The Netherlands / Monument
The liberation monument in Venlo is a bronze statue of a standing female figure with a child above her head. The statue is placed on a pedestal made of massive pieces of basalt lava. The pedestal symbolises the ruins of the destroyed city of Venlo. From these ruins a woman rises, who raises her child to heaven as a symbol of new and young life.
The liberation monument reminds Venlo's inhabitants of the victory over the occupying forces of 1945.
After a successful advance through northern France and Belgium, the Americans of the 30th infantry 'Old Hickory' had succeeded in liberating most of South Limburg. Then, on 17 September 1944, the Allies wanted to capture a bridgehead over the major rivers in the Netherlands from Belgium by means of a major offensive (operation 'Market Garden'). Airborne troops had to secure the bridges in North Brabant and Gelderland in a lightning-fast attack. From Belgium, ground troops had to advance over the captured bridges to the IJsselmeer.
Three complete divisions were dropped: the 101st U.S. Airborne Division at Eindhoven and Veghel, the 82nd U.S. Airborne Division at Grave and Groesbeek and the 1st British Airborne Division at Arnhem and Oosterbeek. For the Americans, everything went pretty well. The bridges over the Maas and the Maas-Waal canal near Heumen as well as most bridges near Eindhoven fell into their hands. After a hard battle, the Waal bridge near Nijmegen was also a success. But the Rhine bridge near Arnhem turned out to be one bridge too many. The British paratroopers were surprised by German armoured troops and had to retreat to the Betuwe after heavy losses.
On 19 September, the American advance also stagnated in South Limburg, a few kilometres north of Sittard. The front line now ran right through Limburg. In the following months, a heavy and bloody battle ensued in this area, from which the civilian population suffered greatly.
Venlo was also at the front line. The Allies fought their way from the Peel to the Maas. As the occupiers were pushed further backwards to their own imperial border, they became increasingly tough and fanatical. The bridge over the Maas between Venlo and Blerick was bombed repeatedly between 13 October and 19 November 1944, because of its strategic importance. The population suffered greatly from these constant bombings. 4 and 5 November were particularly bad.
In the autumn of 1944, Martien Blondel (pseudonym for Gijs Bertels) kept a diary. His account of the events during the autumn of 1944 is recorded in the publication Die swaere noodt (The great need). Blondel wrote in his diary: “Sunday, 5 November 1944. The heart of Venlo is crying out. From one side to the other, unwieldy flames stagger over the city. Our sweet home burns, and in the restless breath of the night wind, the reddish glows stretch so far along the clouds that the whole of North Limburg should know: the city of Valuas is burning. The god of war has thrown his torch into the heart of Venlo. [...] The bombs missed their target once again and instead came down in the inner city, close to the Sint-Nicolaaskerk (Church of Saint Nicholas). The girls' schools in the Grote Kerkstraat collapsed above the cellars, where dozens of nuns became trapped. The city centre started burning in various places. The storm swung sparks through the destroyed windows of the Klaaskerk (Nicholas Church). The water pipes were broken. Extinguishing water had to be pumped up from afar. The glow of fire fanned into a roaring and seething hell. A hurricane of sparks roared over a city, while its windowless houses and shattered roofs lay open to every seed of fire. This could be the complete demise.
But the wind died down and heavy rain put an end to the conflagration. Approximately 16,000 people from Venlo had fled to villages north and south of the city. Looting broke out and Venlo fell into a state of upheaval and anarchy. Additionally, the lack of food was dramatic. The last and heaviest bombardment hit Venlo on Sunday 19 November 1944. Twenty civilians were killed. On 25 November 1944, the occupying forces blew up the Maas bridge. The official death toll as a result of the bombings had now risen to 333. On 3 December 1944, the Blerick district was liberated after a heavy battle between the British and the occupier. The British continued to lick their wounds in Blerick. Venlo would still remain occupied for months. Because North and Central Limburg were on the front line, the occupier decided to issue an evacuation order for this area. Venlo was also evacuated. Trains full of evacuees left for Groningen, Friesland and Drenthe, where the Limburgers were housed with private individuals. After all the misery endured in Limburg, they were liberated almost silently by the Canadians in the far north in the course of the month of April.
Monseigneur Boermansstraat, Venlo