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Young victims of 1944 Limbourg evacuation remembered

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

HEERENVEEN A newly dedicated monument in the Frisian town of Heerenveen reminds passersby of a dark episode in World War II history; the forced evacuations of entire towns and areas near battle zones between the defending German occupation forces and forward pushing Allies. The former were not so much concerned about the safety of the public as they were about the possibility that civilians could be a hindrance through sabotage and obstruction. Able bodied men had already been conscripted in forced labour or were in hiding, now women, children and the elderly were sent packing under deplorable conditions. Many people in Limbourg were evacuated; those living in and around Roermond were relocated mostly to a hospitable Friesland. Eighteen of the children died early 1945 from diseases and malnourishment as a result from the harsh conditions enroute. Their names are now cast in stone in a headstone-resembling memorial at a Heerenveen cemetery. Of all the evacuations in 1944, the Limbourg people were forced to travel furthest, often by rail in cattle wagons. Other evacuations occurred in and around the region between the great rivers and Arnhem. Tens of thousands of people living along the North Sea coast were sent inland when the occupying forces built their Atlantic Wall defense system and demolished homes facing the North Sea. Inundated regions were of necessity vacated. All this caused much hardship throughout the country.