The Netherlands / Story
Arnhem survives a large part of the war quite well, but on 17 September 1944, the city finds itself in the middle of the fighting in the Battle of Arnhem. After the battle, the inhabitants of Arnhem are forced to leave the city, and Arnhem becomes a ghost town. It is not until 15 April 1945 that Arnhem, abandoned and ransacked, is formally liberated after four days of fighting in what is also called the Second Battle of Arnhem. The reconstruction of the city would take many years.
At the Stationsplein, a lot has changed since the Second World War. Arnhem boasts a new station building now, and many other buildings have obviously been built after the war as well. But stately pre-war houses can also still be seen, mainly on the other side of the square.
From the German invasion in May 1940 to the summer of 1944, Arnhem survived the war almost without damage. Almost, because on 22 February 1944 American bombers, looking for an alternative target, dropped their bombs on Arnhem by mistake. On 17 September 1944, however, war really came to Arnhem, and the city was to become part of the front line until 16 April 1945.
On 17 September 1944, the British 1st Airborne Division landed on Renkum Heath. Of the British troops that marched into Arnhem under command of lieutenant-colonel Frost that day, one company of around 100 men was sent to this area via the Utrechtseweg to capture the German Ortskommandatur, the local Wehrmacht headquarters that was located in the old building at Willemsplein 21 (Nieuwe Plein 37 at that time). However, the group of British paratroopers, commanded by major Victor Dover, was never to arrive here, as they were eliminated by the Germans.
As early as the last days of the Battle of Arnhem, between 23 and 25 September 1944, inhabitants of Arnhem were ordered by the German occupiers to leave the city. Arnhem became a military zone, meaning that civilians were no longer allowed to stay in the city. Anyone who did and was found, was mercilessly shot. The Germans then systematically plundered the empty houses, and much of the loot was sent to Germany for inhabitants of German cities who had lost their homes as a result of bombings.
On 12 April 1945, the British 49th West Riding Division, supported by Canadian armoured units, invaded Arnhem from Westervoort. After four days of fighting in the city, also around this square, the allies took the entire city, and Arnhem, abandoned and ransacked, was finally liberated. When the war ended in May, the inhabitants could go back home, but in practice, some of them had to wait for months before they could do so. It would take many years to rebuild the city.