The Nazis took away all of Hans-Joachim Bünger’s personal belongings when they arrested him – including a black pen which has now been returned to his family in London. He never lived there himself.
Persecuted for his Jewish origins
This is the first time we have returned a memento to someone in England in the context of the #StolenMemory campaign. But Hans-Joachim Bünger never lived in Great Britain himself. He was born in Leipzig on May 6, 1920, and studied chemistry when he was a young man. In the early 1940s, he was living with his father in Dresden. His maternal grandfather was Jewish, his grandmother Protestant.
The Dresden Gestapo arrested the then 23-year-old on October 26, 1943, and on February 24, 1944, they transferred him to the Buchenwald concentration camp. The SS registered him there as a political “protective custody prisoner” and as a “person of mixed Jewish blood (1st degree).” This was because of his mother’s Jewish roots. When he was arrested, the Nazis had taken away all of Hans-Joachim Bünger’s personal belongings – including a black pen with a cap.
Hans-Joachim performed hard forced labor in Buchenwald concentration camp. On October 26, 1944 – exactly one year after his arrest – the Nazis sent him to the Neuengamme concentration camp in Hamburg.
Hans-Joachim Bünger survived his imprisonment in the concentration camps and initially returned to East Germany. Later, he fled to West Germany and settled in Bielefeld. He married but had no children.
It was not until 1964 that Hans-Joachim’s pen arrived at the International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen along with the personal belongings of around 5,000 other former prisoners. As Hans-Joachim had no children, tracing his relatives was no easy task. In February 2023, after carrying out research in a number of archives, our tracing team managed to find Hans-Joachim Bünger’s great-niece Rachel Wingert in London using the My Heritage portal. Rachel Wingert is the granddaughter of Hans-Joachim’s maternal uncle. She can remember Hans-Joachim Bünger, having met him and his wife in London in the 1970s.
Moving ceremony in London
A ceremony to mark the return of the memento took place on November 23 at the Wiener Holocaust Library in London. The event was hosted by Floriane Azoulay, Director of the Arolsen Archives, Dr. Toby Simpson, Director of the Wiener Holocaust Library, and Lord Eric Pickles, UK Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues and UK representative on the International Commission of the Arolsen Archives.
Rachel Wingert was very touched that so many people had come to hear Hans-Joachim Bünger’s story. Receiving his pen in person was a deeply moving experience for her. “It is very important that the Arolsen Archives kept the pen safe for so many years, even though the Germans had taken it from him,” commented Rachel Wingert at the ceremony.