The Netherlands / Audiospot
In September 1944, Hotel Sionshof found itself playing a brief yet pivotal role in the makings of world history when Captain Arie Bestebreurtje, Dutch liaison officer to the 82nd Airborne Division, established his headquarters here. The international press used the hotel as a press centre, and this is the point from which the first combined American-British attack on the bridges in Nijmegen departed, on 19th September 1944.
Under the command of General Gavin, paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division landed in the area around the village of Groesbeek on Sunday 17th September 1944. The most important part of their mission was the capture of the bridge over the river Waal near Nijmegen. The Americans pushed through quickly in order to get to the borders of the city. Also despatched with the 82nd was the Dutch captain Arie Bestebreurtje, who was assigned to make contact with the Dutch resistance. The information he received from the resistance was encouraging: the German presence in Nijmegen was weak.
Bestebreurtje thought that Nijmegen could be captured that same night, and he and his American colleagues set off in an armoured jeep to assess the situation. Jan Reinders, the 19–year-old cook from Hotel Sionshof, enthusiastically volunteered to be their guide. The patrol went well until suddenly, close to the Groenewoud Café, they were ferociously attacked. Jan Reinders was killed instantly; Bestebreurtje and the Americans were all wounded and just barely managed to escape. It was apparent that the Germans had been quick to bring in reinforcements after all.
After three more days of bloodshed, the bridge over the river Waal was finally captured. Meanwhile, Hotel Sionshof had been turned into Captain Bestebreurtje’s headquarters. The international press had settled into the now over-crowded hotel set to report on Operation Market Garden and the capture of the bridge over the Waal. The figure of a paratrooper on the facade of the hotel commemorates those hectic days in September 1944.
Nijmeegsebaan 53, 6564 CC Heilig Landstichting/Nijmegen