03/09/2019 11/11/2019
Kraków

#StolenMemory exhibition of Nazi victims opens in Kraków

The exhibition is part of a campaign aimed at returning items recovered after the war to their rightful owners - those rescued or their families. Jacek Bednarczyk/PAP

An exhibition entitled #StolenMemory, which presents the individual fates of victims of Nazi terror, opened on Tuesday on Bohaterów Getta (Heroes of the Ghetto) Square in Kraków (southern Poland).

"Here each victim is signed with a name and surname, it's an individual representation of the fates of people in collision with the terror of the Nazi regime," exhibition curator Mateusz Zdeb told PAP.

The exhibition is part of a campaign aimed at returning items recovered after the war to their rightful owners - those rescued or their families. The campaign is run by the German Arolsen Archives association, which since 1962 has maintained deposits of prisoners of the Nazi German concentration camps, trying to find their owners.

"Half the exhibition is devoted to people who are sought; on boards are presented the items of people whose families the Arolsen Archives are seeking. The second half meanwhile is devoted to successful searches; items are presented that have been returned, most often to the families of victims, but also to people who survived the war," Zdeb said.

The curator explained that the approach to the victims of Nazi crimes is very individual. Every victim is signed with a name and surname, their personal histories are known, and so it is a very individual presentation of human fates at the hands of the Nazi regime.

The history of returning looted items started in the early 1960s when around 5,000 items recovered after the liberation of the Neuengamme and Dachau concentration camps were transferred to the International Tracing Service (ITS) in the German town of Bad Arolsen. "The condition of transferring these collections was an ITS obligation to start a search campaign for the owners or their families in order to return the looted items. In 2015 all these objects were photographed and made available on a website," Zdeb explained.

The #StolenMemory exhibition, which presents the results of these activities, was first presented last year at the UNESCO headquarters on Holocaust Memorial Day. Since that time, it has been shown around Europe, in Innsbruck (Austria), Kassel (Germany) and Athens (Greece) among other places.

As a result of the Arolsen Archives campaign and cooperation with volunteers from Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, France, Spain and Norway, it has so far been possible to return several hundred deposits.