Freedom at last-Liberation Day-May 5,1945

The Netherlands had been occupied by the Nazis between May 15th 1940,after the Dutch forces surrendered, and May 1945. Although many parts had already been liberated by autumn 1944.

The official liberation day was set on May 5,1945. The Netherlands had a population at the time of about 8.8 million. During the 5 years of occupation approximately 210,000 Dutch men and women had died of war-related causes. Of that number , 6,700 were military casualties. One number that stands out though is that of the Jews, who were either Dutch or were refugees. It is estimated that between 104,000 and 107,000 of the 140,000 Jews in the Netherlands were murdered during the Holocaust, which makes it about 75% of the Jewish population. It is the highest number per capita in Europe. This is one of the most shameful part of Dutch history. Many Dutch and especially the Dutch civil service and the administrative infrastructure, aided the Nazi occupiers. Eichmann was once quoted as saying “The transports run so smoothly that it is a pleasure to see.”

About 18,000 Dutch citizens died during the famine of 1944/45, caused by the hunger winter. Additionally to the deaths in the Netherlands there were another 30,000 deaths in the Dutch East Indies, now called Indonesia, either while fighting the Japanese or in camps as Japanese POWs. Dutch civilians were also held in these camps.

The Netherlands had the highest per capita death rate of all Nazi-occupied countries in Western Europe (2.36%).

At least 2 of my family died. My uncle, my mother’s brother, Johannes Jager died on December 6,1944. He did see the liberation of my hometown Geleen on September 18,1994, but the strain of the war and his ill health proved too much. My Father’s dad ,Jan de Klein died on May 12 1942, he was 47 at the time. He had been in the Dutch Army when the Nazis invaded, he was executed but the reasons why are still unknown to me. I have resigned myself to the fact that I probably will never find out.

The Netheralnds was liberated by Canadian forces, British infantry divisions, the British I Corps, the 1st Polish Armoured Division, American, Belgian, Dutch and Czechoslovak troops. Parts of the country, in particular the south-east, were liberated by the British Second Army which also included American and Polish airborne forces . On 5 May 1945, at Hotel de Wereld in Wageningen, Canadian Corps commander Lieutenant-General Charles Foulkes and Oberbefehlshaber Niederlande commander-in-chief General oberst Johannes Blaskowitz reached an agreement on the capitulation of all German forces in the Netherlands.

The capitulation document was signed the next day (no typewriter had been available the previous day ) in the auditorium of Wageningen Agricultural University, located next door to the Hotel.

Initially liberation day was celebrated on August 31,1945 to coincide with Queen Wilhelmina’s birthday ,However in 1946 the Dutch government decided to celebrate the liberation on the 5th of May.

Initially Liberation Day was celebrated every five years. In 1990 the day was declared a national holiday when liberation would be remembered and celebrated every year. Festivals are held in most places in the Netherlands with parades of veterans and musical festivals throughout the whole country.

A friend of mine once said “Freedom isn’t free” not only did many Dutch pay the price for this freedom. There were many others who paid an equally high price. Many men and women who fought to liberate the country. They fought although they were strangers, they recognized that evil should never be tolerated.

Sources

https://web.archive.org/web/20100915150604/http://www.wageningen1940-1945.nl/Capitulatie/Wageningen%205%20mei%201945.htm

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The self sacrifice of Private Walter Cline Wetzel.

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The World War II Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial Margraten is a war cemetery which lies in the village of Margraten 10 km (6 mi) east of Maastricht, in the most southern part of the Netherlands.

If you have never been there it is a well worth place visting. 8.301 brave men are buried there and there are another 2,000 or so memorials of men missing in action. You will feel humble when you leave.Every time I visited there as a child I only had one question”Why did those men give their lives for people living in a foreign land?”

One of those men was Private Walter Cline Wetzel.

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Wetzel joined the Army from Roseville, Michigan in July 1941,[1] and by April 3, 1945 was serving as a private first class in the 13th Infantry Regiment, 8th Infantry Division. On that day, in Birken, Germany, Wetzel smothered the blasts of German-thrown grenades with his body, sacrificing himself to protect those around him. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor ten months later, on February 26, 1946, by President Harry S. Truman.723px-Harry_S_Truman,_bw_half-length_photo_portrait,_facing_front,_1945.jpg

During the Allied advance into Germany at the beginning of April 1945, he purposely smothered enemy grenade blasts in order to protect his fellow soldiers and he died as a result at the age of 25. In addition to the Medal of Honor, he also was awarded the Purple Heart, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal. His Medal of Honor citation reads:(the picture below is not the actual medal of honor)dropshadowmoh

 

“Pfc. Wetzel, an acting squad leader with the Antitank Company of the 13th Infantry, was guarding his platoon’s command post in a house at Birken, Germany, during the early morning hours of 3 April 1945, when he detected strong enemy forces moving in to attack. He ran into the house, alerted the occupants and immediately began defending the post against heavy automatic weapons fire coming from the hostile troops. Under cover of darkness the Germans forced their way close to the building where they hurled grenades, 2 of which landed in the room where Pfc. Wetzel and the others had taken up firing positions. Shouting a warning to his fellow soldiers, Pfc. Wetzel threw himself on the grenades and, as they exploded, absorbed their entire blast, suffering wounds from which he died. The supreme gallantry of Pfc. Wetzel saved his comrades from death or serious injury and made it possible for them to continue the defense of the command post and break the power of a dangerous local counterthrust by the enemy. His unhesitating sacrifice of his life was in keeping with the U.S. Army’s highest traditions of bravery and heroism.”

Dear sir I thank you for your sacrifice for I know now you did not sacrifice yourself for a foreign land but for a much greater good,freedom for all and the preservation of mankind. Because of you and your brothers in arms I grew up a free man.

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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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Honouring a fallen Father on Father s day

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To most of us,including me Joseph H. Hercker is just a random name. But to Joan Hercker it is the name of her Father. A man who sacrificed his future Father’s days so that others could celebrate theirs.

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He was born 2 July 1918,Philadelphia,Pennsylvania.

In February 1945 Joseph Hercker was stationed in France

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As a member of the Crusader Group, andflew 16 combat sorties between February 6 andApril 3, 1945, in the European Theater of Operations.

On April 3, after completing a”medium” bombing mission of marshalling yards
at Hameln and Holzmeinden in central Germany,his plane was separated from the rest of the formation in overcast weather.

It is not clear what happened, but when the formation broke cover there was no sign of his aircraft, and it never made it back to base. Joseph Hercker and the pilot, William Norlund, an only child from Vineland, were Killed in Action. Hercker was
buried first in Ittenbach No. 1, Germany,eventually his wife was asked if she wanted him brought back to the States or buried in the Netherlands.

Hercker parents thought she had been through enough already, so his final resting place is at the American war cemetery in Margraten, the Netherlands.

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Dear Sir I thank you and salute you. Your sacrifice and bravery has bought my freedom. I pledge that I will use this freedom keeping your memory and the memories of your brothers in arms alive.