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.

beleven

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

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Turning a blind eye

Blind eye

I would love to say there was not a single person in the Netherlands who turned a blind eye to the brutal Nazi regime and especially in relation  the treatment of their fellow citizens, who happened to be Jewish. But I’d be telling a lie.

There were many who at risk of their own lives helped the Jews escape or hid them. In February 1941 there was a massive national strike in protests against the treatment of the Jews,

And although there was a relative small percentage who actively helped the Nazis there were many who did nothing and turned a blind eye.

The Dutch Railways played an active part in the transportation and often the trains were driven by Dutch machinists.

Trein I don’t want to be hypocritical about it because I don’t know what I would have done, I’d like to believe I would have resisted but since I was never put in that situation I don’t know.

Many did see their fellow citizens being put on a train and didn’t question why their neighbours,friends,colleagues or schoolmates were deported. Partially because of fear for their own lives but also because they maybe just didn’t want to know,ignorance is bliss they say.

There was also this culture enshrined in the Dutch psyche to follow the orders of the authorities, without too many questions being asked.

trein 2

I am proud to be a Dutch man for there were many heroes who did so many selfless acts of bravery and they are my examples. But I also have to acknowledge there are black pages in my country’s history which should never be forgotten.

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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.

43677268_1034096520101170_7400280748961300480_n

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.

43749124_1034053120105510_7362689172257112064_n

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

 

Forbidden for Jews

1

The Holocaust didn’t start with the mass extermination of Jews, it started in ways which could even be considered non violent, with gradually excluding Jews from society.

In this blog there are some examples of signs sating ~Forbidden for Jews” or”No Jews allowed” from several locations in the Netherlands.

On the signs above it says dogs are not allowed to walk freely, in other words they were allowed in the park but on a lead. Underneath it says “Forbidden for Jews” this indicates that dogs had more privileges than Jews.

Sign at the entrance of a shop

2

Sign on the door of a cinema

3

Sign at a butcher shop in Amsterdam

5

Propaganda was also used to isolate and alienate the Jewish population, the poster below shows the blatant disrespect and hate against Jews and others.

It says “Goering has forbidden vivisection on animals, we have enough Jews and Marxists to use instead.”

cartoon

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Source

Verzetsmuseum Amsterdam

NIOD

 

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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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

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Source

NIOD

The Dutch SS training camp-Built with the blood of slaves.

SS

Although there were many Dutch who with disregard of their own safety and lives were willing to help their Jewish fellow men and women, however there were  also those who ceased the opportunity to fulfill their own evil ambitions and joined the SS.

I know there will be some who say that some of these men were just misguided and did look passed the policies of the Nazi regime, and only joined the SS for the adventure and the chance to fight in an efficient army unit, and to an extend that was true. But it had to have become very clear to them shortly after joining what the SS really stood for.

SS NL

It already started at the building of the SS training camp Avegoor which had been a stately home prior to the start of the war.

One of the key areas the Nazis focused on was sport,Hitler was convinced that a good athlete would make a good soldier.

Hauptscharführer Karl Hautz was responsible to build a state of the art sport facility at the SS training centre Avegoor.

He did this by using 139 Jewish slave laborers to build a sports hall.an athletics ttacl, a sports field and 2 exercise facilities and stands.

2018-10-05 (2)

The sporting complex was also used by the Hitler youth and the Youth Storm for matches and competitions.

The 139 men arrived on 2 and 3 September 1942, they had to carry out the work under appalling circumstances. Not enough food, little sleep and comfort long hours and the constant fear of punishment.

Three of the Jewish slave labourers died  while building the sport camp. They died so that others could be trained to kill.

Camp

Of the 139 men only 33 eventually survived the war.

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Excursion to Dachau

day trip

One might be forgiven that the title implies a current school trip to Dachau, but the title refers to another kind of trip to the notorious death camp.

The Dutch Nazis, the NSB. did not have the same level of hatred against, Jews,Roma and disabled people as their German counterpart. Himmler was aware of this but he needed support for the SS from the Dutch.

In January 1941 ,Himmler invited the leader of the NSB,Anton Mussert to Munich.

Mussert and Himmler

Most of the NSB leadership accompanied Mussert on his journey to Munich.The aim of the meeting was to make Mussert enthusiastic for the SS so he would encourage Dutch men to join them.

As part of the trip an excursion was planned to Dachau, but to ensure the Dutch delegation would not be shocked by what they saw there, the whole excursion was staged on January 20,1941.

They were shown good dormitories, great sanitary utilities and a well equipped  kitchen with high quality and fresh food. In short the wool was pulled over their eyes.

In an interview in jail in 1946, Mussert stated.

“That time when I visited Dachau, it was beautiful. People were walking around in the open air, they were busy gardening.baking and painting. They were all smiling. Later on of course I realized that this was all staged”

Although they did not have the same level of evilness as the NSDAP, the NSB were nevertheless willing participants in the Holocaust. Mussert may not have been fully aware what was going on in Dachau in January 1941, since it was reasonably early on in the war, but he knew exactly what the fate of the Jews was later on and he facilitated the occupying Nazi regime in any way he could.

The whole trip was a propaganda exercise. It is also a clear indication that the Nazis knew exactly that what they were doing was wrong, for they even hid their crimes for their ‘friends’.

Dachau visit

 

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

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Source

NIOD

 

September 11,1940-The Foundation of the Dutch SS.

dUTCH ss

I am immensely proud of the country I was born in and where I grew up, but like nearly every other nation on earth there are some black paged in its history.

One of the darkest days for the Dutch history wasSeptember 11,1940. This is the day when the ‘Nederlandsche SS, was founded. Only 4 months after the invasion by Nazi Germany.

The leader of the Dutch national socialist party ,NSB,Anton Mussert, had already been ordered during a meeting on June 9,1940 by Adolf Hitler via Gottlob Berger of the German SS-Amt, to to recruit Dutch men for the Wiking division of the Waffen-SS.

Some Dutch historians will tell you that those joining the SS were forced to do so, however this was not the case, all 7000 of them were volunteers.

One of the conditions to join was the promise of unconditional obedience to all superiors.

ss

In the spring of 1941, a training school for the Dutch SS was opened at the Avegoor estate in Ellecom .

On 1 November 1942 the name was changed to Germanic SS in the Netherlands. The name change indicated that the Germanic aspect outweighed the Dutch element.

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The Murder of a perfect child

Bernhard Leo

Dear little boy , you are perfect in every aspect . Even your imperfect hair is perfect.

Imperfect and perfect in one sentence is a paradox.

A paradox is what you are because you were hated event though all you gave was love.

It is said that the eyes are the portals to the soul and in your eyes I see perfect love.

Dear little boy your are perfect in every way because there are no imperfect 2 year old’s.

Jacob Loisstraat 12 a, Rotterdam a random address but to you it was the perfect place for it was your home.

Alas your home was not the safe place that every child deserves. Nit because you had a bad family.

No, they loved you for nearly 800 days and each day was perfect because you were in it.

Your home wasn’t safe for one reason only, hate.

Hate by those who didn’t even know you

Hate by those who children of 800 days themselves, so they should know you were perfect.

But their hate made them blind

Dear little boy your are perfect, you were Bernard Leo Laden age 2. Murdered by hate in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Dear little boy your are perfect, to me you shall always be perfect, may you rest in perfect peace.

 

Source

Joods Mounument

 

 

 

 

Dolle Dinsdag-Mad Tuesday-September 5,1944.

Dinsdag

Reporting the news accurately is important at any given time. Reporting it accurately during wartime when tensions are high is vital, if you fail to do so it can create false expectations and can potentially cost lives.

On Tuesday September 5th 1944, the Dutch  Prime Minister Gerbrandy announced via the Radio Oranje  that the allied army had crossed the border and Breda had been liberated. In fact he had announced it twice initially on September 4th at 23:45 and then again inhe morning of September 5th. The BBC had picked up the announcement too.

Premier

The  information was totally inaccurate, but the Dutch expected the Allied army to be in Rotterdam the same day. The Germans panicked, their army fled North and East in the Netherlands.

Germans

The news spread fast, with underground newspapers preparing headlines announcing the “fall of Breda”

The Nazi leadership Arthur Seyss-Inquart and Hanns Albin Rauter, SS and police leader added to the  speculation by announcing a “State of Siege” for the Netherlands to the 300,000 cable radio listeners.

“The population must maintain order … it is strictly forbidden to flee areas that are threatened by the enemy. All orders from the military commanders must be strictly adhered to and without question … any resistance to the occupation forces will be suppressed with force of weaponry. Any attempt to fraternize with the enemy or to hinder the German Reich and its allies in any form will be dealt with harshly; perpetrators will be shot”

The Dutch did not heed the warning  and went out and celebrated on the streets while preparing to welcome and cheer on the Allied liberators. Dutch and Orange flags and pennants were prepared, and many workers left their place of employment to wait for the Allies to arrive.

vlag

Some kids even took down German road signs.

kids

German occupation forces and NSB members got in a panic .documents were destroyed and many fled the Netherlands for Germany.

Many of the NSB fled temporarily to  the Lüneburger Heide in Germany .While the NSB leader .Mussert , moved more eastward to Almelo. The illegal newspaper “Het Parool” reported on the 11th of September on how these NSB”Heroes” fled the country.

Parool

Luckily there were no fatal casualties as a result of this, among the general Dutch population, although a few celebrants were shot and others were arrested.

The day after however, on September 6 a train carrying wives and children of members of the NSB headed for Germany. The train was attacked by allied planes and about 30 passengers were killed. I do feel sorry for the wives and especially the children for they were innocent bystanders  but I do also believe this was karma, and the irony is not lost on me for the NSB had helped to put so many Jews and other on trains to their final destinations.

The name ‘Dolle Dinsdag’ was coined by Willem van den Hout, alias Willem W. Waterman, who first used it in the Dutch Nazi  propaganda newspaper ‘de Gil’ (the yel) which was funded by the German propaganda department.

De Gil

The whole confusion of ‘Dolle Dinsdag’ had come about because of one word. Before the radio broadcast , Prime Minister Gerbrandy had changed the text from ‘the allies approached the border’ to ‘crossed the border’

It would take another 9 days before Maasticht would be liberated, which was the first major Dutch city to be liberated by allied troops.

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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

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