The Netherlands / Story

A German soldier at the Arnhem road bridge




The medieval building here next to the church, called the Devil's House or Maarten van Rossum House, was occupied by German troops during the Battle of Arnhem. A group of SS soldiers led by SS Corporal Horst Weber moved in here to seal off this part of the area around the bridge. For the next few days they experienced the fighting at close quarters. Horst survives the fighting, but it leaves a deep impression on him.

Horst Weber was eighteen years old and had been serving for 14 months, but had not yet seen combat action. He had until recently been submitted as an instructor at a military school in then-occupied Czechoslovakia. In the late summer of 1944, he and 150 other soldiers received orders to head for France. Eventually they were sent to Deventer and assigned to the 10th SS Armored Division as armored infantry. It was then September 14 or 15.

Three days later, on Monday morning, September 18, 1944, Weber and his company, which was only 70 strong, were sent to Arnhem. The group was transported to Arnhem in trucks. Once there, they continued on foot, dragging their anti-tank gun along through the streets. As they got closer to the traffic bridge, the situation became more threatening, especially when they came under fire a few times from long-range shots (according to Weber, including from the tower of the Eusebius church) and several men were killed.

Horst Weber and his section took up residence in the imposing old Maarten van Rossum House, also known as the Devil's House. Closer to the bridge they could not get because the British airborne troops controlled the area around the bridge. Weber had the machine gun set up so that they could take both Wallisburg Street and the Markt under fire.

In the days that followed, Horst Weber experienced the fighting around the bridge up close. Among other things, his unit fought in the courthouse by shooting a hole in the outer wall with their cannon and then fighting from room to room. After the war, he described his experiences, "I don't remember any armored cars, tanks or other (heavy) weapons in our area on Tuesday. We were entirely on our own, fighting man to man at close range. We fought from house to house and often from one floor to another. The British were on one floor, and we were on another. Sometimes the British would shout something. I didn't understand. We would shout back 'Give up your weapons. Come to us and surrender, we will not kill you.' But the British were very tough and stiff-necked. Their captain refused to surrender. He shouted, 'No, I am a soldier' and fought on. They fought on and on and on."

In the basement of the Devil's House lay the wounded; at first mostly German soldiers, but later many wounded British prisoners of war. By Tuesday night Weber counted 40 to 50 of them. A captured British doctor tended to the wounded as best he could with the first aid kits the soldiers carried.

The fighting made a big impression on Weber. He recalled the end of the battle: "I think the British shouted their terrible battle cry one more time and then it became quiet; no more shooting; no sound of fighting. The British had dug themselves in in the garden of the prison, behind heavy stone blocks to protect themselves. After it was over I searched through this garden. It was terrible. The foxholes were full of bodies. There were bodies everywhere."