The children of the tags

January 27, 2021 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Identity tags worn by four children deported to the Sobibor death camp in Poland have been unearthed in an archaeological excavation at the site.

The extermination area at Sobibor camp, where three of the tags were found. Photo: Piotr Bakun

Chilling evidence has emerged from the Sobibor death camp in Poland.

Personal identity tags made of metal belonging to four children aged 5–11 from Amsterdam, Holland, were retrieved from archaeological excavations conducted at the camp. The tags – metal pendants worn around the children’s necks – bear their names, date of birth and the name of their home town.

The extraordinary archaeological excavation, begun prior to the construction of the new visitors centre at the camp, is being conducted by an archaeological team composed of Wojciech Mazurek from Poland, Yoram Haimi from the Israel Antiquities Authority and Ivar Schute from Holland, with the assistance of local residents.

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

Yoram Haimi, Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist said “I have been excavating this site for ten years, but today I broke down”

He added: “As far as we know, identity tags with children’s 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 organized effort. The children’s identity tags were prepared by their parents, who were probably desperate to ensure that the children’s relatives could be located in the chaos of the Second World War. Lea, Annie and Debbie’s 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 victims’ stories and to honour their memory.”

Lea Judith De La Penha, died aged 6


Lea’s aluminium identity tag. Photo: Yoram Haimi.                                        Lea De La Penha (on right) with a family friend. Photo from the Majdanek Museum

Engraved aluminium pendant, found near the camp’s railway platform.

First name Lea Judith, surname De La Penha, born 11 May 1937, AMSTERDAM.

Deddie Zak, died aged 8:

Deddie Zak’s tag. Photo: Yoram Haimi

On right: Deddie Zak with a family relative. Photo from the Joods Monument, Amsterdam

Deddie’s name appears on a charred metal tag found in one of the crematoria. Engraved with his name, Deddie Zak,  his date of birth, 23.02.35, and his family’s address, Amsterdam  Uiterwaardenstraat 71 III. Deddie was deported to the camp on the so-called Kindertransport, named after the large number of children it carried to their death. About a third of the 3017 Jews deported to Sobibor from the Vught Via Westerbork concentration camp were children aged 4–8, many of them without parents. Deddie was murdered with his family when they reached Sobibor camp on 11 June 1943, at only 8 years old.
Annie Kapper Died aged 12:

Annie Kapper’s aluminium tag. On this side, the girl’s name and address.
Annie Kapper’s date of birth. Photo Yoram Haimi

Annie’s aluminium identity tag was found near one of the mass graves.

The girl’s name is engraved on one side of the tag, with the family’s address in Amsterdam. AMSTERDAM Z. HOLLAND. On the other side of the tag is Annie’s date of birth: –  GEBOREN JANUARI 1931.
The Kapper family was deported to Sobibor on 30 March 1943, in the fifth transport, which contained 1255 Jews in 25 wagons. The train reached Sobibor on 2 April 1943 and all those on board were murdered in the camp’s gas chambers.

David Juda Van der Velde, died aged 11

David Juda Van der Velde’s metal identity tag.

Half a broken aluminium identity tag, found to the west of the gas chambers. David’s initials are engraved on it, D.J.V/D and the address is engraved below, PRES.RD…. Beneath the address is the city, AMSTERD…. The lower line contains the beginning of David’s date of birth, GEB 21-, or 21 November 1932. David and his family were deported on transport number 5 from Westerbork to Sobibor on 30 March 1943 and reached Sobibor camp on 2 April 1943, where they were immediately taken to the gas chambers.


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