Ambassadors rejoice in golden find

Ambassador Dilyor Khamikov of Uzbekistan danced with joy this morning when he learned that information had been uncovered about his countrymen who were murdered in Amersfoort in 1941/1942. “This is very important news for my country”, says Khamikov. “It would be great if after all this time a number of our Uzbek soldiers could be identified.”

Never before was researcher Remco Reiding closer to identifying these soldiers than right now. Last Friday a number of long awaited photos of pieces of paper arrived from Moscow with handwritten, difficult to read addresses in Russian. A first analysis seems to indicate that there are enough data to establish the identify of several soldiers and notify their relatives. These families have been in a state of uncertainty ever since the beginning of the war, that broke out when Germany invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941.

“It is a matter of honour for the Uzbek government to identify the heroes who took up arms against the invaders and keep their memory alive.”, according to Khamikov. “The news is even more important to the families. With any luck they finally get to hear where their father, grandfather, uncle died and lies buried.”

The Russian authorities have also taken note of the find. “Every time it becomes possible to replace the inscription ‘Unknown soldier’ on a headstone with the name of a person, is very important and touching to all of us”, says the Russian ambassador Aleksandr Shulgin.

“It ‘s awful when war victims lie in an anonymous grave”, says Gerolf Bouwmeester, mayor of Leusden. “Every effort made to put a face on these people is great. I look forward to the next step.”

The Soviet soldiers were offloaded on 27 September 1941 at a cattle ramp at Amersfoort railway station. The sight of these ragged, starving ‘sub-humans’ was meant to convince the Dutch that they should side with Germany in the fight against the Soviet Union.

During their stay in Kamp Amersfoort these soldiers were treated brutally. Within half a year a large number of them died of starvation, sickness and abuse. On 9 April 1942 the remainder were executed. After the war the 101 remains were reburied at the Soviet Military Cemetery. They remained anonymous.

The new documents contain addresses, with which hopefully soldiers who died in Amersfoort can be linked to those registered as missing in action in the Soviet Union. To this end Reiding is working with experts in – among others – Russia and Uzbekistan.

“We are thrilled with the information that has surfaced”, says Khamikov. “And we are very grateful to the Soviet Military Cemetery Foundation for their efforts in trying to identify the soldiers and keep their memory alive.”

Shulgin endorses that statement. “The new data found by Remco Reiding are very valuable. The meticulous work by the Soviet Military Cemetery Foundation serves to keep the memory alive of the immortal heroism of the soviet people in the struggle against Nazism.

In the past twenty years Reiding succeeded in identifying 250 other war victims who are interred in the Soviet Military Cemetery. Of 219 of them he also managed to trace and notify the next of kin.