Paesi Bassi / Storia

Resistance remains active after liberation



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Roosteren was liberated on 30 September 1944. However, 40 members of the resistance and former soldiers from Roosteren and the surrounding area continued to provide front-line service in the area until January 1945. During this time, several heroic deeds took place.

Immediately after the liberation of Roosteren on 30 September 1944, a platoon of former soldiers and resistance fighters from the region offered their services to the American troops. The group was made up of over 40 men, and was led by 36-year-old head teacher Jan Mathijs Peters. In previous years, Peters and his helpers had established an international flight line for stranded Allied airmen and French-speaking soldiers escaping from German POW camps. Several dozens of refugees had escaped persecution through this route.

The group had also helped Jewish refugees, and unmasked a Dutchman living in Belgium who, with the cooperation of some compatriots, was delivering Jews to the German forces under the guise of assistance. At least 180 persecuted people had already been taken before the scam was revealed. This broad background of resistance, and their familiarity with the field, were more than enough for the American troops to accept Peters' offer of help. Equipped with light weapons, his men performed continuous front-line duty until mid-January 1945, months during which there was hardly any movement in the front line.

Some of the group crossed the front line up to five times to carry out reconnaissance missions and map the German positions. Skirmishes also occurred from time to time, resulting in deaths and injuries. Other actions were aimed at saving lives; risking their own lives, two Allies were pulled from a burning tank and managed to carry several badly wounded civilians out of a minefield. In the process, members of the platoon were also seriously wounded.

To support the Ardennes offensive, German troops undertook smaller attacks on other front line sectors in December 1944, including Roosteren. Thanks to the vigilance of Peters' men, an imminent attack could be nipped in the bud with support from heavy Allied artillery. On 13 January 1945, British troops, who had relieved the American troops shortly before, opened a new offensive and drove the German forces out of the area. The platoon's frontline service was over and had lasted one hundred days. Jan Mathijs Peters received the Military Order of William in 1951 for his resistance work and support to the Allies. Other members of the group also received (high) honours.

Due to its strategic location near a bridge over the Maas river, Roosteren found itself in the front line in 1944. In gratitude for the preservation of the village, villagers built a memorial chapel on Maaseikerweg in 1945. At the time, there was a small square opposite Eykholt Castle. It was here that members of the resistance were decorated after the war.

Eykholtstraat 13, Roosteren