Just an “unknown” place but it is where I was born-Geleen.

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For most people the name Geleen will mean nothing, but to me it means the place where I was born and raised.

Although it is far from perfect, my roots are there and I am proud of that.

It is a city in the southern part of the province of Limburg in the Netherlands. With 33,960 inhabitants, it is part of the municipality of Sittard-Geleen. Geleen is situated along the river Geleenbeek, a right tributary to the river Meuse. The Latin name for Geleenbeek is Glana, meaning “clear river”. The town centre is situated at about 60 m above sea level.

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Until the end of the 19th century, Geleen was a small village. The remains of one of the oldest prehistoric farms in the Netherlands were found here. In the 20th century the exploitation of coal mines in this area (the State-owned coal mine “Maurits”, the biggest in Europe, was located in Geleen) brought a fast population increase. During the 1960s and 1970s all Dutch coalmines, that were all located in this part of this province, were closed.

Throughout the years it has seen some changes but this blog is looking at its rich industrial history.

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Greek immigrant workers employed by DSM showing of their dancing skills.

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The DSM and it subsidiary SBB were so big that it needed its own Police force.

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Working in a coalmine was one of the most dangerous jobs, not everyone lived a long life.

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The record shop where I spent quite a bit of money,but every cent spent there was well worth it,Limburgs Platenhuis.

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Sittard & Geleen during WWII

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To most of you the names of these 2 towns will mean virtually nothing but it is where my roots are. I was born and raised in Geleen.

Sittard-Geleen  is a municipality in the southeastern Netherlands. It was formed in 2001 from the former municipalities Sittard, Geleen and Born.

The Netherlands was a neutral country, during WWI this neutrality had not been breached, however on the 10th of May 1940 the Germans breached the Dutch neutrality by invading the country.

Below are some pictures and stories of the period just before the start of WWII,during and after WWII of the Geleen Sittard regions and its surrounding villages.

Church wedding of a dutch Soldier in 1939 at the St Catharina Church,Grevenbicht. His comrades form a guard of honor.

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Dutch soldiers on parade on the Market square in Sittard, shortly before the invasion. Dutch troops had been mobilized for the eventuality the Germans would invade

 

10th of May 1940. German occupying troops are taking a toilet break. On the background the Church of Sittard can be seen.

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German occupying forces on the Market square in Sittard, with the City Hall in the background.

German troops on Steenweg in Sittard  heading for the station

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In April 1941 it becomes compulsary for every Dutch citizen age 15 years and older to carry an ID card, as required by the German occupiers.The ID card would include address and finger prints of the ID holder.

This is the ID card of Anna, Barbara Augenbroe from Geleen.

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The Dutch resistance manufactured many false identification papers to save fellow resistance members or Jewish citizens.The papers below are from Viktor Handgriff, alias A.T.J. Boumans , a Jewish immigrant who lived in de Pesch straat in Geleen at the time.As far I am aware he survived the war and passed away in 1977.

 

 

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Friendly Fire

On October 5 1942 approximately 30 bombers of the RAF carried out a bombing raid between 21:55 and 23:10, killing 83 and severely injuring 22 other. Leaving about 3000 people homeless.

 

https://dirkdeklein.net/2016/01/20/forgotten-history/

 

Warren Kappen.

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T/5 Warren R. Kappen, son of Robert E. and Mildred Patanude
Kappen, who was 24 years of age at the time of his death, was born March 28, 1920, at Unionville. He completed his 8th grade education and at the age of 14 went to Detroit to live. He was employed as a welder with Ceco Steel Co. when
he entered the army Nov. 26, 1941. He trained at battle Creek, at Fort Knox, Ky., and in Carolina before going to the African Theatre in 1942. In 1943 he went to England
and as part of the 67th Armored Regiment(Hell on Wheels), 2nd Armored Division went on to the European mainland with the first invasion.He died in Geleen on the 18th of September during the liberation of the town.

Monday Sept 18, the first American tanks drive in to Geleen and are cheered by an ecstatic crowd , Op de Vey.

After the war some of the German prisoners of War and especially the SS troops were made to work in the coal mine Staatsmijn Maurits in Geleen

These pictures are dared October 1948. They show SS officers on the way back from the mine to the POW camp, Graetheide,just outside Geleen.

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https://dirkdeklein.net/2017/06/11/the-heroes-of-geleen-the-fallen/

 

 

 

 

4th of May-Honoring the Heroes.

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Every 4th of May at 20.00 PM, 2 minutes of silence is observed in the Netherlands to remember those who died in WWII and other military conflicts.

Today I want to honor those who died for my freedom. It is impossible to honor them all for there were so many. The ones I selected are buried only a few miles from where I was born in the War Cemetery of Sittard.

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The Fallen Hero

 

Thank you soldier for setting my country free.

You did not want to die but yet you gave your life.

It was for strangers you sacrificed yourself, who weren’t even family.

Your ambitions were cut short never again did you see your wife.

 

Thank you, young man to liberate my land.

Your youth stolen from you by a violent act of hate.

A picture of a young girl you held in your hand

The blood drenched battlefield sealed both your fate

 

Thank you proud parents for sending us your son.

The pain you feel is something I will never be able to comprehend

But know this your child did not die in vain, his memory will go on

Even if everyone else forgets, I will remember until my end.

Pvt John Bowles

Died Jan 23 1945 -Highland Light Infantry (City of Glasgow Regiment), 6th Bn. Age 21

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Dennis Donnini

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Birth: Nov. 17, 1925. County Durham, England. Died Jan. 18, 1945,Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany.

World War II Victoria Cross Recipient. He received the award posthumously from British King George VI (presented to his father) at Buckingham Palace in London, England for his actions as a fusilier in the 4th/5th Battalion, Royal Scot Fusiliers, British Army on January 18, 1945 near Stein, Germany during Operation Blackcock in World War II. Born in Easington, Durham, England, his father emigrated from Italy during World war I and owned an ice cream shop and billiards establishment in Easington. During World War II he was placed in an internment camp because of his connection to a country that was at war with England. Shortly after his older brother was killed in combat in May 1944, he enlisted in the Royal Scot Fusiliers and following his training, he was sent to the European Theater of Operations where he was killed in combat at the age of 19 near Stein, Germany. His Victoria Cross citation reads: “In North-West Europe, on 18th January 1945, a Battalion of The Royal Scots Fusiliers supported by tanks was the leading Battalion in the assault of the German positions between the rivers Roer and Maas. This consisted of a broad belt of minefields and wire on the other side of a stream. As the result of a thaw the armour was unable to cross the stream and the infantry had to continue the assault without the support of the tanks. Fusilier Donnini’s platoon was ordered to attack a small village. As they left their trenches the platoon came under concentrated machine gun and rifle fire from the houses and Fusilier Donnini was hit by a bullet in the head. After a few minutes he recovered consciousness, charged down thirty yards of open road and threw a grenade into the nearest window. The enemy fled through the gardens of four houses, closely pursued by Fusilier Donnini and the survivors of his platoon. Under heavy fire at seventy yards range Fusilier Donnini and two companions crossed an open space and reached the cover of a wooden barn, thirty yards from the enemy trenches. Fusilier Donnini, still bleeding profusely from his wound, went into the open under intense close range fire and carried one of his companions, who had been wounded, into the barn. Taking a Bren gun he again went into the open, firing as he went. He was wounded a second time but recovered and went on firing until a third bullet hit a grenade which he was carrying and killed him. The superb gallantry and self-sacrifice of Fusilier Donnini drew the enemy fire away from his companions on to himself. As the result of this, the platoon were able to capture the position, accounting for thirty Germans and two machine guns. Throughout this action, fought from beginning to end at point blank range, the dash, determination and magnificent courage of Fusilier Donnini enabled his comrades to overcome an enemy more than twice their own number.” He was the youngest soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross during World War II.

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Major Magnus Vivian Gray

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Died January 22 1945. Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)

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Trooper Alfred Thomas Heath

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Birth:Dec. 26, 1924, Staffordshire, England. Died Nov. 21, 1944, Germany.Royal Armoured Corps

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Gunner Robert R McCOLLESTER

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Birth 1940:Burnley, Died December 20,1944.Royal Horse Artillery.

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Andrew Churchill

Birth unknown. Died February 6 1945. Gunner, Royal Artillery, 59 (Newfoundland) Heavy Regt. Age 32..

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Hoping against all Hope- The stare of desperation.

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It is amazing and in a way disturbing but this girl was born literally minutes away from where I was born and yet I was not aware of her existence or had even heard of her until now.

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Just a few seconds… that’s how long this girl stared into the camera on 19 May 1944 in the doorway of this boxcar in Westerbork, unaware of her fate. The train was about to depart for the Auschwitz-Birkenau Extermination Camp in Poland. It is surmised that she was gassed there during the night of 2 August 1944. Her exact identity was unknown for decades, but as the ‘Girl with the Scarf’ she became a symbol of the persecution of the Jews.

Extensive research conducted by the Dutch journalist Aad Wagenaar revealed in 1995 that the girl was not Jewish but in fact Sinti. Her name was Anna Maria Steinbach. She was born on 23 December 1934 in the province of Limburg in the south of the Netherlands. Her parents gave her the Sinti name Settela.Around 245 Sinti and Roma were deported from the Netherlands to Auschwitz. Only 30 of them survived the war. Westerbork’s Camp Commander Albert Gemmeker ordered the Jewish prisoner Rudolf Breslauer to film daily life in the transit camp.

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This still image, originally from that film, has been included in The Second World War in 100 Objects as a remembrance of this often overlooked group of Nazi victims.2.16 minutes into the film.

Setella was born in Buchten (now part of Sittard-Geleen, in southern Limburg,Netherlands) as the daughter of a trader and violinist. On May 16, 1944, a razzia against the Romanies was organized in the whole of the Netherlands. Steinbach was arrested in Eindhoven. That very same day, she arrived with another 577 people in Westerbork concentration camp. Two hundred seventy-nine people were allowed to leave again because although they lived in trailers they were not Romanies. In Westerbork, Steinbach’s head was shaved as a preventive measure against head lice. Like the other Sinti girls and women, she wore a torn sheet around her head to cover her bald head.

On May 19, Settela was put on a transport together with 244 other Romanies to Auschwitz-Birkenau on a train that also contained Jewish prisoners. Right before the doors were being closed, she apparently stared through the opening at a passing dog or the German soldiers. Rudolf Breslauer, a Jewish prisoner in Westerbork, who was shooting a movie on orders of the German camp commander,

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filmed the image of Settela’s fearful glance staring out of the wagon. Crasa Wagner was in the same wagon and heard Settela’s mother call her name and warn her to pull her head out of the opening. Wagner survived Auschwitz and was able to identify Settela in 1994.

On May 22, Setella Steinbach, arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau. She were registered and taken to the Romani  section. Those who were fit to work were taken to ammunition factories in Germany. The remaining three thousand  were gassed in the period from July to August 3. Steinbach, her mother, two brothers, two sisters, aunt, two nephews and niece were part of this latter group. Of the Steinbach family, only the father survived; he died in 1946 and is buried in a cemetery in Maastricht.

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After the war, the fragment of seven seconds in Breslauer’s movie was used in many documentaries. The image of the anonymous young girl staring out of the wagon full of fear and about to be transported to Auschwitz became an icon of the Holocaust.

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