The Netherlands / Monument
From mid-September 1944 until 12 February 1945, Milsbeek was always close to the frontline. It was very dangerous there, and the Germans forced the residents to evacuate the village in the course of October. After their departure, the occupiers looted the empty houses. They also laid minefields. On 8 February 1945, the British and Canadians launched a major offensive to capture the area between the rivers Rhine and Meuse. One week later, the deserted and battered village of Milsbeek was liberated. When the residents of Milsbeek returned to their homes in the spring of 1945, they found an unimaginable chaos.
Landmines were still in the ground after the liberation, and abandoned explosives were found everywhere in North and Central Limburg where the Germans had put up fierce resistance and where the frontline had not moved for some time. Many civilians still died due to carelessness or a lack of knowledge. Playing children were particularly at risk. The brothers Grad, Chris and Huub Franken were killed while clearing the rubble around their farm.
When a family from Milsbeek returned home after months of absence and went for a walk around the house, one of them wanted to check whether the water pump in the kitchen was still working. When the crank was pulled out, an unseen wire connected to a hand grenade was also pulled out. A heavy explosion followed in which four family members (father, mother and two children) lost their lives.
Knowledge of explosives was vital. A hairdresser from Gennep was busy clearing up the debris in his salon. When he wanted to prepare a leather shaving chair, he saw a thread disappearing under the seat. He looked under the chair, did not trust what he saw, and called his neighbour. He turned pale and stammered: 'Don't touch it, that's a mine.'
A family from Gennep had imagined that things would go very differently upon their return to their hometown. The journey on the truck had been without incidents. The driver stopped right in front of the house. He jumped out of the cabin to open the back of the truck' to let his passengers out. The moment he put his foot on the ground, he stepped on a landmine. The driver died instantly and the four occupants were seriously injured.
Sometimes the saying 'Fortune favours the foolish' was interpreted literally.After returning from Friesland, a group of boys from Gennep saw that the football pitch of their club Vitesse looked like a lunar landscape. They were not discouraged and took the only ball in Gennep to a field at the Heyenseweg. This went well for weeks, until they were scolded by a group of passing Scottish soldiers. Did they know that they were actually playing football on a minefield? Wiel van Dinther, who was 15 years old at the time, had no idea of the risks they had been running all this time: We had seen those discs and boxes lying around, but there was so much war rubbish in Gennep at the time...'
Horsestraat 12, 6591 MA Milsbeek