We at Meet Maastricht hope everyone is able to enjoy Liberation Day here in the Netherlands. To commemorate the occasion, we’ve put together something a little special for you! This is the second part of two special episodes about the liberation of Maastricht in 1944 / 1945 and (once again) features special guest Joes Minis.
Join Katrina and Joes as they chat about the liberation and what it was like to live in Maastricht 75 years ago. This is only part two – make sure to check out part one here!
Remembrance Day has been celebrated in the Netherlands since 1946 and the first image (top left) shows the memorial service on the Vrijthof in 1948 (4/5/1948, (c) RHCL). The second photograph (top right) shows a modern day ceremony on Remembrance Day c. 2018, at the Herdenkingsplein ( (c) Jean-Pierre Geusens via 1limburg). Nowadays Remembrance day or ‘Nationale Dodenherdenking’ in Dutch, includes two minutes of nationwide silence 8 o’clock in the evening with a national wreath laying ceremony in Amsterdam shown live on all public channels. From 1961 onwards these ceremonies have been used to remember all victims – military and civilian – of all armed conflict that the Netherlands has been involved in since 1940.
Liberation Day, the day after Remembrance Day in the Netherlands, is often celebrated with festivals like that shown in the fourth picture (bottom right, (c) Liberation Festival Limburg via lbghotels.com). There are also more poignant traditions such as the lighting of the freedom flame in Wageningen, where the nazi’s surrendered the country to the allies on May 5th 1945. From there, the fire is taken to all parts of the country and lights memorial fires including that in the third photograph (bottom left, 5/5/2020, (c) Liberation Festival Limburg).
Above you can see the 2020 freedom flame carrier for Limburg, Rachel Schepers bringing the fire to the Mayor Rianne Donders and Governor Theo Bovens ( (c) Province of Limburg). The flame burns in the market in Roermond and represents ‘is the symbol of life in peace and freedom. Everywhere in the Netherlands, 75 years of freedom is considered today and the fact that freedom is not [a given]’ ( (c) Province of Limburg).
A fascinating pre-war story told by Joes in this podcast was the tale of Pastor Janssen and his quest to furnish his church, Saint Anthony of Padua. Pastor Janssen can be seen above at the laying of the foundation stone for the church (above left, Janssen is on the left, 20/9/1936, (c) RHCL). Long story short, Mussolini gifted Janssen a mass of beautiful green marble for the church (see a sample above right, (c) Wikimedia commons). Above you can also see the interior of the church in 1958 and the exterior as it stood in 2019 ( (c) Wikimedia commons). To find out more about Pastor Janssen and this beautiful church make sure to listen to the podcast episode!
Although the Dutch army serving in WW2 does not have a sterling reputation, they did own at least one tank as seen above – the Renault FT. They used this tank to conduct tests on how difficult it would be for invading forces to travel with tanks including one with large pieces of ice (above left, 1940, (c) National Archives via tanks-encyclopedia) and large ditches (above right, (c) worldoftanks). The text beneath the second photograph reads: ‘The device takes the ditch without problems. It would have gotten stuck before. Let’s hope we never have to use this in practice‘ ( (c) worldoftanks).
In this episode of the podcast we also discuss the destruction and construction of bridges in Maastricht during and after the Second World War. The top left photograph shows the pre-emptive destruction of parts of the Wilhelmina and Sint Servaas bridges by Dutch forces in preparation for German invasion in 1940 ( (c) Patrick Leenders via 75 Years of Liberation Album). The top right photograph shows the subsequent use of rubber boats and planks by the Germans who were quickly able to cross the Maas despite Dutch efforts (5/5/1940, (c) RHCL).
After reconstruction during German occupation, when the German troops fled Maastricht in 1944 they once again destroyed parts of the bridges crossing the Maas (see bottom left, 14/9/1944, (c) RHCL). When they arrived the allies were able to cross the Maas thanks to a temporary Bailey bridge as seen in the bottom right image (30/9/1944, (c) RHCL).
While not discussed in this podcast, it is also important to note the number of non-white soldiers who helped to liberate Maastricht, including those Limburg liberators pictured above (Sittard, 1944, (c) Unknown via de correspondent). Many black soldiers were welcomed into Maastricht’s homes and families during liberation and even once they had travelled on, they left their mark in the faces of the illegitimate Dutch children they fathered (Karin Amatmoekrim). If you can read Dutch or want to try your luck at Google Translate, check out this article by Karin Amatmoekrim on De Correspondent for more information about non-white soldiers in World War Two and Limburg.
A big thanks once again to Joes Minis for his help on the last two episodes of the Meet Maastricht podcast!
And as always As always, if you have something you have always wanted to know about Maastricht or wanted to ask a local, please contact us through social media or our website and we will do our best to answer your questions in future episodes!