A watch and a ring seized by the Nazis from a resistance fighter who died in a concentration camp in 1945 have been returned to his family.
Resistance fighter Josep Verges was deported to Neuengamme concentration camp in Hamburg, northern Germany. He worked for the French Resistance and helped members cross the border between Spain and France, the government of Catalonia in Spain said in a statement.
The descendants of Vergas were located at the end of 2020 thanks to an investigation into deportees from Girona to France. Verges’ possessions were part of the Exile Memorial Museum (Museu Memorial de l’Exili) in the municipality of La Jonquera in Girona. The museum is dedicated to the history and memory of those who fled into exile due to the 1936-1939 civil war in Spain.
Verges’ watch and ring were part of the museum’s #StolenMemory 2020 traveling exhibit, which featured the personal items recovered from prisoners at various Nazi concentration camps.
Verges was born in 1918 in the municipality of Sales de Llierca in Girona.
Among his duties was gathering military intelligence from Germans who were in the French zone controlled by the Vichy government after the Nazis had split the country in two. They then controlled the north while the south was entrusted to French forces collaborating with the Germans.
In 1944, the Nazis arrested Verges and transferred him to Royallieu-Compiègne prison before he was later taken to Neuengamme concentration camp and assigned prisoner number 30,669.
According to the death certificate, Verges died in Neuengamme on March 1, 1945, of heart failure and a cold. But the testimony of another political deportee indicates that he died on February 28, 1945, completely consumed, in cell number 16. Verges was 27 when he died.
Verges’ grave in Salzgitter, Lower Saxony, Germany is in a cemetery established in 1943 to bury the thousands of men and women who died in the Neuengamme camp and its subfields.
Verges’ watch and ring had been kept in the Arolsen Archives, which preserves around 3,000 objects and holds exhibitions in various European cities. Also known as the International Center on Nazi Persecution, the Arolsen Archives provides documentation, information, and research on Nazi persecution, forced labor, and the Holocaust.
Neuengamme concentration camp held over 100,000 prisoners during World War II with an estimated death toll of over 42,000.
After the Nazis surrendered in 1945, the British Army used the concentration camp to detain high-ranking members of the SS (Schutzstaffel, or protection squads) and other senior Nazi officials, according to the Neuengamme Memorial.
Edited by Richard Pretorius and Kristen Butler