Transport to Cosel: Limburg Jews on their way to death.

Before I go into the story of the men, who were put on slave labour by the Nazi regime, I will have to explain what ‘Limburg’ is .Limburg is a province in the southeast of the Netherlands and the northeast of Belgium.

I was born and grew up in the Dutch side of Limburg. The most populated part is the south of the Dutch Limburg, it is also the part that looks completely different then the rest of the Netherlands. There are actually hills there. Although I am a native of the province, I was not aware of the fate of these men.

Not all deportation trains with Dutch Jews went directly to the extermination camps and gas chambers. Between August 28 and December 10, 1942, some of the trains to Auschwitz-Birkenau made a stopover in Silesian Cosel (present-day Poland). Here almost all men between the ages of 15 and 55 had to get off the train at the freight station. Where they were put to work.

On 24 August 1942, six hundred Limburg Jews were issued a call-up card by the Dutch police, the municipal police or a constable. They were all under the age of sixty and had to report to the assembly point at the public school on Professor Pieter Willemsstraat in Maastricht the next day.

Only half of them showed up. The group was taken to Camp Westerbork and was largely deported on August 28, 1942. They were part of the first Cosel transport. Another 17 Cosel transports from the Netherlands would follow. Also 21 transports from France and Belgium stopped in Cosel.

The train stopped on August 29 in Cosel, about a thousand kilometers from Westerbork .About 170 men, 75 of whom are Limburgers, were pushed out of the train while being yelled and cursed at . A selection followed, and those who were not been deemed fit for work had to get back on the train. The train continued the journey to Auschwitz ,when it arrived on August 30,1942, the majority were murdered in the gas chambers.

The Limburg men who left Westerbork on August 28 were put on trucks in Cosel and ended up in Camp Sakrau, from where they went to various other camps in the region. Conditions in these camps were very different. The work was very hard, some of the Jewish men died from hunger, exhaustion, illness or accidents.

Abraham Spiero, a survivor who survived a later transport said about the ordeal:

“The train stopped in Cosel. That was a terrible thing there. Humanity stopped here. We, the men up to 50 years old, all had to sit down squatting. When the train had driven away, we were loaded onto trucks like animals.”

The men of the other 17 Cosel transports also ended up in a network of 177 camps near factories and construction sites. Some 1,500 forced laborers make fighter planes and war machinery, they worked in Krupp’s metalworks or IG Farben’s chemical plants.

Others were forced to work in the construction of railways and highways. Which was a big money earner for the German state and the companies.

The men who were no longer able to work were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where they were gassed.

At the end of April 1943, most of the survivors were sent to Camp Blechhammer. Also father Pinehas Gans and son Philip Gans. They both came from the transport of November 2, 1942. Pinehas and Philip survived for a long time, and end up together in Camp Blechhammer. But when the camp is evacuated on January 21,1945 ,the prisoners are marched to Camp Gross-Rosen by foot. During the march or shortly after arrival at Gross Rosen both Gans men are murdered, on February 5,1945.

The Gans family in 1934 .Right in the picture is Pinehas(Piet)Gans, behind him is his wife and sitting next to him is his son Philip

In January 1945, of the ten thousand French, Belgian and Dutch forced laborers selected in Cosel, about two thousand were still alive. Most are in Camp Blechhammer. Eventually, only 873 men survive, less than ten percent of the men who got off at Cosel. The survival rate of the Dutch is even less, of the 3400 Dutch on the Cosel transports, 193 men survived. This also applied to the Limburg men who started their journey in Maastricht on 25 August 1942. Eleven of the 170 men of this first transport survived the forced labour.

On initiative of some people from Limburg there was finally a plaque unveiled at September 2, 2016 near the former goods store station of pre-war Cosel (Poland) and this as a remembrance of the so called Cosel Transports.

sources

https://www.oorlogsbronnen.nl/artikel/transport-naar-cosel-limburgse-joden-op-weg-naar-de-ondergang

https://www.tracesofwar.com/sights/100746/Memorial-Cosel-Transports.htm

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The Murder of 5 month old Sonja van Amerongen in Auschwitz

Sonja would have been 80 today. But as the title suggests she was murdered when she was only 5 months old. She was the product of love between two people.

Her parents were, Mother, Frederika van Amerongen-Veffer and her Father, Philip van Amerongen. Sonja’s Mother was a seamstress and her Father a butcher. Just regular people, not a threat to anyone.

Sonja must have been conceived in June 1941, the Netherlands was already occupied for more then a year at that stage. This might sound like an odd thought, but the Dutch Jewish community were already living in anxiety at that time. so even having sex wasn’t as normal as it was before, Every aspect of their lives was impacted by the Nazi occupation.

Clearly Sonja’s parents loved each other and Sonja was a declaration of that love. She was born in Amsterdam just like her parents. Her birth date was March 18,1942.

All 3 were murdered in Auschwitz on August 28 1942.Philip was first put on a transport to Mechelen in Belgium, on August 25,1942.He must have been transport immediately from there to Auschwitz.

Both Sonja and her Mother’s name are on the same transport list. It appears to me they were sent to Auschwitz from Westerbork.

I noticed another name on that list, Golda Barber-Lewinson, I noticed it because it links to the current war raging in Europe. Golda was born in Odessa which is now in the Ukraine. That is all what I will say about that.

Golda, her husband and their 7 month son were also murdered in Auschwitz, Golda was murdered a day before Sonja and her family. Golda’s son Alfred was murdered on the same day as Sonja.

Golda’s husband, Salomon, was murdered a few days later.

sources

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/nl/page/166277/sonja-van-amerongen

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/nl/page/213582/golda-barber-lewinson

Cello with one string.

mESQUITO

Among all the horror stories from the Holocaust, every once in a while a positive story pops up. .

I actually got side tracked,I was researching the WWII years of Dutch entertainer, Rudi Carrell, when the name of Abraham Bueno de Mesquita came up. He was better known as  Bueno de Mesquita and he had worked together with Rudi Carrell in Germany in the 60s and 70s.

Most Dutch people of my age and older would have known  Bueno de Mesquita as a comedian and entertainer. He performed in many variety shows with Dutch artists like Rita Corita and the comedic duo the Mounties and the aforementioned Rudi Carrell.

What most people will not know is that Bueno de Mesquita’s talents more then likely saved his life.

During  World War II,  Bueno de Mesquita who was a Dutch Sephardi Jew had been  imprisoned in the Dossin Barracks in Mechelen, Belgium.Also known as SS-Sammellager Mecheln, which was a was a detention and deportation camp.

Mechelen

Bueno de Mesquita was scheduled to be deported to Auschwitz. But as fate would have it the camp commander was looking for musicians and artists . Bueno was selected because of  ability to even play a one string cello , that together  with his  comic  talents saved him from deportation and more then likely his life.

He went on to become a successful entertainer and was one of the first TV stars on Dutch television, already in 1952 he made his first appearance on TV.

In some of the sketches he would play a waiter very much based on the character Manuel from Fawlty Towers,and was played by Andrew Sachs. Bueno and Andrew did look like each other.

 

He wrote an autobiography titled Cello met één snaar (Cello with one string).

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My weapon- A plastic doll.

doll

This doll belonged to a 7 year old Belgian girl her name was Aline Klajn. I could say 2 things about Aline. I could say she was from Polish parents and I could also say she was Jewish. But none of that warranted her death, but yet it did.

She was killed because she was Jewish. Her parents were Idessa and Wigdor and had moved to Belgium in the 1920s. When the Nazis occupied Belgium in 1940 , the signs were there that eventually every Jewish person was considered a ‘risk’ for the state and would have to be killed. For Aline it must have been her plastic doll that was a dangerous weapon which could be used against the Nazi regime, because I can see no other reason why she would be an enemy. Of course there was no reason whatsoever. Aside from being Jewish she was a human being made like any other human being on earth.

What makes us a  society of human beings is our diversity. Our differences should be celebrated not destroyed.

But the Nazis lacked the mental capacity to understand that basic concept of humanity.

Aline, and her family  were given a hiding place by Alfred and Clara Duva, several other  family members hid in a nearby apartment. On October 20, Aline and Idessa went to the apartment to borrow sugar, and it was raided by Nazis

On October 24,1942  they were deported from Ukkle in Belgium to Auschwitz where they were killed.

No matter how often I try to understand why anyone, be it Jewish,Roma, Homosexual or otherwise had to be killed , I just cant’t comprehend it.

But what I find totally unfathomable is the murder of children. That is probaly something I will never get to answer to, and maybe I don’t want to.

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Sources

USHMM

The World War 2 hero who saved my sight.

Charles

Just before Christmas 2011 I lost the sight in my right eye. The retina had become detached but after 2 operations the sight could not be saved, in fact my eye shrunk, dramatically  and I have now a glass shell with  an eye painted on it in front of the remainder of my eye.

In November 2014 the retina in my left eye also became detached, so I was facing going blind. I had to undergo an emergency operation in a Hospital in Cork which is 100 km away from my home in Limerick.

In Cork the consultant surgeon advised me he would be putting a scleral buckle in place to re-attach my retina and to save my eye and sight. The operation was a success this time and my eye was saved.

buckle

The man who pioneered this technology was Dr Charles L. Schepens. He was born in Mouscron, Belgium, in 1912  He initially studied mathematics before graduating from medical school in 1935 at State University of Ghent in Belgium.In 1937 he served as assistant to Dr. L. Hambresin in Brussels.

In 1940, he was appointed as a Captain in the Medical Corps of the Belgian Air Force, where he served until the country was invaded by the Nazis in May 1940. He escaped to France and worked with the French and Belgian resistance,  In 1942, under the nom de guerre “Jacques Pérot,” he spearheaded a secret information and evacuation pipeline in the Pyrenees, under the cover of a country lumber mill near the village of Mendive. He was arrested several times by the Gestapo.

He was first arrested by the Gestapo in October 1940 while he still was in Belgium  on false accusations  of using a bus to transport Allied pilots out of Belgium. Although he was released 10 days later, this experience turned the previously apolitical doctor into an activist, and he allowed his office to be used as a post office for underground agents, arranging for the transfer of maps and such information as troop movement.

In 1942, a spy in Gestapo headquarters alerted him that he was about to be arrested, and he escaped to Paris.

In an of the mill  effort to find  an escape route to Spain, he and a group of fellow resistance members came across  an abandoned sawmill near the town of Mandive in the Pyrenees on the Spanish border.

One of the key features was a 12-mile-long cable-car system extending up the mountain and ending near the border.

Dr. Schepens, bought the mill in July 1942 with backing from a wealthy French patriot and had it in full operation by the end of the year. The site became a functioning lumber enterprise, taking orders, delivering wood and meeting a payroll. Not to cause any suspicion Dr. Schepens(aka Jacques Perot)  developed relationships with the occupying Germans, leading his Basque neighbors to think that he was a Nazi collaborator.

Men, mainly men he helped to escape, who did manual labor around the mill could secretly ride the cable-car system to the top of the mountain and slip into Spain, often with the assistance of a shepherd named Jean Sarochar.

MILL

More than 100 Allied pilots, prisoners of war, Belgian government officials and others made their way out of France over the cable railway. The system also was used to move documents, currency, propaganda and other materials into and out of France.

Everything went according to plan until 1943: That year, a captured resistance agent exposed him. The Gestapo came for him a second time. He escaped before they could arrest him. He had told the Gestapo “it is now 10 o’clock. I have 150 workers idle, because they have not been given their orders this morning. Give me 10 minutes with them. I’ll give the orders and come back.”. He then just walked out.

He spent 16 days in the forest before reaching Spain and, eventually, England, where he resumed his medical career.

In the mean time the Nazis held Dr. Schepens wife and children as bait to lure him out of hiding. However eventually his wife and children  made their own daring escape, hiking through the mountains to reach Spain, and were reunited with Dr. Schepens nine months later in England.

After the war, Schepens resumed his medical career at Moorfields.In 1947, he immigrated to the United States and became a fellow at the Harvard Medical School.

harvard

He became famous in the ophthalmic community for his work in creating the first binocular, stereoscopic indirect ophthalmoscope (1946) and in treating retinal detachment with an encircling scleral buckle (1953).

If the Gestapo had arrested him the second time, he more then likely would have been executed. Amazing to think of what could have happened to my eye in that case.

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Sources

https://eye.hms.harvard.edu/news/charles-schepens-featured-in-eyeworld

https://eye.hms.harvard.edu/charlesschepens

Washington Post

https://www.eyeworld.org/article-ophthalmologist-who-created-vitreoretinal-subspecialty-lived-double-life-as-wwii-resistance-fighter-and

https://www.aao.org/biographies-detail/charles-schepens-md

The Jewish typewriter salesman who recommended Hitler for an Iron cross.

Gutmann.JPG

I have to confess that the the title is somewhat misleading because Hugo Gutmann was not a typewriter salesman as of yet when he recommended Hitler’s award of the Iron Cross First Class.

Hugo Gutmann was one of the 12,000 Jewish military who fought for Germany during WWI.

from 29 January to 31 August, 1918 Lt. Gutmann was Adolf Hitler’s commanding officer.

Hitler on the right

Hitler was awarded the Iron Cross, 1st Class, for his role as a messenger, running important information between units under fire. The decoration was given to Hitler on  August 4th, 1918,  by the regimental commander, Major von Tubeuf The 2 decorations Hitler only wore were his Iron Cross, and his Nazi Party Badge.

On 8 February 1919, Gutmann left  the German Army, but still was registered army rolls as a reserve lieutenant. In 1933, he applied  for and received his military pension – which had been protected,  for all veterans including Jewish veterans ,by President  Paul von Hindenburg. Despite the anti Jewish laws and losing his German citizenship  Gutmann was allowed to keep his pension.

Around the time of the ‘Kristallnacht’ in autumn 1938, he was arrested by the Gestapo, but SS officers who know him  and  his  relationship with Hitler had him released from custody.

But regardless  this relationship, eventually his fate would have been the same as all other Jews in Germany and the occupied territories.

In 1939, Gutmann and his family moved to  Belgium . In 1940  just prior to the invasion of the Low Countries,the Gutmanns immigrated to the United States. They initially settled  in St. Louis where Hugo secured employment  as a typewriter salesman. In the US  he changed his name to Henry George Grant. He died in San Diego, California, on 22 June 1962. He was buried at Home of Peace Cemetery in San Diego.

Hugo

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Attack on the twentieth convoy to Auschwitz.

Train

War often brings out the worst in people. they commit crimes they would usually never even contemplate, but equally war also brings out the best in people performing heroic acts they know can cost their lives.

Early 1943 Jews throughout Belgium were rounded up and arrested.People like three members of the Gronowski family(Mother,son and daughter), who were arrested for committing the awful ‘crime’ of being Jewish.

Gronowski.JPG

After the round up they were transported to the Kazerne Dossin,army barracks in Brussels.For most this would be last ‘residence’ in Belgium they would ever be in, for this was the gathering place for the final transport to the death camps.

Kazerne

On 18 April,  1,631 were informed they were going to be  deported by train the following day.The end station would be Auschwitz. The train was designated as Transport 20.

Shortly after the train had set off on route to Auschwitz it was stopped.

Three young students and members of the Belgian resistance including a Jewish doctor, Youra Livchitz  and his two non-Jewish friends Robert Maistriau  and Jean Franklemon armed with  only one pistol, and a makeshift  red warning  lantern ,  stopped the train on the track Mechelen-Leuven, between the towns of Boortmeerbeek and Haacht. This was the first and only time during World War II that any Nazi transport carrying Jewish deportees was stopped.

The train  was guarded by one officer and fifteen men from the Sicherheitspolizei. After a quick  battle between the Germans train  the three Resistance members, the train started again.In the mean time the resistance fighters had opened one rail car and were able to set 17 people free.

The train driver Albert Dumon most I have felt inspired by this  he deliberately drove  slow enough . and stopped frequently to allow people to jump without being injured or killed, 236 in all escaped. 115 of those were never recaptured.

Youra Livchitz unfortunately  was arrested by the Gestapo one month later, but managed to overpower his guard and escape; he was rearrested in June and executed by firing squad the following year.

yoyra

His two brothers in arms survived the war. As did Simon Gronowski the son of the Gronowski family.

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Sources

BBC

 

The Saxophone- The Musical instrument that nearly wasn’t invented.

2

It thought it was time for me to do a Saxy blog(pardon the pun). Om June 28 1846, Adolphe Sax patented the instrument named after him, the Saxophone.

sax

However this nearly didn’t happen, not because he forgot to submit it but because he must have been either the luckiest or unluckiest man,depending on how you look at it, on earth.

Even his own mother said at one stage “He’s a child condemned to misfortune; he won’t live,”

Why did she say this? Here are just a few reasons.

When young Adolphe was just able to stand, he accidentally fell three stories and hit his head on solid stone, making his family  believe he died. Clearly he survived.

When he reached the age of 3 he drank a bowl full of vitriolized water(diluted sulfuric acid) and later swallowed a metal pin.

He burnt himself seriously in a gunpowder barrel explosion. He also fell on a red-hot cast iron skillet, which burned his face.

He nearly died of  poisoning and suffocation in his own bedroom where varnished items were kept during the night.

Another time, a cobblestone fell off of a roof and landed on his head. And to top things of he nearly drowned.

Twelve years after patenting the saxophone, he developed lip cancer, but a doctor well-versed in the properties of Indian herbal remedies cured him.

About 30 years ago today I had the fortune to visit his birthplace Dinant, in Belgium and frequented a bar called Le Sax. I am not sure if that’s still there.

 

a sax

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The Rexist Party-Belgian Fascists

Rexist Party flag

Germany and Italy weren’t the only countries with Fascists parties. Several European countries had National Socialist Fascists partyies, for example  The Netherlands had the NSB.

In Belgium the Rexist Party(aka Rex), led by Léon Degrelle, won about 10 percent of the seats in the parliament in 1936.

Léon_Degrelle

After failing 3 times to pass his final law exams at the Catholic University of Leuven , Degrelle, who was a dynamic orator, entered politics. Using national banking scandals and corruption of the established political parties as issues, he organized the Rexist Movement in 1930, allegedly to cleanse the Roman Catholic religion of political contamination.Its name was derived from the Roman Catholic journal and publishing company Christus Rex (Latin for Christ the King).

bfb9cb1b5b21463a3cd9c488aa2acb2f

Initially it stayed loyal tho the monarchy, in their flag they included the crown. At the outbreak of WWII they endorsed the Belgian government’s policy of neutrality.

In 1936, Degrelle met Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, both of them providing Rexism with funds (2 million lire and 100,000 marks) and ideological support.With the German invasion of Belgium in 1940, Rexism welcomed German occupation.

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After the occupation some members left the party and joined the Belgian resistance because they could not agree with the  Nazis’ anticlerical and extreme anti-Semitic policies enforced in occupied Belgium.

During World War II Degrelle collaborated with the German occupation forces. In August 1941 he formed and later commanded the Walloon and Flemish storm-trooper brigades that fought on the Russian front. Under his guidance the Rexists took control of local governments and newspapers in Belgium. Degrelle joined the Walloon legion of the Wehrmacht, which was founded in August 1941, to fight against the Soviet Union on the Eastern Front. The leadership of the Rexists then passed to Victor Matthys.

victor

 

In August 1944, Rexist militia were responsible for the Courcelles Massacre .Matthyss he ordered the execution of 20 civilians in Courcelles in central Belgium as reprisals for anti-German resistance activities.

The Rexist mayor of the Greater Charleroi area, Oswald Englebin, was attacked and killed along with his wife and son by members of the Belgian Resistance between Courcelles and Monceau-sur-Sambre in a region known as the “Bois du Rognac”

As news broke in Rexist headquarters in Brussels and Charleroi of the attack on the Mayor and his family, A number of civilian were rounded up,including  policemen, doctors, architects, lawyers and various civil officials. 20 were executed. Among them was the Catholic priest Pierre Harmignie, during the night he had tried to console his fellow hostages with the words “I will die, we all will die in order for peace to return to the world so people can love each other again”

def-poi-210-courcelles-massacre-3

Those responsible for the killing returned to Brussels, where they were offered a drink and congratulated.on their act of revolutionary vengeance.

The order for the executions  would ultimate lead to Matthys’s  downfall from power as criticisms surfaced. It was condemned as being too heavy-handed and Matthys gave up the leadership of the Rexists to Louis Collard.After  the liberation of Belgium in September 1944, the party had been banned.

Of the 150 participants of the massacre, 97 were identified, 80 arrested and tried of whom 27 were executed on 10 November 1947. Amongst them was Victor Matthys who was accused of organizing the massacre.

1024px-Pro-justitia_532a-1944_-_Affaire_Courcelles_18_aout_1944_-_Belgium

With the final surrender of Berlin in May 1945, Degrelle was desperate to avoid Russian captivity and ordered as many of his worn-out veterans as possible to make for the Baltic port of Lubeck to surrender to the British. Degrelle himself fled first to Denmark and then Norway, where he commandeered a Heinkel He 111 aircraft,allegedly provided by Albert Speer.

After a daring 1,500-mile flight over portions of Allied-occupied Europe, he crash-landed on the beach at San Sebastian in northern Spain but was gravely wounded and hospitalized for over a year.

Hegazkin_istripua

While in Spain, during the Franco dictatorship, Degrelle maintained a high standard of living and would frequently appear in public and private meetings in a white uniform featuring his German decorations, while expressing his pride over his close contacts and “thinking bond” with Adolf Hitler.

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He continued to live undisturbed when Spain became democratic after the death of Franco with the help of the Gil family, and continued publishing polemics, voicing his support for the political far right.

In 1994, Léon Degrelle died of cardiac arrest in a hospital in Málaga, aged 88.

Donation

I am passionate about my site and I know 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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Sources

Liberation Route Europe

Wikipedia Belgium

WWII Database

 

 

The Vinkt Massacre

Vinkt

One of the first crimes committed by the German army, in western Europe, took place in Belgium villages of Vinkt and Meighem, near Ghent, between 26–28 May 1940 during the Battle of the Lys.. The atrocity was perpetrated by the Wehrmacht, not the SS.

The Vinkt bridge crossing the Schipdonk Canal was being guarded by the 1st Belgian Division of Chasseurs Ardennais

As the German 225th Divison approached the Vinkt bridge they discovered  it blocked by refugees fleeing south. The Wehrmacht soldiers then took a number of refugees and used then as human shields.

German soldiers

On  Sunday, May 26th, the Germans took hostages  at the Meigem and Vinkt church, and at a number of  farms in the area. Some hostages were killed immediately, but the a worse event occurred  at Meigem church, where an explosion killed 27 hostages.

meigem.JPG

The following day, Monday May 27th, Adolf Hitler, demanded Belgium’s immediate and unconditional surrender. Belgium’s King Leopold III announced to his government that he would as Commander-in-Chief, use his authority  lay down arms.

Meanwhile, the Chasseurs ardennais, were not aware  of these developments,  and were still holding and defending the bridge against vastly superior odds. For unclear reasons, the German 225th Division  started to execute their hostages, and taking new ones, executing them on the spot. Refugees were taken out at random from the endless columns on the trek south and executed immediately. One priest managed to escape, being buried under two dead colleagues. He was one of four such victims who managed to escape.

victim

kerk

The victims were all unarmed civilians who had posed no threat, nor were they likely to pose any future threats. They were killed for no reason whatsoever.

On May 28 the Belgian army capitulated.

As news of the carnage spread, German press sources denied it or excused it, claiming that Belgian civilians had dressed up as soldiers. The British press who knew the facts of the atrocity refused to report for fears they’d be accused of war propaganda, Which had happened during WWI after reporting ‘the rape of Belgium’

After WWII the Wehrmacht officers Kühner and  Lohmann were sentenced to 20 years of forced labour in Belgium, however after 5 years they were extradited to Germany.

vinkt field

86 innocent civilians were massacred. Additionally to that another 27 killed by the explosion more then likely caused by German grenades.

Memorial to the victims of the massacre

Vinkt_massacre_-_Memorial

 

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I am passionate about my site and I know 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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Sources

Vinkt Mei 1940

Wikipedia Belgium