Remember Lea, Deddie, Annie and David – children’s ID tags found at Sobibor

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Remember Lea, Deddie, Annie and David – children’s ID tags found at Sobibor

Harrowing details of four youngsters aged between six and 12 reduces archaeologists to tears during excavation of infamous site in Poland.

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Archaeologists working at the Sobibor death camp in Poland have made a harrowing discovery, which reduced them to tears — finding identity tags worn by four Jewish children from Amsterdam.

Yoram Haimi, from the Israeli Antiquities Authority, works on a team with Polish archaeologist Wojciech Mazurek and Holland’s Ivan Schute. The three, together with local residents, are involved in an excavation at Sobibor prior to the construction of a new visitors centre at the camp.

The children, aged six to 12, whose identity tags were found, were Lea Judith De La Penha, Deddie Zak, Annie Kapper, and David Juda Van der Velde.

Yoram Haimi said: “As far as we know, identity tags with childrens 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 organised effort. The childrens identity tags were prepared by their parents, who were probably desperate to ensure that the childrens relatives could be located in the chaos of the Second World War. Lea, Annie and Deddies 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 victimsstories and to honour their memory.”

1,300 little children, aged four to eight, were sent here to die alone on one transport, without their parents.

The archaeologists made their grim discovery and, while still holding the dirt-encrusted tags, contacted the archive of the former transit camp, Westerbork, which now serves as a memorial site and visitor centre in Holland. All the children whose tags were found were deported via the Westerbork camp.

Mr Haimi recalled: “I have been excavating at Sobibor for ten years, 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 centre 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 childrens transport– 1,300 little children, aged four to eight, 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?”

Lea died aged six, and her aluminium tag was found near Sobibor’s railway platform. Deddie’s tag was found in one of the crematoria at the death camp; he was eight. Annie was deported, with her family, in April 1943, and all the Dutch Jews on that transport were murdered in Sobibor’s gas chambers. Annie was 12. And David’s broken identity tag, found near those gas chambers, led to the discovery that he had been 11 when he was murdered, with his family, on April 2 1943.

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