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Wristwatch from Neuengamme Concentration Camp Returned to Victim's Family

After sixty-seven years, a wristwatch was returned today to the possession of the Family Epking from Herdecke. A Google search for his grandfather Karl, led his grandson Thilo Epking and his father Reinhard to the International Tracing Service (ITS) and the list of effects from the concentration camp Neuengamme, published on the Internet. “I could hardly believe this, and immediately took a day off,” says Thilo. “I had never before heard of the ITS.”

The Nazis locked up Karl Epking at the beginning of 1945 in the Neuengamme concentration camp. He never returned. “We knew nothing about what happened to my father,” says his son Reinhard. “A friend told us that he had been arrested in the Berlin Zoo train station in early 1945. From then on there was no sign of him.” At the end of the war, Karl’s wife did an intensive search for him, but could not find out anything else. Finally, she let her husband be declared dead. The 74-year-old Reinhard remembers that his father was always on the run when he was a little boy. “The last time I saw him was in Kleinwalsertal, today in Austria, but only for a few hours. The pursuers were always right behind him.”

His father had left the Party and turned against Nazi dictatorship. The family does not know more. The break went right through: one was supporting the ideology of the Nazis, the other was turning away from the regime. “We have always tried to work out facts from the stories other family members and friends told us,” comments the 45-year-old grandson Thilo, “but that was difficult.” Even the father of the murdered concentration camp prisoner remained stubborn. “I screamed at my grandfather, ‘How can you side with those who murdered your own son?’” says Reinhard, “but it led to nothing.”

Even today, Reinhard still has the fears and bombs in front of his eyes. “We were buried in a cellar. There was no water, and the coals began to burn. A neighbor saved us in the end,” he remembers. “The experiences of that time have definitely left their mark. The ITS is now trying to reconstruct details about the persecution and murder of Karl Epking. “It would be nice to have a place to mark the mourning and to say farewell,” explains his grandson Thilo.