Private Wilfried Acorn
CA 1st Para Battalion / 6th Airborne Divison
Private (soldier) Acorn belonged to the 1st Canadian paratrooper battalion. This battalion was part of the 6th British Airborne Division. This division was stationed in Buggenum and Haelen from 22 January 1945 to 19 February.
The battalion was responsible for the Allied front line along the Meuse around Buggenum. The front sector around Buggenum covered approximately 3 kilometers. Despite the many, often adventurous, patrols carried out by the Canadian elite unit, there were no casualties on the Canadian side in Buggenum.
Nonetheless, there were 2 victims among the Canadians in this period due to accidents. One was Wilfried Acorn who was accidentally shot by a sergeant-major of his battalion on 18 February 1945. During the cleaning of the weapon of the petty officer went off. The bullet struck Wilfried Acorn deadly. The same day he was buried in a field grave in Buggenum. Later in 1945 he was transferred to the Canadian military cemetery in Groesbeek. Private M. Petrow died on 2 February 1945 in Haelen from a gunshot wound he had sustained while cleaning his weapon. Private M. Petrow is buried in the war cemetery of Venray.
By Hugo Levels
Corporal James Henry Price
UK 7th Seaforth Highlanders / 15th Scottish Division
Corporal James Henry Price belonged to A-company of the 7th battalion Seaforth Highlanders (15th Scottish Division). On December 23, 1944, Corporal Price and his platoon was stationed along the Maas in Neer. A strategic and therefore dangerous area was the farms located right along the Maas approximately 1 kilometer east of Neer. The area is known as "Wienerte". Almost every day in November and December 1944 there were incidents between German patrols, wich rowed on the Maas in boats, and British units that had to guard the Maas front line.
A British platoon had relieved the guard posts at the two farms on December 23 in the early morning. It was a cold foggy morning. In the thick fog it at around 8.30 hours in the morning (it was just light) 5 German Fallschirmjäger belonging to the Hermann Fallschirmjäger regiment crossed the Maas in a rubber boat. A little later Corporal Price walked outside with another soldier to relieve a guard post. They walked straight into the arms of the Germans. The Germans captured the 2 surprised British soldiers. Corporal Price recovered quickly and tried to escape in the fog, but was shot by the Germans. He died on the spot. The other British soldier also tried to escape but was also shot at. He was injured in one leg and managed to escape. Alarmed by the noise, the other British soldiers also came out. A firefight started in which new victims fell on both sides. Two more were injured on the British side. On the German side, 1 was wounded and a petty officer died. The other three Germans managed to escape across the Maas in the fog. Corporal Price from Birmingham was buried in the British military cemetery in Venray.
By Hugo Levels
Soldier Godefriedus (Gort) Pas
NL 17th Border Battalion
Godefriedus Pas was born on January 16, 1904 in Borkel en Schaft. On August 29, 1939, at the start of the mobilization, Gort Pas was called up for military service. He was single, lived with his parents and worked in a sawmill. He was assigned to the 1st Company of the 17th Border Battalion under the command of Major J. Hamm.
May 10, 1940. German troops crossed the Dutch-German border around 03.45 hours in the morning. Around 04.30 hours the Germans made a first attempt to cross the Maas at the Roermond bridge. Around 5.30 hours German artillery appeared in Roermond on the eastern Meuse bank. The artillery fire on the Dutch casemates and trenches intensified by the hour.
The Gort section, only under the command of Sergeant Rangelrooij, was ordered to go to the bridge at Roermond from Horn, where the battalion headquarters of the 17th Border Battalion was located. The group was then ordered by Captain Van Oorschot to seek cover in a position along a bunker (code name S-25) at the traffic bridge over the Maas at Roermond. Around 7 a.m. the position was hit by a German grenade. 5 Dutch soldiers were killed instantly. One soldier was seriously injured and died later that day.
The 6 soldiers who were killed are:
Soldier A. Van Driel from Poederoijen (20)
Soldier L. Bennink from Zuidwolde (19)
Soldier G. Pas from Borkel and Schaft (36)
Soldier G. Jansen from Kaatsheuvel (20)
Soldier K. Pollen from Beesel (20)
Soldier A. Van de Bruggen from Cromvoirt (20)
Gort Pas is buried on the Kapel in 't Zand Cemetery in Roermond. In addition, 24 Dutch soldiers fell along the Maas between Neer and Heel.
By Hugo Levels
BE Brig Piron
From the end of September 1944, the front line along the Wessem-Nederweert canal at Thorn-Ittervoort-Hunsel was occupied by the Belgian Piron Brigade. On the southern bank of the canal, the Germans had a few small bridgeheads that posed a threat to the great Allied attack across the canals planned for November 14, 1944.
In the afternoon of November 11, 1944, the commander of the brigade, Colonel Piron, received an order from the British General Ross to capture a bridgehead in the neighborhood of Santfort. The assignment was to take on positions near the canal itself, after expelling the German Fallschimjäger. The attack started at 16.30 hours A platoon of the Belgian brigade sneaked in the direction of the German positions. The German reaction of the Fallschirmjäger of the battalion was fierce. Heavy artillery and mortar fire fell between the Belgian soldiers. The commander of the platoon, Lieutenant Rye, was wounded. Sergeant Major-Silberman came to the rescue in a jeep to evacuate the lieutenant. On the way back the jeep hit a mine. Both passengers were killed instantly. Lieutenant Gerard Rogge had just turned 20.
By Hugo Levels
Corparol Wilfried Clifford Harper
Uk 4th K.S.L.I. / 11th Armoured Division
In the cold winter night of 3 to 4 January 1945, a patrol of D-company, 4th battalion of the Kings Shropshire Light Infantry was in the neighbourhood of De Weerd. At 02.45 hours the British saw a German patrol pass by, which had just crossed the Maas from Roermond.
The German Fallschirmjäger were heavily armed with armored fists and flame throwers. They belonged to the 1st company of the 24th Fallschirmjägerregiment that was stationed in Roermond. The British opened fire at the Germans. In the firefight that followed, Corporal Harper and soldier Ward died. Three other Britons were seriously injured. On the German side, 3 were wounded and one was killed. After a half-hour firefight, the Germans withdrew. On the German side, Fallschirmjäger Werner Federlechner died, just 18 years old.
Hunter Federlechner was initially buried in a field grave in Roermond but was later transferred to the German military cemetery in IJsselstein. Both British soldiers are buried in the British military cemetery in Swartbroek.
By Hugo Levels
Lieutenant Bob Jacobs
UK 1/5 Welch Regiment / 53 Welch Division
In the evening of November 17, 1944, a day after the liberation of Haelen and Buggenum, Lieutenant Jacobs went on an inspection with the British soldiers of the 1 / 5th Welch battalion. A company of the battalion stationed in Buggenum had to guard the front line along the Maas.
On the way back to Haelen, evening had already fallen, Bob Jacobs was stopped by a British guard post at the Napoleon lane and asked for the password. The guard post was nervous because a few German patrols had crossed the Maas last night and had penetrated as far as Haelen. He had the strickt instruction to shoot at the slightest doubt.
Jacobs's response to the sentry's question remains unclear to this day. The fact is that the guard post shot at Lieutenant Jacobs. Lieutenant Jacobs was fatally hit. He is buried in the Canadian military military graveyard in Groesbeek.
By Hugo Levels
Private Arthur Johnson
Uk 1st Gordon Highlanders / 15th Scottish Division
It is late afternoon 14 November 1944. The big attack across the canals by three British divisions is imminent. The attack begins with an enormous artillery barrage. Off Schoor soldiers of the 1st battalion Gordon Highlanders (51st Scottish Highland Division) are on the verge of crossing the Wessem-Nederweert canal in canvass boats. This includes the platoon of private Johnson.
It is now 16.30 hours and the artillery barrage moves to the hinterland. Dusk is falling. The soldiers of the Gordon Highlanders pick up the four boats, eight men carrying one boat. They walk in the direction of the canal. Suddenly two German mortar grenades explode between the Scottish soldiers, four of whom are killed and several others wounded. Private Johnson is one of the victims. Whilst crossing the canal there are more casualties, 10 dead and 22 wounded among the soldiers of the 1st battalion Gordon Highlanders.
By Hugo Levels
Private Albert Leese
UK 1st Manchester Regiment / 53th Welch Division
It is the night of 26/27 November 1944. Private Leese sits in his position in the fields east of Haelen near the cross roads at the Napoleonsbaan. He is part of a heavy machine gun group of C-company (1st Manchester battalion). At around 01.30 hours that night sounds of airplanes are coming from the east. What he does not know at this moment is, that those are the first German jet planes (Messerschmidt 262). The previous day these jet planes already carried out attacks against British artillery positions between Neer and Roggel.
That night the jet planes drop bombs on the British positions. Two bombs land near their positions. Private Lees is lethally hit by a piece of shrapnel. He is buried at the Canadian military cemetery in Groesbeek.
By Hugo Levels
Mattie TugendhaftNL Jewish person in hiding
Already in 1933 the Dutch government was confronted with the arrival of considerable numbers of Jewish refugees from Poland and Germany. Especially in the beginning there were many obscurities in the official policy of the Dutch government. After the German Jews had lost their Dutch nationality and became stateless on 25-11-1942 help could no longer be put off. Very soon the people of Limburg became conversant with the refugee problem and people were beginning to understand the predicament of the Jews more and more. Many spoke of their abhorrence of the Jew-baiting and the help for the Jews very quickly became organized and people were prepared to run great risks to participate in this help. Often this help was a second activity of the resistance groups.
Of the 140.00 Jews living in the Netherlands before the war, only 34.000 survived the war and of these about 2500-3000 escaped abroad via Limburg or took shelter in Limburg. Almost all of them were treated very well and their helpers had run enormous risks and many of those had to pay with their lives.Therefore the liberation was the end of a horrible nightmare for all of them, for a few even in more respect than one.
The barn door,
This is a story about sorrow and pain…
This is a story about disappointment and incomprehension…
This is a story of a man who was a little boy at the time..
This is a war story.
Majer Tugendhaft was born as a Jewish boy on 20 November 1937 in Maastricht. His father was of Polish descent but had lived in Düsseldorf in Germany for years. However, in those years Germany suffered from an economic crisis and inflation, which caused massive unemployment. As cause for all this misery Hitler pointed his finger at the Jews and when he gained absolute power in 1933 it became unfeasible for the Tugendhaft family to live there any longer.
In 1934 mister Tugendhaft moved to Maastricht where he met the Rabbi’s daughter. They fell in love madly and married in 1936. From this marriage two children were born: a boy, Majer and a girl.
Since father Tugendhaft naturally spoke impeccable German, he often helped the Jewish community to communicate with the Germans. In this way he managed to hold his own for a number of years in an ever becoming more hostile world. The rights for the Jews became more and more limited and the Jewish community became more and more isolated; the need to hide was growing ever more. Then father and mother Tugendhaft told their children of 5 and 3 that they had to leave their cosy neighbourhood because the Germans had come and wanted to harm them.They had to go and live somewhere else, not together anymore, and they could not keep their own names. Majer was allowed to choose from several names and eventually took the name of Mattie Gevers.
With the help of some heroic people and among others a catholic priest father and mother Tugendhaft made sure that their daughter could hide somewhere in Belgium. They themselves hid in Maastricht and the priest took care of Mattie. Mattie stayed in various places and all that time his parents did not know where he was. For instance, he stayed a while in a Catholic religious house, but when the festive period of Easter came closer, he had to be moved because the risk of him being discovered was too big. He stayed at places in Sittard, Hoensbroek and Heerlen, until at a certain moment in 1943 a priest took him to an address in the middle of Limburg in the Leudal area.
He ended up at a farmer’s family with three children, all three being older than Mattie himself. The family lived on a large farm and behind the big barn door were the stables of the horses and the cows. It became Mattie’s task to take the horses to the field in the early morning.
Yet, what had started as a kind of adventure very soon turned into a real nightmare.
In the early morning hours, when the farmer’s wife had left to milk the cows on the land, the lord of the house got up and took Mattie from the bed, where he had slept with the sons of the farmer. He never understood why , and it has never become clear afterwards, but in this early hour the farmer started his sadistic maltreatments of the small Jewish boy:
The farmer hung him by his neck until he all but suffocated, then he made him loose and then repeated this ritual. Sometimes he had to undress and run around naked in the cold, on other days he almost drowned him in the ditch. Terrible things!!
When Mattie had broken his leg and was not allowed to walk by the doctor, the farmer still forced him to go into the fields with the horses , which caused him to fall with his other leg straight into a fork.
When his ear was infected the farmer cut this away with a bread knife (!), and in the process removed half his ear.
All these and many other things happened behind the barn door, when the farmer’s wife had gone to the fields to milk the cows.
Every now and then the farmer’s children protested, when their father came to get Mattie, but they could not help him and Mattie was terrified…
He panicked when he saw the farmer! When the farmer was working with the plough Mattie had to take a horse to him. Immediately the farmer started to badger him, which caused Mattie to hide in the field, so the farmer could not find him. Yet he knew very well he had to pay the price for that the next morning..
That cannot be true…
From time to time the priest came to bring coupons. He was always taken to a little visitor’s room and Mattie was allowed to be present. Since the farmer never left him alone with the priest Mattie did not dare to say anything. After what happened to Mattie’s ear, the farmer said that Mattie had had an infection and that the doctor had treated this in the wrong way, yet Mattie had never seen a doctor…
However, on another such hellish morning the farmer’s wife returned early from the land and found Mattie in the back-kitchen, whilst hanging from a rope, half blue. She was frightened to death and an enormous row followed. After that day the farmer’s wife never lost him out of her sight and shortly afterwards he was collected by the priest and taken to another address in Klimmen (South-Limburg).
Whilst passing through Maastricht he was allowed to see his parents briefly: this was a drama..
Mattie yelled and cried and told of the horrible things he had experienced, yet his parents could not believe him: it could not be possible that someone did such things, certainly not someone who risked his life because he allowed you to take shelter in his house. No, that could not be true.
And Mattie could not stay with them, that was far too dangerous.
After this Mattie stayed with a family in Klimmen, where he stayed till the end of the war. He had a lovely time there (as far as possible of course) and he has always stayed in touch with his temporary foster-parents.
After the war he and his parents went back to the farmer’s family, because Mattie’s father wanted to give them money for their generosity. However, the farmer asked such a ridiculous high price, that Mattie’s parents left there with a bitter feeling. Yet, they still could not believe his story. “That cannot be true,” they always said.
Yet, all days of his life Mattie had this gnawing feeling of not being understood and doubt in his head: could it be that he had only imagined everything? Had he blown trivial things out of proportion to make them look like grotesque ill-treatments? His ear, which had looked terrible, had been made fashionable again after plastic surgery but the scars on his soul would not heal!
So, whilst he was visiting a good friend in the middle of Limburg in 1993, and they were talking about his war memories, Mattie decided to drive around the country to look for his memories.
They did so and soon enough he recognised certain elements in the landscape until at a certain moment the barn door came in his line of sight...
This was a shock, an enormous shock and the emotions got the better of him.
He did not want to look any further and he went back to Amsterdam, where he lived...
It took ten more years before he had gathered enough courage to go and look once more. Again he went with his friend and their wives. They found the farm quite easily now and the ditch was still on the exact spot as far as he could remember. When his friend saw two men working in the field he asked them who had lived at this farm during the war and if they knew anything about people who had been in hiding there during the war.
Oh, yes, one of the men said, that is the farm where a little Jewish boy has been hiding and he was terribly ill-treated!!!
It was as if a bomb was dropped in Mattie’s heart and for a moment the world stood still: it was true! His memories had not betrayed him! During the conversations that followed all piece of the puzzle fell into place. Here finally was the acknowledgement he had been looking for all these years!
Not to take revenge or to be able to tell a heroic story, no, just to be able to look into the mirror and be able to face himself. To finally tell his parents: you see, it really happened, but unfortunately both his parents had passed away by then.
Mattie has no feelings of revenge against the farmer’s family, where all this took place. He has always been trying to find an explanation for the things the farmer did, because it was all so contradictory: on the one hand you risk your own life for a Jewish child, on the other hand you almost try to send this child into his grave!
May be the whole idea of this giving shelter came from the farmer’s wife and he did not agree with this at all? May be the farmer wanted to frighten Mattie for the Germans in such a way, that he would never betray them? May be the farmer was traumatised himself?
Yet, to the question “why” he will never get an answer, since the farmer himself has passed away years ago.
This was the story of a man who still lives carrying the “hiding”-name Mattie. Hardly anybody knows his real name and his sorrow he hides behind an ever generous smile…
*bron: Het Verborgen Front van Cammaert
This is a true story, but to prevent undue grief with possible living relatives of the families involved, no names of people and places are mentioned with the exception of the main character
Sergeant Ulrich Konietzny
DE 107th tank brigade
Feldwebel Konietzny, born on 2 May 1922, is 22 years old when he arrives in September 1944 as commander of a German `` Panthertank`` at the station in Venlo. His unit, the 107th Panzer Brigade, is deployed near Veghel to expel the American paratroopers who have landed here.
To this end, the unit has 45 Panther tanks feared by the Allies.
The 107th Panzerbrigade will be driven further back in the course of September and October in the direction of Venlo and Roermond. Heavy losses were incurred during this retreat. At the beginning of November 1944, only a few Panther tanks are still usable. Because these tanks and the crew members need rest, they are withdrawn to Germany in the second week of November 1944 via Roermond. The traffic bridge at Roermond was destroyed on 28 October 1944 by American bombers.
German vehicles were transferred from the beginning of October 1944 with the help of a ferry just north of the destroyed traffic bridge. In the evening of November 8, the Feldwebel Konietzny tank arrives from Horn at the ferry. It is a dark evening. Because of the Allied aircraft no light can be made. The Panther tank carefully drives onto the ferry. The tank is skewed and the spring is driven through the darkness. Because of the haste with which one has to work, nobody notices the error. If the ferry wants to sail, the tank with the crew slides into the Maas. The 3 crew members drown in the cold mesh water. Since the ferry also sinks after the war, nothing is known about the fate of the tank and its crew.
In 1959 the Maas bridge near Roermond is renewed. In June 1959, a float from Rijkswaterstaat encountered an obstacle in the water during the preparatory work. Upon closer investigation it turns out to be the Panther tank. The tank is salvaged. The remains of Feldwebel Ulrich Konietzy and his 2 comrades are salvaged and buried in the German military cemetery in Ysselsteyn.
By mr. Hugo Levels
Lieutenant Charles Morley
UK 1st Gordon Highlanders / 15th Scottish Division
Lieutenant Charles Morley is married and father of a son when he receives his call for military service in the British Army in 1943. In daily life he is a police officer. In 1944 he was given the command of the bren carrier peloton of the 1st battalion of Gordon Highlanders as an officer. The battalion in question is part of the 51st Scottish Highland Division. This division starts on November 14, 1944 with the liberation of the Leudal area. Charles Morley's bren carriers are the first Allied vehicles entering Roggel on the morning of November 16, 1944.
In the afternoon of the same day, the unit must continue in the direction of the drainage channel. The Scottish soldiers dig themselves in around the farms on the Vlaas. In the evenings, Charles Morley will, at his own request, explore the canal banks near the Neersebrug with a patrol. There is a lock available there which could serve as a possible crossing place for the battalion. Just before the canal bank, Lieutenant Morley is covering the rest of the patrol. He just crawled further in the direction of the lock. It is a misty and drizzly evening. The canal bank is difficult to recognize.
The moment he gets up to get a better view of the other side of the canal, a blast of fire from a German machine gun follows. Charles Morley is immediately dead. His remains are recovered later in the evening.
The next day (November 17, 1944), the Gordon Highland battalion crosses the drainage channel. On the same day, Lieutenant Morley is buried in a field grave near the farm of the Theelen family on the Vlaas. In 1946 he received his final grave at the British military cemetery in Venray.
By mr. Hugo Levels