The Netherlands / Audiospot
In October 1944, many Eastern European and Russian prisoners-of-war and slave labourers are in the Roerstreek to work on the expansion of the German defensive position, the West Wall. One morning in late September, thousands of badly dressed slave labourers arrive at Herkenbosch station. In the subsequent weeks, a tragedy takes place that is still deeply etched in the collective memory of the villagers...
Eastern European and Russian prisoners-of-war and slave labourers were transported to the Roerstreek to dig positions for the Meuse-Rurstellung and Rurstellung (under the so-called Organisation Todt).
The Germans built these extensive fortifications in an attempt to halt the western Allies before they could reach the Ruhr. Every day, these people were forced to dig tank ditches, trenches and shelters in an attempt to create a structured defence in front of the Ruhr area, as a supplement to the famed German West Wall.
Many Eastern European women (they were mainly women) were abused and raped. Some of the local population were also forced to dig for the occupier. This is known locally as the ‘sjansen’, meaning ‘dallying’. Some of the villagers eventually learned quite a bit of Russian and some Russian women continued to live in Herkenbosch after the war.