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Talks on Return of Effects

On 5 and 6 April, the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen had talks with representatives of the memorial centres Neuengamme, Dachau, Amersfoort and Bergen-Belsen on the modus operandi for returning effects still kept in the ITS archives. The ITS needs the memorials’ assistance with its search for any next-of-kin of the effects’ former owners. “To this date we have not been able to assess how voluminous these holdings still are. Therefore, we are glad to have a lucid and accurate list now”, said Klaus Taetzler from the Bergen-Belsen memorial.

Over the last months, the ITS has taken stock of the 3,400 effects still held in the archives. These are mainly wallets containing papers, letters and photos the National Socialists had seized from the prisoners at the registration in the concentration camp. The ITS has researched the origin of the effects and identified further former owners’ names. While most items of the holdings come from concentration camps Dachau and Neuengamme, a few could be traced back to Amersfoort, Bergen-Belsen, Natzweiler and Compiègne. “The research results on the origin of the effects are impressive”, Dr Reimer Möller from the Neuengamme memorial gave his view. “As many documents were destroyed, the Neuengamme effects sometimes are the only proof of people’s having been incarcerated there.”

The representatives of the memorials took with them a CD ROM with a names list each. And in addition, the ITS will publish the list of the effects in May 2011 on the internet. Relatives of former concentration camp prisoners will have to enter a password to get access. “We ought to hand back the effects as soon as possible, after all the contemporary witnesses are getting older and older”, said Harry Ruijs, Director of the Amersfoort memorial. “To do so, we need committed volunteers, though, as the search for any next-of-kin proves time and effort-consuming often.” In the Netherlands, Gert van Dompseler and Pieter Dekker from “Stichting October’44” have taken on that role and succeeded in finding 65 families already last year. Some of the effects that cannot be returned shall be placed at the disposal of the memorials for future use, for instance, in exhibitions.