Family silver looted by Nazis is returned to rightful owners by relative

A Dutch Nazi-era Star of David.
Photo: Wikipedia
A Dutch Nazi-era Star of David.
Photo: Wikipedia

Part of a cutlery set looted by Nazi sympathisers from the home of a Jewish family in Tilburg has been returned by a family member wanting to make amends.

The twelve silver spoons and three serving spoons belonging to the Polak family were kept by a German family who moved into their house at the start of the war.

A couple by the name of Kühnert bought the property for far less than its market value after most of the Polaks fled to the United States and the only remaining family member was forced to sell in 1941. He was killed in Auschwitz in 1944.

A descendant of the Kühnerts found the spoons and contacted the house’s present owner, Arnoud-Jan Bijsterveld, who has written a book about the Polak family. The cutlery has now been returned to the Professor Donderstraat in Tilburg after 75 years.

‘A woman whose great-aunt had died found the spoons when she was emptying the house,’ Bijsterveld told local broadcaster Omroep Brabant. ‘She knew the history and wanted to make amends. After a search on the internet she found me.’

Bijsterveld himself became interested in the history of the house when he found a number of objects related to its former inhabitants. Upon investigation he found that the Polak family had fled the country to the United States as early as 1940 but that their son had stayed on.

The Kühnerts, who owned a textile factory in Germany, took the silver with them when they went back in 1944.

Bijsterveld, whose book about the Polak family Our House is to be published in October, said it was a special day when the spoons were returned. ‘People of that generation are looking into their family history. The past has been a burden to them for years (..). They were visibly relieved when they told their secret story and by coming to this house the reality of it became more tangible still,’ he said.

The spoons have now been returned to the relatives of the Polak family in the United States. Bijsterveld was allowed to keep the three serving spoons in the house they were robbed from.

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