Old Hickory Square

The Netherlands




American troops were able to enter the still occupied part of evacuated Kerkrade on 5 October 1944 without encountering any resistance. In gratitude to the liberators of the 30th Infantry Division, 'Old Hickory', the returning residents renamed the Ambachtsplein Old Hickory Square in February 1945. A statue of an American soldier has stood in the square as a tribute since 1994.

On 17 September 1944, units of the 30th American Infantry Division liberated the western part of Kerkrade, Spekholzerheide, and Kaalheide. From then on, the frontline ran straight through the mining town, over the railway embankment of the Miljoenenlijntje ('Million railway').

German resistance was growing by the day. Aachen was close by, and had to remain in German hands at all costs. Electricity was cut off in some neighbourhoods of the still occupied district, water stopped running from the tap, and food became scarce. The situation became more difficult by the day.

On Sunday 24 September, the German Ortskommandant sent for police chief A. Geeraets and informed him that the eastern part of Kerkrade would have to be evacuated the next day. A sad exodus of 30,000 citizens followed. They had to walk westwards, right through the frontline to liberated territory. Although a temporary ceasefire was agreed, it remained a very risky undertaking. The inhabitants had only just left when the German troops ransacked their abandoned houses.


Old Hickoryplein, Kerkrade