Sydney: Over 3,000 personal items – mostly wallets, photos and wristwatches – that were stripped from prisoners on their way to Nazi concentration camps in Germany will now be displayed at a Jewish museum here in Australia.
Susanne Urban, head of historical research at the International Tracing Service in Germany, travelled to Australia to deliver the items to the Sydney Jewish Museum.
Most of the wallets, many with rusted clasps, bear few clues as to their original owners. There are no cards, no photos, no letters tucked inside, The Australian daily reported.
They were taken from prisoners as they arrived at the Neuengamme and Dachau concentration camps. The contents were emptied and given to farmers near the camps.
“The wallets are a symbol of the extermination of people. They are symbols of the robbery of people during that time. They were stripped of everything when they arrived at the camp. Everything they had in their private life, from the socks, clothes, wallets — everything was taken away,” Urban said.
The International Tracing Service was set up in 1943 with the task of tracing and registering missing people. It still fields more than 10,500 inquiries a year from people wanting to find out details of what happened to their family members.
The organisation holds an archive of about 30 million documents from concentration camps, Gestapo prisons, and from survivors and people forced into labour.
Urban said the items had an important historical purpose.
“All of these documents are proof of what happened. They are part of the legacy of those who didn’t survive and those who did — we preserve these documents and tell their stories,” she said.