Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Family Legend, True or False? Part 2: Lost: One Archive

Last time I talked about uncovering a tale about my grandfather’s arrest and imprisonment in Kamp Vught after World War Two. I wanted to find some paper proof to collaborate this story and figured the most logical place to start would be the website of Kamp Vught, which is now a national monument.

I found some information there about Kamp Vught after the war. During the war it had served as an internment camp of the Nazi’s. After the allied forces took it in 1944 it was turned into a prison camp for thousands of Dutch nationals who were suspected of collaborating with the enemy and thousands of evacuated Germans from the border area between the Netherlands and Germany. So it was indeed possible that my grandfather had been imprisoned there because he was suspected of being a traitor.

I couldn’t really find anything about an archive though, although I did find mention they kept an archive about the period in which the camp was in Nazi hands. That wouldn’t help me though, so I had to look further. I figured there were two likely archives I could find material about the Kamp Vught after the war.

One possibility was the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies (until 9 December 2010 the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation), which has a lot of archives and other material about the war period in the Netherlands and also some things about the aftermath. I checked their online catalogue, but couldn’t find an archive for Kamp Vught in that period. So although I wrote to them, I was doubtful I would find anything there.

Another possibility was the Brabants Historic Information Center, the BHIC. Vught is one of the towns who’s archive is kept by the BHIC. I figured if there was a part of the prison archive that survived, it would be there. I wrote to this archive as well.

I got a really fast answer from Mrs. van Geloven from the BHIC. She’d checked the personal files kept from Interneringskamp Vught, later called Strafgevangenis Nieuw-Vosseveld. Unfortunately, there was no mention of my grandfather in those files. She asked me for some extra information to better search for my grandfather in the archives they had. I told her my grandfather lived in Voorschoten at the time of his arrest, sometime in 1945. I also told her he’d just returned from the East Front, where he’d served in the German army as a medic.

Once again, she got back to me very fast. She’d checked the records of the police department Vught, where there were several archives that had to do with Kamp Vught in the period my grandfather would’ve been there. Unfortunately, he wasn’t to be found in the archive of prisoners that resided at Kamp Vught in the period 1945-1946, nor in the archive of foreigners, Germans and stateless ex-Dutch people residing at Kamp Vught in the period 1947-1952. He also wasn’t listed in the alphabetical list of prisoner names, period 1944-1946.

I was severely disappointed that nothing had been found. Mrs. van Geloven did mention that on his persoonskaart there should be a note about his internment in Kamp Vught or any other camp he would’ve been held in and perhaps that would give me some clues. Unfortunately, I had that document in my possession already and there was nothing on it about any imprisonment, in Kamp Vught or elsewhere.

Back of persoonskaart Adolph Knura, no mention of imprisonment to be found. Parts blacked out due to privacy reasons

I was beginning to doubt the story. In none of the archives I’d searched so far had I been able to find even one shred of evidence that the story of my grandfather’s arrest and imprisonment was true. Sure, my aunt remembered it, but she’d been four. Could I rely on her memory, or was it just a tale told to her at that age?

Friday, I’ll talk about the response of the NIOD, that prompted me to do one last search to find out the truth behind this family legend in Part 3: Answers At Last?

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