The Netherlands / Fortification

Maria Roepaan Convent




If we compare the current convent in Ottersum with photos from before 1944, it is clear that about half of the buildings are missing. This has everything to do with the end of the war.

In early September 1944, the German Wehrmacht captured the Maria Roepaan convent. Initially it served as accommodation for about a hundred soldiers. They soon left to make room for new ones, who did not stay long either. They were replaced by many hundreds of (forced) labourers from Germany, including many older men and children under the age of 15. They had to dig tank ditches and trenches in the area. They were supported by Russian prisoners of war.

On Sunday 17 September, they witnessed the Allied airborne landings in the region. Many bombs also fell. Panic broke out and the convent shook to its foundations. Shortly afterwards, the Russians left again. Heavy fighting took place in the whole region. The Germans set up an emergency hospital in the convent to care for the many wounded. The cellars of Maria Roepaan also accommodated an increasing number of refugees from the surrounding area. Their number increased considerably when the Germans evacuated nearby Gennep on 15 October. They did not stay long, because soon the convent had to be evacuated as well. German soldiers moved back in and stayed there until 2 February 1945. Before retreating, they set fire to the convent. Most of it went up in flames.

The convent was liberated a few days later, when the British and Canadian armies launched a major offensive to capture the area between the rivers Meuse and Rhine. The British used the habitable remains as temporary living quarters.

Kleefseweg 9, 6595 NK Ottersum