Remembrance of the Dead (Dodenherdenking in Dutch) is held annually on 4 May in the Netherlands. Initially, it was only to remember the dead of World War II. But, since 2011 the official text of the Memorandum for Remembrance Day on 4 May is as follows: During the national commemoration of Remembrance Day, we remember all victims—civilians and soldiers—who have been killed or murdered in the Kingdom of the Netherlands or anywhere else in the world in war situations or during peace-keeping operations since the outbreak of the Second World War.
For this piece, I am reverting to the initial meaning of the Remembrance of the Dead—and will remember those who were killed or murdered during the war.
It is the war you did not ask for.
You only want to live your life. You wanted to finish school, or just even start school.
You wanted a job, a livelihood for you and your family.
You wanted a house, a holiday, to speak your mind and most of all you wanted to be free.
You did not want to be arrested for speaking out or being critical of the regime.
You didn’t want or be deported and sent to your death.
You didn’t want to fight in a foreign land and face an evil that was never seen before. Yet you did and you made sure that I had the freedom, I was entitled to. I now despair sometimes because your sacrifice is forgotten, and the freedom you fought for is now in danger to be taken away.
Those who want to take away that freedom get offended by trivial things. Yet they don’t get offended by your death or the death of the millions murdered in the camps. All they want to do is cancel everything they don’t agree with and erase the parts of history that offend them.
In Margraten, 8301 men are buried in the American War cemetery, there are another two thousand or so remembered in memorials.
8301, not just a number or mathematical equation.
8301 sacrifices made for the freedom of others.
8301 young lives ended by violence
8301 reasons why we should never forget what hate, ignorance and intolerance can do.
8301 although a large number it is only a small percentage of the overall sacrifices made.
8301 men whose futures were taken.
8301 who found their final resting place in Margraten, the Netherlands.
Below are just a few of them.
Sgt Howard Cohen enlisted in New York City, New York on 10 April 1943. He attended high school for four years.
The aeroplane with number 42-51098 was hit by flak and went down over the target. On its way down it knocked the wing off aeroplane 42-52447. Both ships went down and two to five parachutes were seen but it was not sure from which airplane.
Eight of the crew members were killed in the crash. They were buried in a mass grave next to the wreckage, together with casualties of other crashed planes. Lt Joe Guastella died in the POW Hospital of Altengrabe on 19 August 1944.
An investigation in October 1946 revealed that between August and September 1944, four American planes crashed in the area. In some cases bodies were buried near the crashed plane, another time they were buried in mass graves. Some of the remains could be identified at that time, others couldn’t.
Also, a proper investigation was not possible due to political restrictions because the area was in Russian-occupied territory.
Pvt Harold E. Peterman enlisted in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on 1 May 1943. Prior to serving with the Army, he was employed by the Pennsylvania Railroad in Harrisburg. He went overseas in December 1943, after training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, and Fort Benning, Georgia. Pvt Peterman died in Operation Market Garden. He was buried at American War Cemetery Molenhoek, the Netherlands on 28 September 1944, B-1-11.
PETERMAN, Harold E., Private, 505th Parachute Infantry Regt, 82nd Airborne Division, U.S. Army, Service #33508587, State of Entry: Pennsylvania, Death: 28-September-1944, Plot F, Row 4, Grave 13, Purple Heart, World War II
Staff Sgt John Zito volunteered for the Army of the United States at Fort Devens, Massachusetts on 9 February 1943. He attended high school for two years and was a machinist apprentice before he joined the Army.
The aircraft was lost during intense fighter attacks by approximately 100 FW 190s and ME 109s at about 1240 hours. Due to the fact that the entire squadron was lost during these encounters, there are no particulars available on the attack and subsequent loss of this aircraft.
Seven crew members were killed. Six of them were initially buried at the community cemetery of Ketzin: Taylor, Lynch, Bone, Kelly, Firof and one unknown (which must have been the pilot Thumlert). The fate of Zito is unknown. 14 January 1945 is listed as his date of death and he is mentioned on the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial.
The two crew members that were taken as POWs were Brown and Cardone.
At the beginning of April 1945, prisoners from the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp were transferred to the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp. One of the three trains used for this purpose was liberated by the Russian army near the village of Tröbitz. Many passengers did not survive this train journey. Of those who survived the train journey, a large number died from the effects of a typhus epidemic that broke out. The deceased were buried in a common grave behind the management barracks of the “Hansa” quarry.
Emanuel Huisman and his wife, Elisabeth Huisman-Lees, were interred in this common grave.
The burial of dead concentration camp prisoners by German civilians was ordered by the 82nd Airborne at Wöbbelin in May 1945.
Never forget what evil men are capable of inflicting on their fellow men.