One of the tasks the Arolsen Archives is charged with is the return of personal belongings to the descendants of individuals who were persecuted by the Nazis. Under the banner of the #StolenMemory campaign, archive staff actively search for members of their families. However, even thorough searches sometimes yield no results, as in the case of Pierre Coste, who was born in Moulins in 1897. His personal effects are now on loan to an exhibition in his home country France.

Pierre Coste was a tax inspector. In 1940, he joined the Resistance against the National Socialists in the Department of Mayenne in north-west France and took on a leadership role in the movement in 1941. The National Socialists arrested the then 47-year-old in June 1944 and deported him to the Neuengamme concentration camp in Hamburg. They forced him to work in the production of ammunition at the Watenstedt sub-camp. Later, Pierre Coste was sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp. He survived both imprisonment in the camps and forced labor and was honored by the French state for his work in the Resistance. He died in the town of Laval in 1952.

No relatives of Pierre Coste have yet been found

As his marriage to Suzanne Pacory remained childless, the Arolsen Archives extended their search to include more distant relatives: “The search for possible siblings or other members of Pierre Coste’s family took me all the way to the Perpignan area in the south of France. But unfortunately, it was not possible to find any relatives,” says Nathalie Letierce-Liebig, coordinator of the Arolsen Archives’ Tracing department, as she describes her efforts.

As a result, Pierre Coste’s effects have now been loaned to the permanent exhibition at the French memorial to the deportees from Mayenne. This is the first time that the personal belongings of a former concentration camp prisoner that are stored in the Arolsen Archives have been loaned to an exhibition in neighboring France. Pierre Coste’s wallet, his business card, and some moving photos from the life of the resistance fighter will soon be on display there.

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