Pays-Bas / Histoire

Café Waalzicht – Wartime drama in the Ooijpolder region


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Café Waalzicht was the heart of the Groenlanden hamlet in the Ooijpolder, but on the night of 28 September 1944, a drama occurred during which the entire café was destroyed.

This did not mean, however, that it was also safe in the surrounding area. In the Ooijpolder region in particular, situated between the city and the German border, people faced great hardships. Grenades were coming in from all sides while the locals sheltered for days on end in the furnaces of the brick factories, in the hope that the thick walls would offer protection.

On 28 September 1944, Jan Janssen from Erlecom decided it had become too dangerous and decided to flee with his family. He had a son and daughter-in-law in Weurt, adjacent Nijmegen, who wanted to take the family into their home. At 6 pm he left with his wife and his six children, one of whom was pregnant. It was a difficult and dangerous journey. To avoid being a target of shelling from the Betuwe, they had to walk along the bottom of the dike, over farmlands and under barbed wire.

Two hours into their journey, the owner of Café Waalzicht Anna Scheers saw the family walking along the dike and invited them to freshen up in the café and spend the night so they would not have to continue their trek in the dark. The family gladly accepted this offer and settled in the basement of the café, where other guests were already staying.

Shortly afterwards, fighting over the Waal bridge broke out again. German bombers tried to blow up the bridge, while American air defence tried to keep that from happening. A bomber was hit before reaching the bridge and turned around. He dropped his bombs above the Ooijse Bandijk dike and they landed behind the café, killing 22 people in one fell swoop. The only survivors of this disaster were 21-year-old Nelly Janssen and 18-month-old Joke Smedts-Scheers.

Remarkably, when the bodies were recovered no jewellery or wedding rings were found; apparently someone had used the chaos during the recovery efforts to enrich themselves.

Ooijse Bandijk, Ooij