80 Years After His Death At Auschwitz, A Jewish Man’s Precious Possession Has Been Returned To His Family
The entrance gate with 'Arbeit Macht Frei' inscription in the former Nazi German Auschwitz I concentration camp at Auschwitz Memorial Site during International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 77th Anniversary of Auschwitz - Birkenau Liberation, in Oswiecim, Poland on January 27, 2022
Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A watch owned by a Dutch Jew — which was stolen by Nazis during World War II — was returned to his descendants in working order after being missing for 80 years.

In 1910, Alfred Overstrijd a Jewish man living in Rotterdam, Netherlands, made a watch for his brother Louis and gave it to him on his 18th birthday, The New York Times reported. More than thirty years later, after the German army invaded the Netherlands, Nazi soldiers arrested Louis. That’s when a Dutch historian believes the Nazis took the watch before sending both Overstrijd brothers to Auschwitz — where Alfred would be murdered during the Holocaust. 

Richard van Ameijden, Alfred’s grandson, was emotional after receiving the possession that was taken from his family before they died in the Holocaust. “I think it’s really beautiful and remarkable that this all came together,” he said.  

“It came right out of the blue,” he added.

According to the Times, after the watch was taken by the Nazis, it somehow ended up in a cornfield and then hidden in a farmhouse clock in Belgium. Rob Snijders, a historian, has a theory on how the watch could have traveled so far. 

“During the war, people across Belgium and the Netherlands were forced to accommodate Nazi soldiers,” the Times wrote. “A Belgian farmer named Gustave Janssens housed three soldiers and, unhappy about the situation, made them use a cornfield next door as a bathroom. It’s likely that the watch fell from the pocket of one of the soldiers in the field, Mr. Snijders said.”

Snijders then believes the farmer housing the Nazis found the watch and saw it belonged the inscription on the back which stated it belonged to Overstrijd. The farmer didn’t give the watch back but instead hid it in his clock. The watch stayed there for the next 80 years.

When the farmhouse was recently sold, the farmer’s grandson, Pieter, found the watch hidden in the clock. The grandson then emailed Snijders asking for help to find the original owner. Snijders posted information about the watch on social media and within 24 hours, Snijders had a lead on who it belonged to. 

Snijders planned to meet with van Ameijden and his relatives after finding him on LinkedIn, and he gave the watch back to the family. Van Ameijden told the Times that he would share the watch with his sisters and noted that they were all sad that their mother was not alive to share the possession with them. The living descendants of the Overstrijd brothers said they don’t know much about their ancestors’ stories, but now they have a piece of family history to remember them by. 

“There were tears, I saw them,” Snijders said after the meeting. 

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