- Meijendel, Wassenaar 2597 AK
The Waalsdorpervlakte is located in the Meijendel dune area near The Hague. During World War Two, more than 250 people, including many members of the Dutch resistance, were executed here by the occupying Nazi forces. Those sentenced to death had often spent their last days in the nearby Oranjehotel, the nickname of the Polizeigefängnis (police prison), the house of detention in Scheveningen during World War Two.
The first person to be executed was Ernst Cahn, the Jewish owner of an Amsterdam ice cream parlour. His arrest had led to riots and the February strike. The final mass execution took place on 8 March 1945 in retaliation for the attack on Hanns Rauter. Some 38 members of the resistance were murdered and buried in the dunes. After the war, the resistance fighters were reburied in the memorial cemetery in Loenen. The Waalsdorpervlakte is one of the most important Dutch war memorials.
Following the war, seven Dutchmen were executed here, sentenced to death for collaboration with the Nazis. These included NSB leader Anton Mussert on 7 May 1946. They were buried in a grave, the location of which is a state secret, in The Hague General Cemetery.
The first commemoration was held at the Waalsdorpervlakte in 1946 next to four wooden firing squad crosses, which have now been replaced by bronze replicas. Two individual crosses have also been erected on the open space. One of these stands where many mass executions were carried out, while the other commemorates the reprisal executions that followed the attack on Rauter. A small wall was added in 1949 bearing the text ‘1940–1945’
‘Here, many of your compatriots sacrificed their lives for your freedom. Treat this place with due respect.’
A bell cage was erected at the monument in 1959, with a single large bell, a bourdon. The rim of the bell bears a text by Professor R.P. Cleveringa, the Dutch professor of law who became known for his speech at Leiden University on 26 November 1940 in which he spoke up against the dismissal of his Jewish colleagues: “I chime for the glory and memory of those who gave their lives to fight injustice, to battle for freedom, and to preserve the Dutch honour and spirit.”
The ‘Oranjehotel’ was the nickname of the Polizeigefängnis, or police prison, the house of detention in Scheveningen during World War Two. More than 25,000 people were imprisoned here between 1940 and 1945.
The construction of the Atlantic Wall, an anti-tank trench through large stretches of The Hague and Scheveningen, commenced in 1943 as part of ‘Fortress Scheveningen’. Around a quarter of The Hague’s residents had to leave their homes. Houses were demolished and cleared and trees were felled. The line left a trail of destruction in its wake. The Puin Monument represents the mountains of rubble from demolished buildings.
Until 1943, Rabbijn Maarsenplein, later renamed after one of the victims, was the heart of The Hague’s Jewish quarter. Today, it plays host to two memorials, the Jewish Monument and the Jewish Children’s Monument, which commemorate the city’s 12,000-plus Jews who were murdered in concentration and extermination camps.