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Researchers Use Film to ID Toddlers Taken to Bergen-Belsen

All 3 who were IDed survived WWII
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 23, 2021 8:30 AM CDT
Updated May 23, 2021 2:25 PM CDT

(Newser) – The footage has appeared in countless documentaries: scenes filmed in 1944 at the Nazi transit camp Westerbork, where Dutch Jews were transported to death camps in Germany and occupied Poland. Now, two children who appear through the window of a train bound for Bergen-Belsen for less than three seconds have been identified by Dutch researchers. They are Marc Degen, then 3, and his 1-year-old sister, Stella. Both are alive—Marc living outside Amsterdam and Stella in Queens, New York. Their 3-year-old cousin, Marcus Simon Degen, is believed to also be with them on the train, which left on May 19, 1944. The New York Times reports two original reels of the film were found in 2017. These provided higher-quality images for researchers Koert Broersma and Gerard Rossing to review.

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They were able to make out names and birth dates written on baggage and personal possessions, and could see three young children. The Degens were the only ones who had three children under age 6 on that transport, so the identities were reached via process of elimination. All three children and their mothers survived; the fathers ended up at the camp Sachsenhausen and died there. Just as fascinating as the identification is how the footage came to be. It was taken by Werner Rudolf Breslauer, a Jewish inmate at Westerbork, who was ordered by the camp's commander to film work being done at the camp to send to his superiors, who were thinking of closing it down. Breslauer is thought to have filmed three transports of Jews, though he did not have permission to do so, as proof of what was happening to the Jews. (Read more Holocaust stories.)

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