Traveling exhibition goes to Belgium

A new trilingual #StolenMemory container is setting off on a tour of Belgium on May 8, 2022. The Dutch-French-German traveling exhibition is starting its tour at the Musée Royal de l’Armée in the Cinquantenaire Park in Brussels. The Arolsen Archives, represented by Director Floriane Azoulay, will open the exhibition along with the War Heritage Institute at 1:30 p.m.

The exhibition tells the stories of ten concentration camp inmates – some of the last things they owned are still stored in the Arolsen Archives today. The Nazis confiscated all their personal belongings when they imprisoned them in concentration camps. Thanks to the help of volunteers, some of the stolen mementoes have been returned to the families of the persecutees. Floriane Azoulay explains how important this is for the relatives: “Many victims of Nazi persecution were unable to leave any material things behind for their families to remember them by because everything they had was taken away from them. Families often know little or nothing about the fate of their grandparents, parents, uncles, and aunts.” This makes it even more important to return these items, even though decades have passed since their relatives’ persecution.

Support for #StolenMemory from the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is providing valuable support for the traveling exhibition in Belgium. In connection with Belgium’s chairmanship of the International Commission (IC) of the Arolsen Archives, the current incumbent Gilles Heyvaert hopes “that this exhibition will help raise young people’s awareness of the consequences of trivializing intolerance, fearing or hating others, or discriminating against other people.” By opening the exhibition on May 8, VE Day, we hope to encourage people to think about the aftermath of National Socialism and remember the victims.

Searching for families all over the world

The #StolenMemory traveling exhibition started touring Germany in 2020 and has been traveling from place to place ever since in an effort to find more families. There was only one container at first, but in 2021, we added another. A third container with texts in Polish, German, and English is scheduled to cross the border into Poland in May 2022. The fourth container is also trilingual and tells the stories of victims of Nazi persecution in Dutch, French, and German. “We are really pleased to see how this project has grown thanks to all the amazing help we have received from volunteers across Europe and from our partner institutions. Without all those helping hands, we would never have managed to return the personal effects of so many people to their families,” remarks #StolenMemory project manager Charlotte Großmann, commenting on the project’s expansion at international level.

Not only the exhibition, but also the #StolenMemory website and educational materials are now available in French, Dutch and Polish too. This enables schoolchildren in many different countries to engage with the topic of Nazi persecution and find out more about the fates of former concentration camp inmates using their personal effects as a starting point.

We are searching for: Relatives of Eugen van Lesberghe

One of the cases we have been unable to solve so far is that of Eugen van Lesberghe. He was a master butcher, and the Nazis made him work for a butchery named Wetzel & Co. in Elmshorn near Hamburg. On November 21, 1942, the district court in Elmshorn sentenced him to four months in prison for allegedly stealing 2.5 kg of beef. The judges wanted to make an example of him, and the relatively high penalty was intended to serve as a deterrent. Once he had served his sentence in Neumünster, the 37-year-old was deported to Belgium. Eugen’s subsequent fate is unknown. His signet ring is stored in the Arolsen Archives. It is unclear how it got there. A number of animated films and video interviews with the relatives of victims of persecution tell the stories of the lives of other people like Eugen.

The signet ring belonging to Eugen van Lesberghe

Where is the container stopping off in Belgium?

As well as making two stops in Brussels, the exhibition is also scheduled to visit the “Kazerne Dossin” in Mechelen, a former SS assembly camp, and the Bastogne Barracks. There are also plans for the container to travel to places in German-speaking East Belgium. More information can be found on the website, which is being updated all the time. In 2024, the #StolenMemory container will be traveling to the Netherlands.

Are you interested in showing #StolenMemory in your town or village?
If so, please get in touch with us by writing to us!

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