persecution can be traced. Heinrich Laubinger was born in Oberdieten, Hesse, on 27 April 1899. His grandfather Heinrich had the birth of his grandson registered at the notary’s office. His mother, the unmarried Wilhelmina Luna Laubinger, gave birth to the baby in the barn of an innkeeper. It was precisely in this year that “gypsies” in German states were to be registered at so-called “gypsy centers” of the security police. After this, other new laws followed quickly which made the lives of this minority group increasingly difficult. The Laubinger family managed to make it to Tilsit, at that time in Eastern Prussia, in 1916. Heinrich Laubinger had by that time grown into a 17-year old youth. This young man lived in Hannover from 25 November 1918 until the end of June 1919. In his registration papers his occupation was listed as “Künstler” (artist).
When and how he met the young widow Anna Rosa Winter is not known. On 21 December 1924 Heinrich Laubinger moved to Holzminden. A few weeks later, on 17 January 1925, Heinrich Laubinger and Anna Rosa Winter got married. Their daughter, Alma, was born on 16 December 1929, and three years later, on 10 December 1932, their son Eduard. Four months later, Anna Rosa Laubinger died in the Neuhaldensleben State Mental Hospital. In May 1937 the widower Laubinger moved to Minden in Westphalia and at first stayed at the house of Rudolf Weiß, a relative. Where Heinrich Laubinger was arrested, and when he was deported to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, cannot be ascertained from the documents kept in the ITS archives. In the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, the barely 40-year-old Laubinger, like so many other prisoners, had to do forced labor in the brick yards.
On 25 January 1940, 1,034 prisoners, among them Laubinger, were deported from Concentration Camp Sachsenhausen to Concentration Camp Mauthausen. There the 41-year-old Laubinger, as a prisoner in the category “Arbeitszwang—Reich” (forced labor-Reich) was given the prisoner number 2009 and was assigned to work in the “Marbacher Bruch” (Marbach quarry). Any personal belongings the prisoners might have been carrying on them were confiscated by the camp administration. Heinrich Laubinger had to hand over his wallet and everything it contained: personal papers, photos, official certificates. For the prisoners, weakened through malnourishment, beatings, insufficient clothing, horrendous sanitary conditions and constant terror, the hard labor in the quarry meant almost certain death. On 6 March 1940 at 2:50 p.m. Heinrich Laubinger died in Concentration Camp Mauthausen. In the death registry of the administration office of Mauthausen /Marbach the cause of death was noted as due to dysentery, weak heart and poor circulation. These and details of a similar nature frequently appear on death certificates from other concentration camps, too. The children and other family members never received word of what had become of Heinrich Laubinger, nor of his death. It wasn’t until many years later in 1959, when his sister Maria Diesenberg applied for financial restitution, that the family learned of his fate.
The ITS traces the biography of Heinrich Laubinger in a folder of pedagogical materials which is used in schools and in extra-curricular teaching. The biographical information and the images of the preserved photos and documents are augmented by accompanying historical texts and a view of the years following 1945.
families receive effects
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Wristwatch from Neuengamme Concentration Camp Returned to Victim’s Family
Return of Personal Effects to Families from Putten