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Effects Returned to 35 Families

Today the International Tracing Service (ITS) of Bad Arolsen was able to return effects to 35 Dutch families at the Amersfoort Memorial Site. Most of the personal belongings were wallets which had been taken away from their owners by the Nazis during deportation to the Neuengamme concentration camp. “We are really pleased that contact could be established with the families thanks to the initiative of Stichting October’44, particularly Gert van Dompseler and Pieter Dekker,” said Nicole Dominicus, head of Archival Requests and Visitors’ Service at ITS.

The wallets contain photos, papers, food stamps and letters in some cases. All valuable items had been confiscated by the Nazis. “The effects have no material value, but they are of a highly emotional value,” said Dominicus. “A piece of remembrance which, in our opinion, is best off with the families.” Most of the original owners of the belongings were Dutch resistance fighters who combated German occupying forces.

Some of them also came from the Dutch town of Putten. During a raid in October 1944, Nazis had arrested the entire male population of this town, and driven off the women and children. The raid served as an act of revenge after an assault on a vehicle of the German Wehrmacht. Of the 660 men who were abducted to the Neuengamme concentration camp, only 48 returned after the war. “Their path took them through the transit camp Amersfoort,” explained Dominicus.

Today’s return of the effects at the Amersfoort Memorial Site is part of an initiative ITS started last year. “We probably won’t be able to find very many more family members, but our goal is still to return as many personal belongings as possible,” said Dominicus. There are still around 3,400 envelopes with effects stored in the ITS archives. Of the 5,200 envelopes originally received in 1963, ITS has been able to return almost 1,800 to former prisoners and their family members.

ITS researched current addresses on its own and with the help of national Red Cross societies. Whenever enquiries about former prisoners were made with ITS, any personal belongings on file were also returned to their families. “Oftentimes, however, we don’t know if the victims still have any next of kin, or in which countries they live today,” said Dominicus. “We therefore hope for some additional pointers from the memorial sites and other partner organizations.” ITS has photographed all of the remaining personal belongings and sent these images as a CD-Rom along with an index of names to the Dachau and Neuengamme memorial sites, the international camp committees and other partner organizations such as Yad Vashem and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.