Learn about

World War II

Discover the Personal Stories

George John Lionel Maduro

George John Lionel Maduro survived almost until the end of the war, when he died in a weakened state in Dachau. Maduro distinguished himself by his conduct during the Battle for The Hague and through his resistance, imprisonment and multiple escape attempts. But betrayal ensured that he did not survive the war. The miniature village of Madurodam in The Hague is a tribute to this unflinching and determined fighter.

Discover the Personal Stories

Siebren Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema

Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema, ‘Soldier of Orange’, experienced the war very differently to most of his fellow Dutch citizens. He was involved with the student resistance and was imprisoned but managed to escape. Aside from resistance activities in London as well, Roelfzema also spent time with the secret service and the RAF and took part in landings at Scheveningen. He went on to become an aide-de-camp to Queen Wilhelmina, with whom he returned to Dutch soil on 2 May 1945.

Discover the Personal Stories

Joachim Peiper

The 18-year-old Berliner Joachim Peiper enlisted the SS in October 1933 and was soon assigned to the elite of this force, the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler. This unit amalgamated fanatic soldiers under the command of Sepp Dietrich. On July 1938,

Discover the Personal Stories

Philippe Kieffer

Only rarely do military units assume the name of their commanders. The Commando Kieffer owes its name to a banker born in Haiti who, at the age of 40, decided to join the military. ‘Civilian in Uniform’ Philippe Kieffer was

Discover the Personal Stories

Bernard Law Montgomery

Bernard Montgomery was one of the most renowned Allied generals. He gained great popularity after his victories in North Africa (El Alamein). Thereafter Montgomery led the Allied ground operations in Normandy, The Netherlands and Northern Germany. His operational choices and

Discover the Personal Stories

General George Patton

United States General George Patton made his reputation in North Africa and Sicily. The Germans feared his skill and bravura. Therefore he was put in charge of the fictional 1st U.S. Army Group, a successful ruse to convince the Germans that the invasion of Europe would take place in Calais, and not in Normandy.

Discover the Personal Stories

General Dwight David Eisenhower

General Dwight D. Eisenhower was placed at the head of the allied forces responsible for the landings in France in June 1944. And after that, for the release of Western Europe from Nazi Germany. His human qualities made him very

Discover the Personal Stories

Wilhelm Keitel

Wilhelm Keitel served as chief of the Supreme Command of the Wehrmacht from 1938 to 1945. He loyally supported Hitler’s policies and shared responsibility for the war of annihilation in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. On 8 May 1945 he signed the unconditional surrender of the German armed forces in Berlin. In November 1945 he stood trial in Nuremberg.

Discover the Personal Stories

Werner Kruger

Werner Krüger was a German soldier serving with the 9th SS-Panzerdivision Hohenstaufen. In September 1944 he and his tank crew were involved in the fighting around Arnhem and Oosterbeek during Operation Market Garden.

Discover the Personal Stories

Vincenzo Dapino

Vincenzo Cesare Dapino was the first commander of the First Motorized Group, a unit of the Italian Royal army that took part in the Battle of Cassino. Moved by his loyalty to the King and his desire to free Italy from the German occupation, he had to overcome many difficulties.

Discover the Personal Stories

Umberto di Savoia

During the Italian campaign, Crown Prince Umberto di Savoia often visited the front and on the eve of the Battle of Monte Lungo (7 December 1943) volunteered for a dangerous air reconnaissance mission. The American Commander nominated him for the Bronze Star Medal, which was not awarded for political expediency.

Discover the Personal Stories

Ugo Brilli

After Italy announced its withdrawal from the Second World War in early September 1943, the Wehrmacht deported Italian soldiers to the German Reich. They were deployed as forced labourers in the industry. The Italian military radio operator Ugo Brilli was one of them. He was interned at the forced labour camp in Schöneweide.

Discover the Personal Stories

The Reifeisen family

The Reifeisen family was an ‘ordinary’ Jewish family, whose fate is exemplary for the destruction of European Jewry during the Second World War. Ilse Reifeisen, the daughter, luckily survived, but her parents, Simon and Gertrud Anna Reifeisen, shared the fate of many other victims of ghettos and camps. Gertrud died in Stutthof whereas Simon’s death is unknown.

Discover the Personal Stories

Svetoslao N. Hlopoff

Svetoslao N. Hlopoff arrived in eastern France as a soldier with the U.S. Army in December 1944. After the surrender of Nazi Germany, a roundabout route took him to the Allied Kommandatura in Berlin as a Russian-English interpreter. In this capacity he experienced the beginnings and the collapse of the Four Powers Administration.

Discover the Personal Stories

Stella Czajkowska

Stella Czajkowska is one of the relatively few Jews who survived the war, despite the ghetto, the gas chambers in Auschwitz, hunger and disease in Stutthof and a gruesome death march. Her story is symbolic of the horror in which the victims of Nazi regime had landed.

Discover the Personal Stories

Sergio Pivetta

During the campaign in Italy, Sergio Pivetta was a cadet in the Alpine troops of the Royal Italian Army. During the Battle of Cassino in 1944, his battalion displayed bravery in their attempt to conquer the strategic Monte Marrone. After the war, Pivetta received the honorary rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.

Discover the Personal Stories

Rosie the Riveter

Rosie the Riveter is the symbol for all the women that worked in the war industry during the Second World War. As the men went to the front, hundreds of thousands of women took their places in the factories and with their tireless efforts contributed greatly to the Allied victory.

Discover the Personal Stories

Rose Jakobs

During the Second World War 6 million Jews were murdered across Europe by the German occupiers. Rose Jakobs was a Jewish girl who went into hiding during the occupation of the Netherlands. Like Anne Frank she wrote a diary. She was one of the few Jews that survived. Unfortunately she was killed by a bomb fragment just after the liberation of Nijmegen.

Discover the Personal Stories

Robert Cahow

He volunteered to save injured comrades, stepped on a mine and died. On 13 December 1944 Robert Cahow lost his life in the Hürtgen Forest. His comrades heard the detonation but couldn’t help him due to intense enemy fire. He was buried sometime later, most likely by German soldiers. Cahow's remains were discovered in 2000. At the spot, a makeshift grave commemorates him to this day.

Discover the Personal Stories

René Rossey

During the Second World War the Frenchman René Rossey volunteered for a military career, at first in the Free French Forces. In 1943, 17 years old, he joined the famous Kieffer Commando and participated in the Allied landing in Normandy. After the liberation of France his unit continued fighting the Germans and finally succeeded in the liberation of Holland.

Discover the Personal Stories

Ralph Neumann

Ralph Neumann grew up in Berlin as the son of Jewish parents. In early 1943, the then 16 year old Neumann eluded deportation to a concentration camp and went underground. Two weeks before the capitulation of Nazi Germany, he participated in an action of resistance in Berlin against the regime’s morale-boosting slogans.

Discover the Personal Stories

Prince Charles of Belgium

Charles of Belgium, brother of King Leopold III, was Regent of Belgium from September 1944 to July 1950. Nine governments followed one after the other during this regency, which was marked by the Royal Question and the post war restoration of the country's economic activity.

Discover the Personal Stories

Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque

In the desperate days of June 1940 captain Philippe de Hauteclocque made his way to London and adopted the war-name of "Leclerc". As a great tactician and outstanding leader, he enjoyed a blistering career. His name and that of his 2nd Armored Division are associated with the liberation of Paris in August 1944.

Discover the Personal Stories

Petronela Brywczyńska

The story of Petronela Brywczyńska proves that no one was safe during the war. Petronela’s father, a Polish farmer, was captured while defending his country. After many wanderings, the Brywczyńska family ended up in the Stutthof concentration camp. Yet they were lucky: they suffered, but survived.

Discover the Personal Stories

Parker A. Alford

As an artillery officer for the U.S. 101st Airborne Division, Parker Alford travelled to Normandy, France, as part of the D-Day invasion. In the lead-up to D-Day, Alford was stationed near Newbury, England, in one of the sealed forest camps used by the allies to hide troops and equipment from enemy detection.

Discover the Personal Stories

Nikolai Berzarin

Soviet Colonel-General Nikolai Berzarin commanded the 5th Shock Army during the Berlin campaign that lasted from 16 April until 2 May 1945. As the first city commandant of Berlin he worked hard to get the city moving again. He died in a motorcycle accident on 16 June 1945.

Discover the Personal Stories

Melvin Biddle

Melvin ‘Bud’ Biddle was a soft-spoken young man who adored pretty Leona, his childhood sweetheart. War tore him away from his quiet Midwest town and plunged him in the middle of the ferocious fight for the Belgian Ardennes. Much to his own surprise, Bud returned home a hero.

Discover the Personal Stories

Mark Clark

Mark Clark played a leading role in the Italian Campaign (1943-1945). First he was Commander of the U.S. 5th Army, then Commander of the XV Army Group. At the age of 48 he was promoted to general, which made him the youngest four-star-General in the history of the U.S. Army.

Discover the Personal Stories

Manfred Steinfeld

The 14-year-old Jew Manfred Steinfeld fled from Nazi Germany to the USA in 1938. Seven years later he returned with the 82nd U.S. Airborne Division as a liberator and participated in Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands. On 2 May 1945 he witnessed the meeting of U.S. and Soviet forces at the Elbe as well as the liberation of Wöbbelin concentration camp.

Discover the Personal Stories

Major Henryk Sucharski

Major Henryk Sucharski, the commander of the small garrison at Westerplatte, was under orders to thwart the German advance for 12 hours. He managed to hold out an amazing seven days. After the war he became a national hero and was posthumously awarded an important military decoration.

Discover the Personal Stories

Leo Major

Corporal Leo Major landed in Europe on D-day and took part in every major operation of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division during 1944-1945. He was wounded twice, liberated Zwolle almost single-handedly. He was demoted a few times, but also reinstated and finally decorated for bravery.

Discover the Personal Stories

Kees Pouwelse

During the battle for the Scheldt the island of Walcheren was bombed heavily by the Allied air force. The aim of these bombing raids was to destroy the dikes surrounding Walcheren, in order to flood the terrain and hamper the German defensive efforts. For the civilians, like Kees Pouwelse, the experiences were traumatic.

Discover the Personal Stories

Karl-Heinz Kracht

Karl-Heinz Kracht was a 19 year old German corporal, who first saw action during the Battle of Arnhem. He was the loader of a Panzer III tank, which took part in the attacks on the British positions at the north end of the Rhine bridge at Arnhem.

Discover the Personal Stories

Captain Mieczysław Słaby

During the German assault on the Westerplatte, Mieczysław Słaby was responsible for treating the wounded. In spite of the desperate conditions he managed to keep all injured men alive until the moment of surrender. After the war Słaby became a victim of the communist persecutions, and died in prison.

Discover the Personal Stories

Kapitan Franciszek Dąbrowski

Captain Franciszek Dąbrowski was major Sucharski right-hand man during the defence of the Military Depot at Westerplatte. After the war Dabrowski made a great effort commemorating the fallen of Westerplatte. He also wrote two books about the events at Westerplatte peninsula in September 1939.

Discover the Personal Stories

Julius Erasmus

The war took his family and his home. In 1945 Julius Erasmus returned to the Hürtgen Forest. On his own initiative he started to salvage the bodies of the soldiers who had died during the fighting. Altogether he buried 1.569 German soldiers who nowadays rest in the military cemetery in Vossenack.

Discover the Personal Stories

Juan Pujol Garcia – Agent Garbo

Juan Pujol Garcia, known by the British codename Garbo, was a double agent during the Second World War. Pujol played a key role in the success of Operation Fortitude, misleading the Germans about the timing and location of the Allied invasion of Normandy, convincing them that it would happen via Pas-de-Calais.

Discover the Personal Stories

Jenny-Wanda Barkmann

In the last year of the Second World War Jenny-Wanda Barkmann was a young SS-guard in the German concentration camp Stutthof. Nicknamed ‘Beautiful Spectre’, she was infamous for her brutal treatment of the prisoners. Apprehended after the war, she was sentenced and publicly hanged in Gdansk.

Discover the Personal Stories

Ilse Schier

The German Ilse Schier spent her childhood and youth in East Prussia, the easternmost part of the German Reich. Her rural idyllic life there ended abruptly with the outbreak of the Second World War.

Discover the Personal Stories

Hubert Pierlot

Hubert Pierlot, born in Cugnon, Belgium, was Prime Minister of the Belgian government in exile in London from September 1940 to September 1944. During the war he played an important role in the negotiations between the Allied powers. After the liberation of Belgium Pierlot returned to Brussels, where he headed a government of national unity until February 1945.

Discover the Personal Stories

Horst Helmus

1944 was the year in which Horst Helmus turned eighteen. For several years, the German from Gummersbach, a town east of Cologne, had been spared the worst effects of the Nazi wars of aggression. But Hitler’s last gamble in the Ardennes changed all that in the blink of an eye.

Discover the Personal Stories

Hans Kuik

Hans Kuik was born on 19 November 1926. Together with his older brother, Bert, he witnessed the attack on and occupation of the Netherlands by German forces in May 1940. Both decided to join an underground resistance group called the ‘Rolls Royce Club’.

Discover the Personal Stories

Gisela Stange

Gisela Stange experienced the Battle of Berlin up close when she was 16 years old and assigned to the Volkssturm medical service as a Gesundheitsdienstmädel, a member of the League of German Girls trained in first aid. She risked death rescuing and nursing wounded soldiers and assisting in operations.

Discover the Personal Stories

Frederick William [Fred] Perfect

During the D-Day invasion of 6 June 1944, journalist Fred Perfect sailed with the Allied troops on HMS Largs. As the Daily Telegraph’s special Naval War Correspondent, Perfect reported on many of the campaign’s events, both while he was on ship in the English Channel and on shore in Normandy, France.

Discover the Personal Stories

Fred Glavan

Fred Glavan left high school in Minnesota to join the elite American airborne forces. It took a long year of rigorous training before he received the proud paratrooper’s wings. Early in 1945 Fred’s unit was thrown into the Battle of the Bulge. In less than a week he was dead.

Discover the Personal Stories

Edouard Gérard

Edouard Gérard managed to reach Britain after the German invasion of his home country of Belgium. He joined the Belgian army in Britain and took part in the invasion of Normandy where he died at the age of 20. He was the first Belgian soldier to die in the Battle of Normandy.

Discover the Personal Stories

Danuta Siedzikówna, alias ‘Inka’

The Polish freedom fighter Danuta Siedzikówna (born 1928) enlisted in the Home Army in 1943 in her strive to end the German occupation. During the communist regime in Poland Danuta remained active in the Resistance. She became a courier, but was captured by the secret police. In 1946 she was executed and buried in an unmarked grave.

Discover the Personal Stories

Czesława Sidor Daniłowicz

The 20-year-old Pole Czeslawa Sidor was one of the tens of thousands of women conscripted into forced labour in Berlin. During the chaos of the Battle of Berlin at the end of April 1945, she set off on foot for her home country.

Discover the Personal Stories

Cornelius Ryan

Cornelius Ryan is the author of The Longest Day: 6 June 1944 - an account of the D-Day invasion. He wrote his most famous work after interviewing Allied and German forces in the mid-1950s. During the war Ryan travelled as war correspondent reporting on events in Europe. The book was later adapted into a film.

Discover the Personal Stories

Christiaan Lindemans

Christiaan Lindemans was a Dutch resistance member and escape line organizer, who turned a double agent for the German intelligence service in 1944. He provided the German intelligence agency with important information about Operation Market Garden on 15 September, two days before the operation would take place.

Discover the Personal Stories

Chantal Rivière-Nobécourt

As a young girl of 19 years old Chantal Nobécourt volunteered for the Red Cross in Caen in the summer of 1944. When the city endured the heavy bombardments by the German and Canadian armies she worked at the nursery in the Malherbe High School, that was equipped as refugee centre for the inhabitants of Caen.

Discover the Personal Stories

Bernard Blin

In 1942 Bernard Blin joined the French armistice army. He joined an artillery unit in North-Africa which, after the Allied invasion, came under American command. During the war Blin would fight in Italy, Southern France and Germany itself. In 1946 he volunteered for the war in Indo China.

Discover the Personal Stories

Augusta Chiwy

Augusta Chiwy was a Belgian nurse who risked her life treating badly wounded American soldiers in the Battle of the Bulge. Her story remained unknown until very late in her life when the Belgian king awarded her the highest honor and a documentary about her courage won an American Emmy.

Discover the Personal Stories

Arlette Varin-Baudin

During the Allied invasion of Normandy Arlette Varin, ten years old, lived in the city of Lisieux. On 6 June 1944 she lost a part of her family. During the rest of her life she never blamed the Allied soldiers. She only suffered from guilt that she was the one who survived.

Discover the Personal Stories

Andrée Collin

Like the other children in La Roche, Andrée Collin was eagerly looking forward to Christmas of 1944. In September the Americans had liberated the Belgian town from Nazi occupation. There were plans for a banquet and a ball on 25 December. Hitler’s counteroffensive in the Ardennes brought a nightmare instead.

Discover the Personal Stories

Adriana Vitali

Adriana Vitali, a 9 year old girl, witnessed the shelling of Littoria (nowadays Latina), by American and British planes and ships moored in Anzio and Nettuno during the battle of Anzio beachhead in 1944. Her family, and the entire population of Littoria, was ordered by the Germans to evacuate the combat area.

Discover the Personal Stories

Jean-Baptiste Piron

Jean-Baptiste Piron, born in Belgium in 1896, was a military officer who fled to England during the Second World War. He returned to Belgium as commander of the 1st Belgian Infantry Brigade, also known as Piron Brigade. At the end of the war he participated in the liberation of Belgium and the Netherlands.

Discover the Personal Stories

James Megellas

James Megellas joined the U.S. army in May 1942 and saw action in Italy, Holland, Belgium and Germany. He took part in some of the most famous battles of the Second World War and is one of the most highly decorated members of the 82nd Airborne Division.

Discover the Personal Stories

Frank Howley

On 1 July 1945, Colonel Frank Howley arrived in Berlin with an advanced detachment of the U.S. Army. His mission was to build the American military administration in Berlin.