The Netherlands / Story

This used to be Ochten




'This used to be Ochten' is the text on a roadsign at the edge of the town in May 1945. It is not widely known, but the western Gelderland river area was among one of the areas that suffered the most in the Netherlands during World War II.

In May 1940, Ochten was already part of the fighting when German troops invaded the town. The time period a few years later, from September 1944 to May 1945, more than seven months, had enormous consequences. Ochten lay under Allied fire during the battle of the Betuwe, with the village being so heavily shelled that it was largely destroyed. Allied and German troops fought an intense battle with each other, with the rivers Maas and Waal forming the front line.

After the war, a reconstruction plan was drawn up for heavily damaged Ochten. Not a single house was completely undamaged; half of the 400 houses were completely destroyed.

To start rebuilding the town, 200 emergency houses were built. Some of them were made of straw bales. Ochten was therefore also called the 'plaggenhuttendorp' (straw bales village). The emergency housing complex 'De Lichtstad' would remain in use until 1973. Almost the entire village centre of Ochten was completely renewed, only a few streets remained as they were before the war.