Chilling evidence has emerged from the Sobibor death camp in Poland: Personal identity tags made of metal belonging to four children aged 5–11 from Amsterdam, Holland, were retrieved from archaeological excavations conducted at the camp.
The tags – metal pendants worn around the children’s necks – bear their names, date of birth and the name of their home town.
The archaeological excavation, begun prior to the construction of the new visitors center at the camp, is being conducted by an archaeological team composed of Wojciech Mazurek from Poland, Yoram Haimi from the Israel Antiquities Authority and Ivar Schute from Holland, with the assistance of local residents.
The children whose identity tags were found are Lea Judith De La Penha, Deddie Zak, Annie Kapper, and David Juda Van der Velde.
According to Haimi, “As far as we know, identity tags with children’s names have only been found at Sobibor, and nowhere else. Since the tags are very different from each other, it is evident that this was probably not some organized effort. The children’s identity tags were prepared by their parents, who were probably desperate to ensure that the children’s relatives could be located in the chaos of the Second World War. Lea, Annie and Deddie’s tags have enabled us to link faces and stories to the names, which until now had only been anonymous entries in Nazi lists. Archaeological excavation provides us with an opportunity to tell the victims’ stories and to honor their memory.”
To discover the children’s details, the archaeologists contacted the Herinneringscentrum Kamp Westerbork, which was used as a transit camp in the Holocaust for Jews being deported from Holland to Eastern Europe and is now a visitors center and memorial site.
“I have been excavating at Sobibor for ten years,” says Haimi, “but this is the hardest day I have ever had. As we stood holding the tags in the field, beside the crematoria, we contacted the center and we gave them the names. They responded immediately. By phone, we received photos of smiling young children. The hardest thing was to learn that some of the children whose tags we held in our hands reached Sobibor on a children’s transport – 1300 little children, aged 4–8, who were sent here to die alone, without their parents. I looked at the photos and asked myself, how could anyone have been so cruel?”