The Netherlands / Audiospot
After Nijmegen was bombed on 22nd February 1944, Hotel Erica in nearby Berg en Dal became a refugee centre for those who had lost their homes. When Operation Market Garden commenced seven months later, the then seven year old Julia van Vliet and her father, watched in surprise asthousands of coloured parachutes fell from the skies. The largest airborne operation in history had begun!
Hundreds of gliders and thousands of parachutists landed in the area around Groesbeek and Berg en Dal. They had been given the important task of capturing the bridges in Nijmegen. When fierce fighting broke out on 17th September 1944 in Berg en Dal, the refugees were still hiding in the cellar at Hotel Erica, along with the hotel´s owner, Mr Van Vliet, and his family.
In 2013, Ms Van Vliet tells the story of what happened to her in 1944: "The people in the hotel´s cellar could hear the fighting coming and going in waves outside, and they were terrified. Machine-gun fire, mortars and grenades were going off all at once. It was pandemonium. Then all of a sudden, the door flew open and eight heavily-armed soldiers stormed into the cellar in strange green uniforms. Nobody recognised the soldiers´ uniforms, but they knew they were not German. Who could they be? The soldiers didn´t say a word. They just looked around the half-lit cellar in search of Germans, and when they didn´t find any, they dissappeared just as suddenly as they had arrived. Everybody was frightened, and wondered if this meant liberation or not… ”
“A little while later, the door flew open again. First a gun barrel appeared from around the corner, followed by grey figures. We all knew who they were. They were German soldiers. Silent and tense; they looked around expecting to find Americans. It felt like a bizarre game of hide and seek. When the door flew open a third time and even more soldiers stormed in, we could see that they were the same American soldiers as a few hours earlier. But now there were only five of them... ”
It has been almost 80 years since these events took place, and they still remain firmly etched on Ms Van Vliet´s memory. She may have her own perspective compared to the historical reports, but that will never detract from her remarkable memories.
Audio spot thanks to a promise to grandmother
His grandfather was a member of the resistance, was betrayed, arrested, survived various camps, was released, but died on the way home. Marcel Hoogenboom promised his grandmother to keep the stories from the Second World War alive. This is why there is an audio spot at hotel Erica in Berg en Dal.
Marcel Hoogenboom was the hotel manager of Erica, one of the three Fletcher hotels in the Nijmegen region. He grew up in the province of Zeeland and played between the German remnants of the occupation period in the dunes when he was a child. His grandparents on the mother's side lived in Delft during the war: “They heard the stomping of the SS boots on the cobblestones. My grandfather was a horse butcher. Partly thanks to this, they survived the Dutch famine of 1944. As a child, my mother kept herself warm by the fire of the stoked horses’ hooves.”
His grandfather on the father's side, Leendert Hoogenboom, was a member of the Van Beest resistance group in Middelburg. In August 1942, he was betrayed by a neighbour who was a member of the Dutch Nazi party NSB. He was arrested and taken to Germany via the prison in Scheveningen, also known as the Oranjehotel, and Camp Amersfoort. “The last time my grandmother saw him was in Scheveningen. Saw him, because she was not allowed to talk to him.” His grandmother would not see her husband back alive. Early April 1945, Leen Hoogenboom was released. On the way home, he died in a hospital in Speyer (Germany) on 21 April. His remains were returned in a lead coffin, a few weeks before the liberation, and reburied in Middelburg in 1950.
“For a very long time, my grandmother didn't want to talk in detail about the war and about my grandfather's role in the resistance movement. I don't think this was a major role, because if it was, they would have executed him right away. However, at the end of her life, she began to talk about that time, in bits and pieces. To me, her youngest grandson of the Hoogenbooms. Probably because I kept asking her about it.”
“Then she asked me, an adolescent and a child of a new generation, to keep telling the stories from the war. Not only those of my grandfather, but of everyone who has experienced those days. And not only the sad stories, but also the beautiful ones. I promised her that I would do my best. Two years later, on New Year's Eve 2010, she died.”
After his secondary school, Marcel Hoogenboom ended up in the hospitality business. From 2007 to 2023 he had been the manager of Hotel Erica. “It turned out that this hotel had also played a part in the Second World War. There is no such thing as coincidence.”
Thanks to his efforts, on 8 June 2013 an audio spot of the Liberation Route was unveiled underneath the linden tree in front of the hotel, which tells the story of Erica in September 1944. “Then, before a full house, I first spoke about the promise to my grandmother. My father, seated proudly in the first row, was visibly touched.”
Molenbosweg 17, 6571 BA Berg en Dal