He bears the same name as his uncle who was detained in a concentration camp by the Nazis in 1944. Now, Marcel Uytdenhoef was able to collect the personal belongings confiscated from his uncle when he was detained. “We had no idea these effects existed,” the Belgian said, who, on September 27th 2016, came to the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen with four other family members.
His uncle, Marcel Uytdenhoef, had joined the resistance movement in Belgium which was occupied by the Wehrmacht. “He was furious about his brother’s death,” the nephew relates. “My father had been killed in the first German air raid in 1940. At the time, I was seven months and my sister was two years old.” After the occupation of his country, older brother Marcel was a prisoner of war initially, but could later return home. “He immediately joined the resistance.” However, a traitor led him to being arrested by the Germans.
According to records from the ITS archive, Marcel Uytdenhoef was committed to the police transit camp in Amersfoort and subsequently deported to Neuengamme concentration camp in October 1944. Soon after, he was transferred to Ravensbrück concentration camp where he was liberated by the Soviet Army. “Our uncle barely weighed 48 kg and was in a very poor state of health, more dead than alive,” his family reveals. As soon as he was strong enough, he trudged home. “The Red Cross brought him on the last part of the journey but it took months for him to become a human being again.” His return caused great joy within the village. “But my uncle didn’t feel like celebrating,” the nephew recalls. “He said he had seen too many people die and might have to shake hands with the traitor who had betrayed him to the Germans.”
The effects handed out to the family include a signet ring and a wallet with documents and photos. These photos show Marcel Uytdenhoef as a young boy together with his brother who lost his life in a hail of bombs. “We don’t have any other photos of the brothers so young,” the family says happily. One of the pictures shows Marcel as a young man kicking a ball around a football field. Before the war, he had been a creative man who loved life. He enjoyed painting and playing football. “But after the war, all that was gone”, his nephew remembers. Although marked by his concentration camp imprisonment, he embarked on a successful career working for the port of Antwerp as he had done before the war and he even became the director of a transport company. However, he died early at the age of 54. “He remained emotionally embittered and never married.”
Nevertheless, a special relationship developed between the nephew and his godfather of the same name. To younger Marcel who had lost his father at an early age his uncle was a kind of surrogate father. Coming to Bad Arolsen was not easy: “I had mixed emotions. I was worried that the fear and the memories would come back, so it was a difficult decision.” After consultation within the family, they all decided to undertake this trip into the past together. “And now I am grateful that I am here after all,” says Marcel Uytdenhoef. “These things are extremely precious to us. They have an incredible sentimental value. The ITS took good care of them and our family will do the same.”
In its archive, the ITS still safeguards approx. 3,200 effects, primarily from Neuengamme and Dachau concentration camps. In October 2015, the ITS published the photos of all effects kept in its archive via a globally accessible online portal.