The monument was dedicated October 24, 2009, when it was unveiled by 7th Armored Division veterans John Althuizen and Hans Jansen, who had been members of the Dutch Resistance and joined the Division when it arrived in the Netherlands. The monument commemorates the men of the 7th Armored Division who were killed 27-30 October 1944 during the German counter-attack through Meijel. A nearby monument at Ospel (west of Meijel) commemorates those 7th Armored Division men killed the during the liberation of that area, before, during and after 27-30 October 1944.
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commemorating the fallen soldiers of the Allied forces, who gave their lives during Meijel’s liberation
spoken by Meijel Mayor Hans Smulders
Meijel’s municipality welcomes you to this memorable gathering. Today we remember the events taking place in Meijel in this very month, sixty-five years ago during the Second World War. Specifically the 27th and 28th of October 1944.
Our local historians of the Medelo society have made thorough studies of Meijel and its surrounding area before, during and after the occupation of Meijel. The isolated and strategic location of our town caused an increased amount of suffering for both those living in the area and those fighting so hard to grant freedom to those very people.
Visiting senior couples celebrating their 50-year wedding anniversary, I am often told about the daily horrors they faced during the years of war and days of liberation. The bomb shelters, evacuations, the violence of war and often also detailed accounts of personal experiences during those days. Most of these private accounts of the war appear to be very recent to me when I hear them. It never feels as If they took place sixty-five years ago. This confirms the notion that these hardships will never be forgotten by those having to live through them.
When I met two years ago a group of veterans of the seventh American division and their family members, I experienced that similar feeling of suddenly being very close to the violence which took place all those years ago. For these brave men also appeared to relive the days of struggle and suffering in a “forgotten battle” to liberate our town from its occupier. After all those years they were confronted with the material gathered by our local historian society: a highly emotional confrontation.
I speak of a forgotten battle. Medelo has succeeded in mapping the events taking place in the region better than ever before. This clarifies the details of the incredible losses during those days. Thanks to Jeu Dorssers, Wim Basten, Ves Janssen, Jo Simons and Sil Verschaeren, citizens of Meijel, supported by Niek Hendrix from Ospel, a clear view of the “battle of Meijel” has been developed. These researchers have managed to retrieve the names of 103 American soldiers who gave their life trying to protect the area. Names of husbands and sons who said good-bye to their loving families back home, never to return again. Ladies and Gentlemen, the forgotten battle in the no man’s land of Meijel can thereby completely find its place in historiography.
The citizens of Meijel of those days have needed a lot of time to come to terms with the suffering and grief caused by the awful period of war. But eventually these experiences made Meijel, hardened by war, into the tight community it is now, devoted to their history.
The monument revealed today further underlines Meijel’s bond to its history: a permanent symbol of the connection between Meijel, the Allied forces and those who lost their lives in the struggle to free this country.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank those who took the initiative for this research and others working with them. However, just like on 26 May, 2007, I want to thank those who fought to keep Meijel safe. I especially want to mention the ones here today: Hans Jansen and John Althuizen. During the days of war they fought side by side with the Seventh American Armored Division. If I have been well informed, Mr. Jansen disabled a German tank right in the middle of our town, across from where city hall is today.
During this speech I spoke of the personal experiences of the citizens of Meijel. Only recently I received a small book filled with memories of war, written by Lies Scheres, here present today. After all these years she has managed to trust her experiences to paper. As conclusion to my speech, I would like to read a small passage from her book. Before I do so, I would like to thank Lies for granting me the opportunity to share her story with you.
"This story was written down some sixty years after the second world war. Now, while I am getting old, all these horrors I encountered during the war, hit me daily. It was a horrible time, and I was so young those days. But also it was very difficult for my parents to cope with the situation. One can not wish wartime to anybody."
Ladies and gentlemen, one can not wish wartime to anybody. Those who freed us from occupation, deserve our greatest respect.
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