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Personal effects returned to 18 families

Over the past few days, the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen has returned personal effects from Neuengamme concentration camp to 18 families from the Netherlands. These are wallets, photos, papers and letters that were taken away from the prisoners upon their arrival at the concentration camp. "These personal items create a special kind of connection with the persecuted and murdered relatives. They are a piece of memory that, in our opinion, is best off with the families", said ITS Director Jean-Luc Blondel.

The personal effects were returned at the Amersfoort Memorial and at the ITS in Bad Arolsen. "An intense moment for all of us," said Susanne Siebert, Head of Humanitarian Requests at the ITS. "We are delighted that we were able to find the families thanks to the support from the 'October 44' Foundation and the Amersfoot Memorial." The 18 former prisoners were arrested by the National Socialists for political reasons, because of resistance, refusal to work or for helping Jews.

Seven families come from the Dutch town of Putten. In a raid in October 1944, following an attack by a resistance group, the National Socialists arrested the entire male population of the town. Out of the 660 men who were taken to Neuengamme concentration camp, only 48 returned after the war. The town of Putten was burned down. "As people were not able to retain many of their personal belongings from this time, it is of great emotional significance for the families when the personal effects are handed over", according to Siebert.

The current restoration of personal effects is part of an initiative that the ITS launched in 2009. "Our goal is to return as many personal effects as possible", explained Blondel. Last year a list of the personal effects was published on the Internet. In the ITS archives, there are currently around 2,850 envelopes containing personal effects, the name of whose original owner is known. The personal items predominantly come from the concentration camps Neuengamme and Dachau. When looking for the relatives of the owner, the ITS relies on cooperation with memorials, partner organisations and survivors' associations.