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Expert's 'Toughest Day' at Nazi Death Camp Involved This Find

Children's identity tags, some burned with their bodies, found at Sobibor
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 5, 2021 9:05 AM CST

(Newser) – Four children from Amsterdam stepped off a train in Nazi-occupied eastern Poland and into the death camp of Sobibor, the last place they'd ever know. Killed in 1943, 6-year-old Lea Judith De La Penha, 8-year-old Deddie Zak, 11-year-old David Juda Van der Velde, and 12-year-old Annie Kapper left behind unique identity tags, the discovery of which has just been revealed. Found between 2012 and 2014, during excavations of the camp's gas chambers, the metal tags were likely given to the children by their parents in the hope that they might be reconnected if separated, archaeologist Yoram Haimi tells LiveScience. He notes Lea's tag was found near the camp's railway platform. The others were in an area encompassing the gas chambers, crematorium, and a mass grave. Haimi says the "toughest day" in his 10 years of digging at Sobibor came when he called a memorial center and provided the children's names in order to learn about them, reports Ynet News, which has photos of two of the children.

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The info contained on the tags allowed researchers to trace their journeys through train records. Annie and David had been on a train together with 1,253 others who were immediately sent to the gas chambers. Deddie arrived without his parents on a train carrying 1,300 young children, per the Jerusalem Post. The condition of David's tag suggests he was wearing it as his body was burned. In all, 250,000 people are said to have been killed at the site between May 1942 and October 1943. But that number only accounts for those who arrived by train. "I can tell you from the size of the mass graves, because they are huge, it must be much more than 250,000," says Haimi, whose uncle was among those killed. Excavations have revealed the gas chamber to be 3,700 square feet, with eight rooms—large enough to fit 900 people at one time. (Read more Sobibor stories.)

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