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

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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.

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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.

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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,

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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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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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