The Netherlands / Fortification
In October 1942, the Gestapo expelled all the priests of Lilbosch Trappist Abbey from the monastery and confiscated the buildings, on charges of distributing anti-German literature. Shortly before, they had already done the same with the pupils and staff of the Sint Bernhardus boarding school that was part of the monastery complex.
In early 1943, all monastery buildings were assigned to the Hitlerjugend. This organisation set up a command post there. In addition, a camp was set up for children of Nazi parents from the Netherlands (The Hague and Rotterdam) and Germany (Bielefeld) within the framework of the Kinder Land Verschickung (KLV), the evacuation programme for German children and their mothers from cities that could be bombed. After all, they were safer in the countryside than in the heavily bombed German cities.
The construction of a massive reinforced concrete air-raid shelter (Luftschutzbunker) for the children was immediately started under the supervision of the Reich Commissioner Seyss-Inquart. The shelter accommodated about 200 people and had facilities such as showers, sleeping places, and a chapel. Two tunnels connected the bunker with the school building. The term bunker is actually inaccurate, because the underground complex never served a combat function.
After the liberation the bunker fell into disrepair. This changed in 2006, when the “Stichting op Vleugels der Vrijheid (On the Wings of Freedom Foundation)”, took the bunker into use. After restoring it, it became a venue for tours. For more information, visit www.opvleugelsdervrijheid.nl.
The Lilbosch Abbey car park features a monument to commemorate all allied airmen who crashed in the Municipality of Echt-Susteren during WW2. A Short Stirling, a Royal Air Force bomber, crashed in a swampy pasture next to the abbey on 10 September 1942. Two airmen did not survive the crash, one was taken prisoner, one managed to escape and there is still no trace of the other four to this day. The crash also caused the death of some of the cows and horses in the pasture while others got severely burnt.