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Return of Personal Effects at Amersfoort

On 19 November 2011, the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen was able to return twelve personal effects from the concentration Neuengamme to relatives of former prisoners. This took place at the National Monument Camp Amersfoort. “It was a particularly memorable experience for everyone involved to be able to return personal effects to relatives after such a long period of time,” said ITS staff member Ulrike Witte, who travelled to Amersfoort with three colleagues.

The ITS archive currently holds around 2,900 effects whose owners are known, mainly from the concentration camps Neuengamme and Dachau. The goal is to return as many effects as possible to survivors of Nazi persecution and their families. A list of names can be found on the ITS website. The families of 12 former prisoners held at Neuengamme were found in the Netherlands. Last year 65 effects were returned to Dutch families.

Nearly 50 family members received the personal effects at a small ceremony held at the National Monument Camp Amersfoort. Teunis van der Kruijssen was barely five years old as his 22-year-old brother Adrianus Aloisius van der Kruijssen was arrested by the Gestapo in the summer of 1944. On 8 September 1944 the Germans deported him to the concentration camp Neuengamme. “For a long time we didn´t hear anything from him,” said his brother. “The Red Cross later informed our family that my brother had died.” He was killed during the British bombing of the ship on which the prisoners were being evacuated in Lübeck Bay on 3 May 1945. “Many emotions resurfaced as I received my brother´s personal effects,” said van der Kruijssen. They included a wallet containing coins, a ticket and a slip of paper with a prisoner number written on it. There was also a bow tie from a tuxedo.

Digena Maria Kleinendorst-van Anrooij was four and a half years old when her father was arrested at home. “I can still recall that moment very clearly. It was cold and my father was not wearing enough warm clothing,” she said. “The next day I saw him for the last time. I was able to slip him an apple.” Eyewitnesses later told the family about the circumstances of his death on 15 December 1944. Kleinendorst-van Anrooij was visibly moved as she accepted her father´s personal effects. “I will never get over it,” she said.

Margarethe Elisabeth de Zwart-van Oostenbrugge's father, Wilhelm van Oostenbrugge, was betrayed. He had hidden a Jewish girl, Klara Lackmatt, in his family´s house.  “I was about 15 years old,” said his daughter. “After his arrest I never saw him again.” He died on 23 January 1945. ITS staff returned her father´s wallet containing a few coins and slips of paper with names and his prisoner number. “Today is a difficult day for me,” said Zwart-van Oostenbrugge, as she saw the effects.