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Lierneux mental hospital



Indicazioni stradali

In 1883-1884, the Province of Liège established the Colonie Wallone d’Aliénés (Walloon Insane Colony) in the village of Lierneux, in the Upper Ardennes. The idea was to improve their health through contact with rural life. In 1939, it housed approximately 650 patients.

Located halfway between Stavelot and Vielsalm, this institution was the French-speaking counterpart of Geel. It operated on the principle of host families and pavilions. The patients were supervised by about 50 nursing assistants, under the supervision of a doctor-director, Charles Massaut. Having found peace and quiet at the time of the liberation, the centre was to be turned upside down by the Battle of the Bulge. The Wehrmacht reoccupied Lierneux on 24 December 1944. A small number of patients fled with their families. However, about 150 of them took refuge in the cellars of the Colonie d’Aliénés, supervised by a good twenty members of staff. Several dozen stayed in the village with their host families. The German troops, starving, requisitioned all that they could. Soon, the American shells began to fall like rain drops. On 26 December, all hell broke loose. Food was in short supply, and several pavilions were hit by projectiles. The windows were shattering. The roofs were collapsing. In the cellars, panicked patients escaped from the guards and wandered off into the snow and fire. Several of their corpses were later found in the vicinity during spring. From 2 January 1945, the Americans counterattacked between Odimont and Arbrefontaine. Dozens of houses burned down, more than 300 were damaged, and the superb Romanesque church dedicated to Saint Andrew was also destroyed by the bombing. Lierneux and its surrounding hamlets were liberated on 6 January. By 10 January, all German presence had disappeared. About twenty residents and five patients of the Colony lost their lives in the offensive.

Bruised, but not demolished, the Colonie d’Aliénés stood tall thanks to the tenacity of its staff and the strength of its walls. After the war, it became a provincial psychiatric institute.