Belgium / Story

Amel village saved from bombing by two brave civilians




Around 3,000 civilians and 36,000 soldiers died in the ‘Battle of the Bulge’. Many cities, towns and villages were destroyed. Due to the bravery of two civilians, the village of Amel escaped its sinister fate by the skin of its teeth.

During the Ardennes offensive, many cities, towns and villages of the Eifel and the Ardennes areas were reduced to ruin by allied bombardments. This was the case of Sankt Vith, Malmedy and Recht, to name but a few.

After a month of fighting, places such as Deidenberg, Schoppen and Eibertingen were under US control. By the end of January 1945, US forces planned to take Amel. As the bombing increased, the inhabitants were hidden in their cellars and awaited the arrival of US armed forces. Witness Hubert Küches shared the following story, which was published in 1986:

On 25 January 1945, Nikolaus Vels, a First World War veteran aged 70, entered the cellar of the post office (between the church and the cemetery), where about 30 people had gathered. It was around 11:00. He asked if some were willing to accompany him with a white flag to the US headquarters in Eibertingen, west of the village. 24-year-old Rosa Freches, who had lost her home, volunteered with insistence and both went out. Only after 400m, at the height of the cemetery, they were stopped by a US outpost, which eventually let them pass. When they had reached the US headquarters in the house ‘Lemaire’ in Eibertingen, they were interrogated in great detail.

After the two delegates had convinced the commanding officers that Amel was void of German troops, they were told that the village was supposed to be covered in a hail of bombs at 14:00 that day.

In the end, Hubert Küches and the other remaining inhabitants of Amel experienced a quiet afternoon, without any bombing and shooting. In the meantime, Nikolaus Vels and Rosa Freches were held back in Eibertingen for safety reasons. US troops entered Amel at around 20:30. The two saviours were only able to return at around 22:00 to 22:30.

Source: Josef Dries, “Von der österreichischen Zeit bis zur Gegenwart“, in Zwischen Ommerscheid und Wolfsbusch. Hof und Pfarre Amel im Wandel der Zeiten, hg. durch den Werbe- und Kulturausschuß Amel-Eibertingen, Sankt Vith : Aktuell, 1986, p. 57-151, here p. 150- 151.

An interactive map of Amel (around 1950) can be found here:

Amel, 4770