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Frontline Nijmegen was left to mourn hundreds of casualties
Online memorial honours city’s victims of war
Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill
NIJMEGEN - The city’s 2300 victims, who died during World War II as a result of warfare, Nazi oppression and accidental Allied bombing, have been acknowledged on a new website, recently launched by a local historical society. The group received the help of a Radboud University historian. The website, which will be updated as more details on the victims become available, was launched by Nijmegen mayor Thom de Graaf. It intends to put a face to the victims who otherwise would be forgotten.
The mostly civilian 2300 victims include approximately 500 of the city’s Jews who perished at the hands of the Nazis as well as soldiers from the city who died in action elsewhere. The total civilian casualty rate is very high due to the accidental Allied bombing of February 22, 1944, which claimed about 800 lives. The Allied bombers mistakenly thought they were bombing a target in Germany. As a frontline city from September 1944 to April 1945, Nijmegen sustained still more casualties in the crossfire between the combatants.
The information on the 2300 is far from complete. Many of the listings lack a photograph, while the information is frequently just the essentials from the population registry (the Nazis used those registries to identify Jews and Jehovah Witnesses since it recorded religious affiliation in addition to family statistics and addresses).
Visitors to the website oorlogsdodennijmegen.nl are invited to help complete the profile of each victim if they have specific knowledge about them. The organizers, who are receiving help from various local and regional archivists and WWII historians as well, are looking for any information that may help to complete the victim’s profile: additional statistical information, photo, nickname, trade or employment, memorial prayer cards (bidprentjes) and eye witness accounts (with dates and names to enhance reliability and traceability of the information).
The entry on February 1944 bombing victim Wilhelmina Leenders de Waal is a useful guide for the request for help: although her husband Rinus and daughter Gerda are named, along with the source, page 581, in Bart Janssen’s book, “The pijn die blijft…” (The pain that stays…), her nationality, religion and employment have not been confirmed. The photographs of the De Waal family are online however.
It is a different matter in the case of Johannes Petrus Haerkens. He died nearly six years after the Nijmegen bombing when a war-related substance exploded in his smithy, also killing employees Wim van Breemen and Henk van Perlo. There is no other information on the Haerkens entry, nor a photograph of him and his ill-fated employees.