The Netherlands / Monument

The Forest Partisans of Baarlo




The monument at the former partisan camp commemorates the history of two hit squads and their German prisoners of war in the Baarlo woods during the final months of the occupation.

At the beginning of September 1944, the Limburg and Meuse and Waal hit squads were ordered to take action. Where possible, they had to provide support to the Allied advance by committing acts of sabotage. However, the promised droppings of weapons and explosives failed to materialise. This was reason enough for the national sabotage commander, Frank van Bijnen, to send a cry for help to Prince Bernhard. But that also came to nothing. Because Van Bijnen wanted to carry out the assignment at all costs, he ordered the hit squads that had gathered between Roermond and Venlo to capture weapons and ammunition themselves. This could be done, Van Bijnen suggested, by ambushing and disarming groups of German soldiers who were retreating.

The hit squads resolutely began their task. On 10 September 1944, they crossed the river Meuse in Venlo and soon captured four German soldiers in the vicinity of Helden and Baarlo. They set up a camp in the vast woods south of Baarlo, where they accommodated their prisoners of war. In the end, this number grew to several dozens. As the liberation took longer than expected, surveillance and care demanded more and more attention. A solid logistical organisation was needed to keep everything running smoothly. This was achieved thanks to the cooperation of the residents of Baarlo and the local resistance group. Although some Germans accepted their fate, others considered their imprisonment by a bunch of partisans an utter disgrace. They were rebellious and continuously made plans to escape. Owing to the carelessness of a guard, one of them managed to escape at the end of October. There was no other option but to evacuate the camp in the pouring rain. After a lengthy search, an abandoned sheepfold was found in the vicinity of Neer. In the meantime, the construction of a subterranean hideout in the woods around Baarlo was in full swing. On 7 November, the hit squad members could move in there with their prisoners. During the next few days, the situation was tense. The English were approaching, and the area around the camp was swarming with German soldiers. Some were even less than ten metres away from the camp. The decision was taken to meet up with the English. In the end that never happened, because on 19 November 1944, soldiers of the 154th British Infantry Brigade arrived at the camp and the prisoners of war could be handed over. Their commander, J.A. Oliver, later expressed his gratitude for the help he had received from the Baarlo Forest Partisans.

Bosgebied De Kesselse Bergen, nabij Donk Kessel