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Tags Tell The Tale

Deddie Zak, Annie Kapper, David Van Der Velde and Lea Judith De La Penha are the names of four of those 0.25 million children, whose bodies have not been recovered since the end of the Second World War. Each and every one of them, aged between five and 11, had to pay the price of being Jewish; as the Nazis put them in gas chambers. Although no one had rescued them from the Sobibor death camp in Poland during the Nazi Era, archaeologists recently discovered ID tags, bearing the names, dates of birth and hometowns of four such children in Amsterdam. They are now alive in the four pieces of metal… at least, their relatives have found them in those metal tags.

Along with Auschwitz, the Nazis had also set up a concentration camp in a forest near the village of Sobibor in Poland in 1942. However, the Nazis had to close it down in 1943 due to a revolt triggered by the prisoners. Before that, about 0.25 million Dutch Jews were thrown into the gas chambers. The Jerusalem-based World Holocaust Remembrance Centre (or Yad Vashem) has claimed that Israeli Archaeologist Yoram Haimi and his Polish colleague Wojciech Mazurek recently revealed the horrors of the Nazi Era by excavating the camp in Sobibor for more than a decade (since 2007).

Mazurek (L) and Haimi (R) at Sobibor

According to Haimi, they found 80,000 artefacts, including shoes, jewelry, dentures, wallets and cutlery, from the site of the gas chambers. “There were eight rooms, 350sqt of killing – 800 to 900 victims in six to seven minutes,” he stressed. The Israeli archaeologist said: “Where there are relatives still alive they might have some information about those kids. We want their stories to be told.” Meanwhile, he thanked Mazurek for helping him in discovering the four metal tags.

David’s metal tag

Meanwhile, the Cable News Network (CNN) has reported that the four tags or pieces of metal are preserved in the National Archives of Poland. Haimi told the CNN that family-members of the four children had engraved their names and other information on metals during their stay at the Sobibor camp. The search for them began, after those four tags were recovered. The researchers managed to contact the family members of Deddie and Lea last January. However, they did not get any information about Annie and David’s family members. Researchers at a website, called MyHeritage, have traced their relatives in the US. Director and Head (of Research) of MyHeritage Roi Mandel stressed: “I felt it was my duty to find the living relatives of Annie and David, to tell them what was found in the damned Sobibor land and to hear from them the story of their almost extinct family. They are the only branches left of the huge family trees and they will have a duty to tell the story of these children to future generations.

Deddie Zak

It was seen that Sheryl and Rick Kool practically had no idea about the existence of 10-year-old David. Later, the sister-brother duo informed MyHeritage that David’s grandmother was the sister of their great-grandfather. Sheryl said: “I was very surprised because I knew nothing about David and that part of the family.” She added: “The Holocaust was so dehumanising. So to have a specific name and a concrete symbol of his life, it just makes him a real person. It’s obviously sad, but gratifying to have more information and to put more pieces of the puzzle together.” She stressed that her parents were born in the Netherlands, and they knew many of their family perished. However, they had no information about David, who had perished at the age of 10.

Cousins Deddie and Lies photographed not long before he was deported to Sobibor

The Nazis had taken Annie and her family to the Sobibor camp on March 30, 1943… and three days later, they put thousands of Jews, including the 12-year-old Annie, into the gas chambers. MyHeritage has contacted Annie’s second cousin Marc Draisen in Boston. Draisen recalled that Annie’s father Meijer was a first cousin of his mother Tilly. “It was like having a voice from beyond the grave,” he said, adding: “The parents, in creating this name tag, were desperately trying to maintain their daughter’s identity and some hope of survival which of course didn’t come to pass.” He further said: “My wife did a little research and soon learned Annie’s birthday was January 9… the very day MyHeritage contacted me. She would have been 91.

Lea was just six-years-old when she was deported and murdered at Sobibor

Meanwhile, Lies Caransa has claimed that she and Deddie had grown close after spending much together at her grandparents’ home. “Being not quite four, I was taken to a creche when his family was rounded up in 1943. His mother survived Auschwitz, but I never saw Deddie, then aged eight, her aunt, uncle or grandparents again,” she told Mandel. Caransa (82), who currently lives in Amsterdam, stressed: “Because I possess nothing of him, it came as a shock, but it came also as a sign from heaven.

The demolished remains of Sobibor

The Nazis had also abducted six-year-old Lea, along with her parents, from Amsterdam. After spending a few days at Westerbork transit camp, the family landed in Sobibor, where they were murdered in 1943. Suzanna Flora Munnikendam, the second cousin of Lea as their grandmothers were sisters, has said she knows that her grandmother died at Sobibor; however, she has never heard of Lea. “It’s absolutely shocking,” stressed Munnikendam.

Adolf Hitler

A spokesperson of the Majdanek Museum is of the opinion that the metal tags “grant an exceptional opportunity to identify” some of the Holocaust victims. “The tangible evidence of their lives that were brutally ended upon their arrival at the Sobibor unloading ramp allow us not only to discover their history, but also to pass it on to the next generations and to keep the victims’ memory alive,” she said.

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