The Galgenberg

The Netherlands




The village of Groesbeek sits very close to the border to Germany. From several points there are beautiful, and in war time strategically valuable, views across the border to its eastern neighbours.

Groesbeek's location on the lateral moraine near the border was important for the village: from here, you could see far to the east so that you could be quickly warned if there was any movement of troops by the enemy. After Operation Market Garden, the front line ran right through the middle of the village. Even as the fighting moved further north, the village was still in a vulnerable position. Viewpoints such as here on Galgenberg, and the even higher South Mill, gave a strategic advantage of which soldiers on both sides were aware.

Because of the fighting, most of the civilians were evacuated or they had to flee, some even to North Brabant or Belgium. They thought they would be able to return after a few days, but it turned into months. When the civilians returned, their houses were often damaged by the violence of war or looted.

From friend to foe: Before the war, life in the border region looked different from today. People spoke the same dialect, it was normal for farmers to have fields on the other side of the border, and children were at school in the other country.

This changed enormously after the National Socialists came to power in 1933 and Germany's borders were slowly closed more and more. As a result, you could no longer cross the border easily and contacts between the countries became less and less. Especially after the German attack on the Netherlands in the May Days of 1940, there was almost no contact. Suddenly, neighbours had become enemies.