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Nijmegen rated as heavest hit Dutch city in WWI

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

NIJMEGEN – A new study, which also looks at the broader context of WWII Dutch history, has concluded that overall Nijmegen must be viewed as the heaviest hit city of the Netherlands during that era. Historian J. Rozendaal notes in his book “Nijmegen ’44. Verwoesting, verdriet en verwerking” that the February 22, 1944 bombing nearly matched the casualty count of Rotterdam’s May 1940 punitive German bombing but that the death rate more than doubled because the city was subjected to artillery shelling for months. The number of 2,000 civilian victims of war does not include the many military casualties. The plight of the civilians is best illustrated with the remark that wartime scarcity prolonged misery. For instance, it took three years to replace shattered glass in most of the windows. The author also concludes that Nijmegen’s postwar mayors lacked the resolve to demand speedy attention to the city’s dire circumstances. In his book, the author also reviews the circumstances of the bombing, calling them circumstantial instead of accidental. Inexperienced pilots looked for targets to hit and missed the bridge, hitting non-stretegic buildings instead. American pilots returning from Germany with too many bombs aboard, hit Arnhem, Enschede and Deventer on the same day but caused far fewer casualties in those cities. A high U.S. Embassy official added his own apology to the regrets of other officials in past years. A Dutch cabinet minister joined the 65th anniversary commemorations as well.