Law abiding citizen

Louis

I don’t know what it is but the last few days I have discovered several accounts of victims of the Holocaust which are very near to me. Not so much that I was related to these people or that I knew them, but I knew the locality and the addresses where they lived. In fact I passed these places by on a daily basis and in the case of Louis van Dam , sometimes even more then 10 times a day.

At the back of my secondary school there was a square . It was really a small park with a few benched and some trees, surrounded by houses. The square was known(and still is) as the Jubeleum plein (Jubilee square)

We would often use this square for physical education lessons. One of the tests we had for PE was a run around the small park, We had a certain time (I believe it was 10 minutes) to run around the park as often as we could. 10 times or more would be a pass, anything below 10 was a fail.

plein

You probably are thinking “where is he going with this” ? Well the name I mentioned earlier was Louis van Dam, Louis and his family lived in one of the houses on the square, Jubileumplein 12,Geleen from 1930 to 1939. In 1939 they moved to a village a few miles south, Doenrade. The reason why they moved was because of health reasons. Louis’s wife  Sophie Silbernberg-van Dam, had asthma and the pollution caused by the nearby coal mine was bad for her health. However Louis also want to live in a remote spot near the German border so he could help Jewish refugees. who crossed the border.

In that same year Louis became a bit of a ‘celebrity’ but not in a beneficial way, He had overheard a smuggling scheme in a local pub. Some smugglers had been smuggling Dutch army uniforms to Germany(the uniforms were to be used by the German army for the invasion of the Netherlands). As a law abiding citizen Louis reported this to the Police. Two men were arrested as a result.A newspaper article was published about the incident.

Artikel

Despite the fact that Louis van Dam’s name only appeared in an abbreviated from in the newspaper, it was still known that he had reported the smugglers. Louis and his family received death threats afterwards because of this they moved again, this time to Amsterdam.

A few months after they moved, the German army invaded the Netherlands. Louis’s son Guus got involved in a students resistance group and was arrested at the end of 1941 or start of 1942.

Guus

Although the intended target for the arrest was Louis himself, some neighboyrs had betrayed him for listening to an English radio station, which was forbidden by the Nazi authorities. But Louis was ill and Guus was arrested instead.

Guus was sent to Auschwitz on November 10th,1942 via Scheveningen, Amersfoort and  Westerbork. It is not known where he died , his formal death certificate states date of death March 31,1944 in middle Europe, aged 22.

Louis, his wife and 2 daughters, Roos en Mimi, went into hiding.

van dam

Louis van Dam had gone into hiding using the alias Christiaan Willem Zijlstra. He died while in hiding and was buried under his alias at the Algemeene Begraafplaats Crooswijk in Rotterdam on 23 April 1945.

After the war  his remains were exhumed and  reburied at the Jewish cemetery Toepad in Rotterdam. Louis van Dam’s wife and daughter survived the war.

It just goes to show you can be passing by a house every day without being aware of the historical significance of it.

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Sources

Stichting Stolpersteine Sittard-Geleen

Joods Monument

Google Streetview

 

 

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Bloemenmarkt 7, Geleen-the Netherlands

Bloemen

The title of this blog is an address. It will mean very little to most people. It is nit the address of someone famous or some well known shop or even museum.

It is basically a very insignificant address in the greater scheme of things. But in a microcosm it has such great relevance and especially to me.

It is an address I would have passed by on a daily basis. Around the corner of the building lies a bakery and also nearby is a chemistry. It is in the middle of a small shopping centre. Although I have passed by there many times, I never knew the history of this particular address, which now is an empty shop building.

On August 25,1942 a butcher with the name Max Baum and his wife were picked up from the Bloemenmarkt 7 and from there they were deported to  Vught and Westerbork, Max was the Chief representative of the Jewish council.

After Westerbork Max and his wife were sent to Auschwitz. I don’t know what the cause of his death were all I know is that he died in the hospital of Auschwitz III (Monowitz-Buna) on March 31,1944.

Max

Max’s wife was subjected to medical experiments in Auschwitz by Dr. Clauberg, but she did survive the war and the Holocaust.

Max’s sister who also lived on the same address also survived the war but her daughter and Max’s niece Helena Roer, who lived with her mother and her uncle and his wife was killed in Auschwitz on August 31,1942, she was aged 20. She was murdered only 6 days after she was picked up together with her uncle and his wife.

helene

What I find so disturbing about this is that I never knew anything about this until today. I had to emigrate to discover a history which had been in my grasp for many years, I also doubt that anyone who does the shopping in the nearby supermarkets,butcher shop,pharmacy,bank,florist and bakery is aware of the tragedy of some of the former neighbors and residents.

Yet every 4th of May there will be a crowd of people remembering those who died in WWII and all other military conflicts, at the monument just around the corner of Bloemenmarkt 7.

monument 2

Ironically I nearly bought one of the houses just behind the monument on the Bloemenmarkt (Flower Market). That is how close I was to a palpable bit of history.

 

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Source

Joods Monument

 

The forgotten disaster-The DSM disaster.

2018-11-07

Little did I know when I was aged 7, that 2 headlines in a regional newspaper would have links to my life in ways I could never have imagined.

On November 7,1975 2 events were in the Dutch newspapers. One event was a disaster which happened in a chemical plant, the other event was the release of a Dutch business man who had been kidnapped by the IRA.

The chemical plant was DSM, a petrochemical plant in my birthplace Geleen,in the Netherlands. The business man was Dr Herrema who was the Managing Director at the Ferenka steel plant in Limerick,Ireland.

43 years ago I did not think that 22 years later I would move from Geleen to Limerick.

DSM

As the title of the blog is ‘the forgotten disaster’ I will focus on that fateful day 43 years ago where 14 people died.

I deliberately called it the forgotten history because there is really not much to be found on the DSM disaster on most historical sites.One site actually quotes the name incorrectly.

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On November 7,1975 at 9.50 AM  the naphtha cracker II-(Naphtha is a flammable liquid made from distilling petroleum, cracking, is a process in which large hydrocarbon molecules are broken down into smaller and more useful ones)-  was restarted after a revision. Unfortunately the restart didn’t go as planned due to a a pipe breaking in the compression unit.a mixture of liquids compressed was released under high pressure and flowed along the hot furnaces, causing a Vapor Cloud Explosion.

The extreme power of the explosion destroyed many installations around the cracker. In addition, fierce fires arose in pipeline streets and storage tanks.

nafte 2

The explosion was felt in surrounding suburbs and nearby villages.It was not uncommon for windows to tremble in the region,  because there would be regular bangs after the start up of any of the naphtha crackers, but people quickly realized that this was different.

nAFTA

As a 7 year old the experience was different of course. When you would hear a big bang or feel the explosion, there wasn’t a sense of fear but more a sense of excitement. Also the fact we were sent home early was a great bonus.

However soon after  you actually could see the reality.Men you would usually see going to work at the plant in the mornings, at the same time you’d go to school. suddenly weren’t there anymore.

After a while you’d get new neighbors  because families affected by the disaster moved out.

14 people died and 109 were injured that day.It would take 5 days for all fires to be extinguished.

vuur

Yet in the wider world the disaster has been forgotten even Dutch historical sites barely mention it and sometimes when they do they have the facts wrong.

Many people of my age and older still vividly remember the disaster and the aftermath of it. Ever since that day there was always the fear that something like this could happen again.

I remember in 1994 or 1995 there was an incident where an US Airforce AWACS plane flew over the DSM. and it got into some difficulties.

AWACS

The pilot had called the air control at the nearest airport, which was Maastricht-Aachen Airport. They had to drop some kerosene in order to land safely at their base, which was nearby in Germany. The air controller gave the pilot the okay to do so, not realizing the plane was directly over the torch of the naphtha cracker 4 at the time.(a burning installation where the waste product of the naphtha is burned)

nak 4

Even though the AWACS plane was high above the area , if the torch had been operational at the time the kerosene still could have gone into it potentially causing a major disaster.Aside from that the code the pilot had given was a military code which also could have meant dropping bombs.although the AWACS planes do not carry any weaponry.

This incident was highlighted on a investigative current affair program on Dutch TV a few months after it happened.The show had actually been about mistakes made at several air control centres across Europe, and I had just watched it by chance, I had switched over from another channel during the commercial break.

Chemelot

 

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Sources

Limburgs Dagblad

DSM

Chemelot

YouTube

SS and Nazis in the Dutch Coalmines

mijn

The most southern province of the Netherlands, Limburg, in the south east of the country used to be a rural area with mainly farming as employment opportunities, However in the late 19th and early 20th century something nicknamed “black gold” was discovered in the southern part of the province, this ‘black gold’ was coal.

The Dutch government exploited the discovery of coal by building 4 coal mines.

-Staatsmijn Wilhelmina in Terwinselen
-Staatsmijn Emma in Treebeek/Hoensbroek (1911 – 1973)
-Staatsmijn Hendrik in Brunssum (1915 – 1963)
-Staatsmijn Maurits in Lutterade-Geleen (1926 -1967)

Maurits

Although the mines brought jobs and prosperity it didn’t come without costs.The mine workers would receive a relatively high wage , the work was very physical and sometimes emotionally draining .A great number of mine workers  would not retire because of Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis(aka black lung disease)or Silicosis, they would die at a young age.

Lungs

During WWII the mines were exploited by the German occupiers, and the coal would be used for the German war effort.

Some dutch men had signed up to the SS and were also members of the NSB, The Dutch Nazi party. After the war some several hundreds of these men were imprisoned in Prisoner of War camps.

43743591_1034093993434756_2737810057973465088_nThey were sentenced  to work in the coal mines by the Dutch government and the Allied forces , mainly in the Maurits and the Emma.

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After their shifts they were made to walk back to the camp from the mine. Those working in the Maurits had to walk back to prisoner camp ‘Graetheide’ which was a 12-15 km march.

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Some records indicate that some men were sentenced to 25 years labor in the mines, but since the last mine closed in 1969 it is a clear indications that those sentences were reduced. Despite the hard labor in the mines they were let off easy.

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Sources

Demijnen.nl

Nostal Gia

 

October 5,1942- The Bombing of Geleen.

Geleen 1

October 5th,1942, was one of the darkest if not the darkest days of WWII for my hometown of Geleen, at the time it was a small mining town in the south east of the Netherlands, in the province of Limburg.

Shortly after 21.30 the alarms sounded,warning the population of an imminent attack. The bombing  did happen  between 21:55 and 23:10. But it wasn’t the Luftwaffe but the RAF.

A squadron of 257 RAF bombers were on the way to Aachen in Germany , to bomb the mine’Anna’ in the German city near the Dutch border. However due to bad weather , and limited vision 30 of the 257 bombers had deviated from their course, When they had reached Geleen and  saw the Statesmine ‘Maurits’ they mistakingly believed they had reached Aachen and therefore they dropped their load.

aerial

The bombing resulted in 83 being killed,  57 houses totally destroyed , severely damaging 227 more house and causing further damage to another 1728 homes.

geleen 2

Additionally  13 coal miners were killed in the raid, the Maurits was heavily damaged and it took fire crews from several cities to help extinguish the fires caused by the bombing. There were even fire crews which came from Rotterdam which is about 200 KM away from the mine to help with the fires.

geleen 3

 

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NIOD

December 6 1944, a date that means little to most but a lot to me.

geleen-limburg

This is one of my most personal blogs, having that said there still will be people saying it is ‘fake news’.

As the title says the 6th of December 1944 will mean little to most but it means a lot to me. It is the day that one of my uncles died. What makes this special to me is that my mother always told me I reminded her of him. We had the same mannerisms and even way of talking, although I was born long after he died.

His name was Johannes Jager, he moved with my grand parents and his siblings  from Friesland in the North of the Netherlands to Limburg in the south east of the country. They settled in the town where I was born,Geleen. In the suburb Lindenheivel.

geleen

There are no pictures of him for my family were basically immigrants, even though it was in the same small country. In the 1920/1930s it was the equivalent of moving across the globe now/ They had to leave everything behind.

All that I heard about him is that he was a kind and generous man. He had poor health though, I am not clear om what his ailments were but suffice to say his parents worried about him.

When war broke out he wasn’t able to serve in the army, it would have done not much good anyway. But he did his bit as much as he good.

He did not join any organized resistance group but he would do his own individual actions, by sneaking on to farms of well to do farmers, some  actually did well under German occupation, and he would steel a chicken here or there,eggs or grain and flour to make bread. He would give it to his parents but also to others who were in need.

He knew that id he would ever get caught he would face dire consequences, potentially death. One day he nearly got caught, he and a friend were out stealing things when they came across a German patrol.

patro;

They literally had to run for their lives, they encountered a few empty barrels and jumped in them.

The Germans shot the barrel that held my uncle’s friend, he got killed immediately, but some stroke of luck they left Johannes’s barrel alone. When the coast was clear he got out and went home.

He never stole from the farmers again.

On September 18 1944, Geleen was liberated

Vrij Geleen

Johannes did see the liberation but the strain of the war and his ill health proved too much, he died on December 6 1944, the day when the Dutch celebrate St Nicholas.

I would have loved to have met him but although I never did I feel a part of him lives in me and he will forever be one of my heroes.

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You will not be forgotten

STER

The 4th of May is the day when the Dutch remember the dead. Those who died because of war. At the start of WWII, my hometown had 37 Jewish citizens, by 4th of May 1945 they had all perished.
This is a poem remembering those 37 innocent lives.

You are not different than me.
You eat the same food.
You read the same books.
But yet you are not free.

You are not free because of someone’s idea of you.
You are given a yellow star
You are catalogued and numbered like cattle.
But yet you’re not an animal but a human too.

You are being killed in the vilest of ways.
You are a man, a woman, a child, a parent.
You are erased as if you were never here.
But yet you are remembered on many days.

You are not different to me but you are also not the same.
You are merely a number and a name on a list.
You are not listened to for you have no voice
But I pledge I will shout for you in loud acclaim.

 

The final destination for the Cohen family from Geleen-Auschwitz

Geleen Limburg

This blog will be based on facts and some presumptions, but the presumptions are more then likely correct.

I was going over the history of the deported Jews from my birthplace Geleen, south east of the Netherlands. when I noticed the name of the Cohen family. There is not a lot I know or could find out about them except for the fact they used to have a clothing shop in Geleen and Maastricht  prior to  World War Two.

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I do know they were a family of 6. The Father Simon, the Mother Esthella Carolina Cohen-ten Brink. Daughters Josephine, age 12, Henny age 16.Frieda age 17 and 1 son Gerrit. Gerrit is the only one who survived the war. He died on September 22, 1998, age 76. He was buried in the Jewish cemetery in Beek, a town a few miles from Geleen.(Picture courtesy of Frank Janssen)

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On 25 August 1942, approximately 20 Jewish citizens were brought to and then deported from town hall by the Germans. The Cohen family were among them. They were then taken to Maastricht.

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On that same day they were put on transport to Westerbork on the 25th of August 1942. On the 28th of August they left Westerbork for Auschwitz where they arrived on the 30th of August.

Simon,Esthella Carolina,Josephine and Frieda all died on the 31st of August. Henny died on the 26th of September.

Gerrit Cohen had escaped on August the 25th  1942. When the Nazis had come for the family he managed to escape via a roof window and went into hiding.

When I mentioned presumptions earlier I was referring to the transport dates, for I do believe they are correct but I could not fully verify them. The transport date from Westerbork  to Auschwitz is correct though.

Treinbord_Westerbork-Auschwitz_Auschwitz_State_Museum

Such was the evilness of the Nazi regime that they even gave people on the transport hope, pretending there was a possible return journey.

One of the citizens of Geleen,Rie op den Camp, mentioned in her diary of the 25th of August 1942, when the Jews were put on transport to Maastricht, she overheard one of the German soldiers saying  “Arme Menschen, wir müssen uns schämen, dass wir zu so eines Volk gehören”, which translates from German to English is “Poor people. we should be ashamed to belong to a people like ours” This indicates that not all Germans subscribed to Adolf Hitler’s ideology but also that they were aware what fate awaited the people on those transports.

kamp westerbork.jpg

 

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How the 1953 North Sea flood resulted in a professional football league.

Watersnoodramp_1953

On the night of 31 January – 1 February 1953, many dykes in the province of Zeeland, the southern parts of the province of South Holland and the northwestern parts of the province of North Brabant ,in the Netherlands,proved unable to resist the combination of spring tide and a northwesterly storm.

It was to become the biggest natural disaster to date in the Netherlands.It was  estimated that  the flooding killed 1,835 people and forced the emergency evacuation of 70,000 more. Floods covered 9% of Dutch farmland, and sea water flooded 1,365 km² of land. An estimated 30,000 animals drowned, and 47,300 buildings were damaged, of which 10,000 were destroyed. Total damage is estimated at 1 billion Dutch guilders.

1024px-North_Sea_flood_of_1953

 

Although my hometown, Geleen, in the southeastern province Limburg in the Netherlands, was not directly impacted by the storm and floods. Indirectly it was affected by it but in a positive way.

Geleen is the home of Fortuna 54 which was the first professional football team in the country.

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One of the key players was Cor van der Hart.

Van der Hart was one of the players participating in the Watersnoodwedstrijd(Flood disaster match) of 12 March 1953.This was a match played in the Parc des Princes stadiumWatersnoodwedstrijd_Aufstellung_L'Equipe_1953-03-13-2 in Paris and was played in honour  of the victims of the North Sea flood of 1953, and to raise money for the relief work and survivors of the disaster. Van der Hart, who still played as a professional in France those days, together with several others like Bram Appel, Theo Timmermans, Bertus de Harder and Kees Rijvers  heard the news of the flood  on the radio and realised his home country needed help .The KNVB (the Dutch football association) still prohibited professional players within the country.

Five days earlier, the Netherlands lost 2-1 to Denmark in another match held in Rotterdam. This time at Paris’ Parc des Princes, the Netherlands trailed 1-0 when de Harder tied the game on a 58th-minute goal. Then Appel, who along with Theo Timmermans helped orchestrate bringing this game, scored the winning goal in the 81st minute.

8,000 Dutch fans travelled to Paris to witness the match and saw their team beating the strong French team 2–1 with goals scored by De Harder and Appel.

Watersnoodwedstrijd-1953

 

The match was the breakthrough to introduce professional football in the Netherlands. Only 17 months later the first professional match in the country was played.

When professional football started in the Netherlands Van der Hart returned to his native country to play for Fortuna ’54,

Cor_van_der_Hart_(10_april_1966)

 

Fortuna 54 no longer exists ,on July 1 1968  it merged with RKSV Sittardia of the neighboring town of Sittard and was renamed “Fortuna Sittard” and Sittard became the home of the newly founded football team.

In 2001 both towns Geleen and Sittard also merged and formed the municipality of Sittard-Geleen  and is currently  the second most populated municipality in Limburg.

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Staatsmijn Maurits-Dutch State Coalmine

maurits-hoofdgebouw-1945-1

I can never understand people who are ashamed or embarrassed of where they are from or where they were born. You should always be proud of your roots.

Even if you live somewhere else you should never lose your pride of your birth place. It is perfectly possible to be proud of the place you were born and the place you live in.

My roots are in the south east of the Netherlands in a town called Geleen.

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Although it started of as a small village near a small creek it really started to prosper and became a vibrant industrial town after the State Mine Maurits opened up

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By the end of the nineteenth century, a few German and Belgian companies had started coal mining in South Limburg. Geologically, the Belgian Campine, South Limburg and large swaths of the German state North Rhine-Westphalia form a single coal-rich area. Recognizing the strategic importance of coal, the Dutch government founded De Staatsmijnen (The State Mines, later DSM) in 1902 (below we write ‘DSM’). DSM opened three coal mines in the Eastern Mining District, before turning its eyes to the Western Mining District, more in particular to Geleen.

The Geleen municipal council was not amused and sent the Dutch government a letter to object to mining operations within this calm, conservative and agricultural community.

From the letter sent by the Geleen municipal council, dated 14 March 1908:

‘But let us have a look at the drawbacks Geleen would suffer from the mines. We will not even mention the moral drawbacks, and of the material drawbacks we will mention only one: Where will the farmers find workmen to work their land? How much will they have to pay them? No, we hold Geleen, with its healthy, virtuous and prosperous population too dear to let its people be reduced to mine slaves.’

In neighboring Sittard, meanwhile, hopes grew that this ‘prize’ was theirs for the taking. The die was cast by Royal Decree of 12 March 1915: the fourth state mine was to be located in Lutterade, which offered the best possibilities to work the so-called Maas fields. A year later this mine was officially named Staatsmijn Maurits (Maurits State Mine). The work initially focused on sinking two shafts giving access to the black gold. January 1, 1926 marked the official start of the exploitation.

Geleen-Staatsmijn-Maurits-Lutterade-zw-672x372

In 1922, the first stone was laid for the main building of the Maurits State Mine in Geleen. From the opening in 1924 to the closing of the mine on 1 September 1967, this building served as the ‘nerve center’, not only housing the managing director, head engineer, supervisors and works office but also comprising the gigantic bath building (now demolished).

The main building was designed by the Amsterdam architect Leliman. He was a representative of the Amsterdam School, which reacted against the Neo-Gothicism and Neo-Renaissance of around the turn of the century. With Berlage as leading exponent, the designs produced by this school became more rationalistic, with fair-faced brickwork. Above the massive wooden front door the name ‘Staatsmijn Maurits’ was shown in brickwork in the same style, with above it four façade embellishments representing the ‘Mine God’, made in 1923 by the Amsterdam ceramist Willem Coenraad Brouwer.
After 1937, the building was gradually expanded, for instance with a new Wage Hall.

In the (old) Wage Hall the miners literally received their wages on Saturdays. Brass fencing was placed before the supervisor offices, and moving along the fence the ‘undergrounders’ came in to collect their pay packets. Against the walls of the hall you can still see the wooden benches on which the miners waited till their number was called.
In the early sixties, the (old) Wage Hall was embellished with glass art by Eugene Quanjel. Entitled ‘Carboon’, it represents the formation of the coal layers. Use was made of a special technique, developed by DSM, to glue the colored parts in between two glass plates.

Behind the Wage Hall there was in a huge changing room surrounded by baths for employees at levels. The original design was big enough for some 4000 employees (they worked in three shifts, six days a week). Everyone had their own clothing hook, which was lifted with a chain and secured with a safety lock, so that the clothes were literally high and dry.

Before going to the change room, the miners collected their identity badges. After changing, they reported to the lamp room where they were given the lamps needed for their underground work. The miners then formed a column on the footbridge to the shaft, with the shifts that had to go deepest heading the column. In the heyday of mining, in the early fifties, some 5700 employees worked underground and 3400 above it. The Maurits was Europe’s most modern, safe and efficient mine.

In 1957, the mine achieved a record coal production, but the glory days of the Dutch State Mines were soon to end. With the introduction of natural oil and gas, there was no longer much need for coal, and in 1965 it was decided to close the state mines. On 16 December 1965, Minister of Economic Affairs Joop den Uyl came to Heerlen to deliver the news in the local theatre. On 17 July 1967, the last coal was mined from the Maurits.

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Below are some pictures of some of the heroes who worked in the mine.Many died in the mines or at a young age.

groep

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onder

A lot has changed since the mine closed. After the closure another state company was set up, a chemical plant called DSM.

dsm

Geleen merged with the neighboiring town called Sittard, making it one of the biggest cities in the province of Limburg, with the very creative name Sittard-Geleen.

Although Geleen lost a lot of its vibrancy, I am still a proud Geleen man and I am equally proud of my new home Limerick hence a proud Limerick man also.

hof geleen

Donation

I am passionate about my site and I know a you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

$2.00