216. Unparalleled destruction

  • Havenstraat 12, Maasbracht, Nederland

It is early morning on the 30th of September 1944. The previous day, the Germans had ordered the ships masters in the port of Maasbracht to leave their vessels immediately. It soon becomes clear why. German demolition units systematically blow up all 240 ships in the port, one by one…

In September 1944, there are approximately 240 ships in the port of Maasbracht. Ships masters have found shelter here with their families. Sailing on the River Maas is too dangerous. From the air, the Allies have already strafed ships on the river several times. They assume any ship still sailing could be a German military transport.

The German occupation force in Maasbracht has ordered everyone to leave the port and sail north. But not a single ships master obeys. After all, there is no cargo to carry and the risk of attack from the air is too great.

In turn, the Germans in Maasbracht fear that the large numbers of ships could fall into Allied hands. They block the entrance to the port by sinking two ships. In this way, they reason the other ships cannot sail and therefore cannot be used against them.

But the Germans are not quite certain whether this is sufficient, and on the 29th of September 1944, a reckless decision is taken with major consequences. All the ships masters are summoned to abandon their ships the following day. And so, in the early morning of the 30th of September, more and more families go ashore with only the few possessions they can carry.

Soon the first explosions are heard. German demolition units start the day by systematically blowing up all the ships, even in Maastricht and the Juliana Canal.

Tourist information

Havenstraat 12, Maasbracht – GPS code N 51 8.812, E 5 53.174

216. Unparalleled destruction