I came across the above picture a few years ago and the information I got with it is that the children in the picture were orphans, staying with the nuns in Castle Hoensbroek, in Limburg .the south east of the Netherlands
However all the children had been placed under guardianship. They originally came from a town in North-Holland called Velsen where they had been students of a boarding school ,run by Nuns.
In October 1942 the German occupiers had ordered the boarding school to be evacuated, for it was going to be demolished. The Germans were going to build a 5 km long defense line and the boarding school was in the way.
Frantically the nuns looked for an alternative accommodation. They were offered the castle Hoensbroek in December 1942. They moved in on December 23 just in time for the Christmas celebrations. The distance between Velsen and Hoensbroek is about 200km. For the children that must have felt like moving to the other side of the world.
The children lived a relatively undisturbed live in the castle. Several times it had been declared unsuitable for the Germany army. However a few days before liberation there were a few nervous moments.
Some SS men on leave. had stayed in the adjacent farm and had been throwing hand grenades in the canals surrounding the castle, just for fun. They had also been walking around naked.
On September 12, 1944 a highly placed SS officer had visited the castle for inspection, he was told there was no room. His reply was not too worry about that, the SS would make some room, while he was looking around at the yard where the children were playing at the time.But he left.
The following day another highly placed SS officer,with a limp, came to the castle but he too left.
On September 17, 1944 Hoensbroek was liberated by the allied forces. As a part of the celebrations the children were dressed up in the traditional clothing of the Velsen-Volendam region. The pictures taken were send to the US to show the people there that the troops had arrived in the Netherlands.
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Reblogged this on History of Sorts.
I was so excited to find your story about the children of Castle Hoensbroek. My uncle Walter Ward, known to our family as Uncle Bud, was the seventh soldier in the line of troops leading the children in one photo, and the first soldier on the left in the photo of three troops holding children.
I have often wondered what happened to those children. This must have been a rare moment of joy for my gentle uncle, who received his draft notice on December 8, 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked, and spent years with General Patton from North Africa to Sicily to Normandy, and onward, to the end of the war. He survived the war and in the eyes of our family became the most adored of uncles. He always had a way with children and they loved him. But talking about the war was very hard for him. There were many things we never knew.
His oldest sister, our aunt Mary Ward Walsh, found the two photos in the New York Sunday News in January 1945. They were also published in the Catholic Digest a few months later.