Hotels with little known WWII histories…
Are you planning on visiting the Netherlands? Do you know that there are many hotels in the Netherlands with a rich WWII history ?
Find out more and get inspired to stay in one of them during your trip!
Hotel Erica – Berg en Dal (Gelderland)
In February 1944, the city of Nijmegen was bombed. The owner of the Hotel Erica, Mr. Van Vliet, decided to take in refugees who had lost their homes during the bombings. Seven months later, the largest airborne operation in history, Operation Market Garden began. Then, the seven-year-old Julia Van Vliet watched in surprise as thousands of colored parachutes fell from the skies.
Seventy years later, Julia Van Vliet tells her story concerning the events of 1944. She explains that, together with the refugees, she could hear the fighting come closer. Suddenly, the door flew open and eight unknown soldiers stormed into the cellar, looking for Germans. When they could not find any, they disappeared.
A little while later, the door flew open again. This time, German soldiers entered the room, looking for Americans. The door flew open for a third time, and even more soldiers stormed in. They were the same American soldiers as earlier, but now there were only five of them…
Grand-Hotel de Draak – Bergen op Zoom (Province of North-Brabant)
Hotel de Draak (en. trans. Hotel the Dragon) is one of the oldest monuments in Bergen op Zoom. In 1397, a great city fire almost burnt down the entire city of Bergen op Zoom. Only two buildings survived the fire, Hotel de Draak and de Olifant (en. trans. the Elephant)! In the 15th century, there was another city fire in Bergen op Zoom. It is clear that Hotel de Draak also survived this fire, as a true fire-breathing dragon.
During WWII, the Germans occupied Hotel de Draak. They used the hotel as a German headquarter. The owner of the hotel was forced to let the Germans inside the hotel, but the former owner, Arnold Oirbans, continued inside the hotel, his resistance activities. He smuggled Jews and other people that were threatened during the war into the hotel. After the War, Oirbans was rewarded with the medal of resistance and remembrance.
When the Canadians liberated Bergen op Zoom, they used Hotel de Draak as their headquarters.
Kasteel Vaalsbroek – Vaals (Province of Limburg)
Otto von der Mosel, the only Dutch Jew in the area, lived in Castle Vaalsbroek. During the Second World War, Dutch, German, and Allied officers inhabited the castle on the border.
Kaplan Wermeling led an active resistance group in the area. In July 1944, ten members of the group were arrested for betrayal. Eventually, seven of them were killed in a concentration camp and presumably, Otto von der Mosel was the one to betray them. After the liberation of Vaals in September 1944, the residents of the area took revenge on Otto von der Mosel by doing a lot of damage at Castle Vaalsbroek.
After the War, the castle was confiscated as enemy property, so it was handed over to the Dutch Management Institute. Today, the castle is used as a Hotel-Restaurant by Bilderberg.
Hotel Avegoor – The estate of Ellecom (Gelderland)
During the Second World War, Ellecom operated as a ‘school of evil’. The estate of Ellecom dates from the 14th century. However, the mansion was used as an ‘Avegoor SS School’ in 1941. The owner of the school was Hauptsurmführer Alfons Brendel and he came from Beieren, Germany. Before the War, he had studied history and philosophy. During the War, he was a sports instructor for the SS. The school trained Dutch volunteers for the SS. The volunteers spent several weeks in the school, training on how to use weapons and also getting an ideological education.
Moreover, 139 Jews were brought to Ellecom from Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and the Hague because the SS volunteers had to learn how to treat Jews. They had to work here for months under horrifying conditions. For them, it was the ‘Hell of Ellecom’.
Hotel-Restaurant Konbanwa (former Hotel Sionshof) – Nijmegen (Gelderland)
On 17 September 1944, paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division landed in the area around the village of Groesbeek. Their most important mission was to capture the bridge over the river Waal near Nijmegen. The Dutch captain of the 82nd, Arie Bestebreurtje, was assigned to make contact with the Dutch resistance. The information he had received from them was positive; the German presence in Nijmegen was quite weak.
When Bestebreurtje heard the news, he wanted to capture Nijmegen that same night. He and his American colleagues set off in a jeep to assess the situation in the city. The 19-year-old cook of Hotel Sionshof, Jan Reinders, enthusiastically volunteered to be their guide. All was going well, but suddenly they were furiously attacked. Jan Reinders lost his life, and Bestebreurtje and the Americans were all wounded and barely managed to escape. Apparently, the Germans had been quick to bring in reinforcements after all.
After three more days of fighting, the bridge over the Waal was fully captured. In the meantime, the over-crowded hotel was transformed into the headquarters of Bestebreurtje. Also, the press settled here to make a report on the Operation Market Garden. On the façade of the hotel, the figure of a paratrooper commemorates those hectic days in September 1944.
Article written by Karin Koersvelt, The Netherlands
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