- Mestrenger Weg 5, 52393 Hürtgenwald, Allemagne
During the month of November 1944 fighting between American and German soldiers took place inside the church of Vossenack. Today a commemorative plaque inside and an inscription on the church portal call these events to mind.
The village of Vossenack was completely destroyed in the fighting between November 1944 and February 1945. Even the church was not spared destruction. In his essay ’You are now entering Germany’ the German Nobel Prize-winning author Heinrich Böll mentioned that fierce fighting took place in the church: “In Vossenack the ‘front’ ran straight through the parish church, with the American soldiers firing down from the organ loft, the Germans up from the sacristy”. Böll also wrote that the village of Vossenack had changed ownership between Germans and Americans twenty-eight times.
To put this in perspective it can be confirmed that on 6 November two companies of the 112th U.S. Regiment had to escape a German attack from the Tiefenbach valley in panic. Only when they reached the church were the Americans were able to stop the German attack. In the course of this engagement the fighting in the church was taking place. A commemorative plaque inside the church calls the events to mind. However, after 6 November there was no other attack on Vossenack by the Germans.
The church was newly consecrated after the Second World War because of these events. On the church portal there is an inscription that mentions about 68.000 dead in the Hürtgen Forest. This number most likely can be put down to a mixing up of dead and injured. The number of soldiers actually killed in action in the Hürtgen Forest is still not clear. Today’s estimates range around half of the number given on the church portal.
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.
The state of North Rhine-Westphalia, in western Germany, holds a deep industrial heritage. During WWII, the region housed the industrial Ruhr district, which was vital to the German war production, and therefore several cities and towns were totally destroyed. Nowadays,
Battle of Hürtgen Forest
During the autumn and winter of 1944/45, the longest battle of the Second World War on German soil took place in the Hürtgen Forest. With this battle, the war precipitated by the Nazi regime returned to Germany. The battle caused numerous casualties on both sides. For the American soldiers, it’s very name – with its first syllable ‘hurt’ – became a byword for injury and death.
Helene Palm’s family was unwilling to evacuate their ancestral village of Vossenack, but the fighting made it impossible to stay. When they finally felt forced to flee, their escape route took them to Sachsen (Saxony), where they had to live through the onslaught of the Soviet Army and once again had to fear for their lives. When they returned in 1945, they found their home in ruins.