Liberated just too late

The Netherlands




One day before liberation on 13 September 1944, eleven Belgian resistance fighters and an escaped Russian forced labourer were shot dead by the Germans behind the Huize Sint Joseph guardianship institute in the village of Heer (nowadays the Heerdeberg estate). They were part of a much larger group of resistance fighters, who had been waiting in vain for a dropping of weapons and ammunition in the vast woods of Rekem since early September.

It was Sunday, 10 September 1944. The announced dropping did not materialise, and the tension in the Rekem woods was palpable. Dozens of Germans who had been captured in the preceding days had to be guarded in the knowledge that the enemy could strike at any moment. Due to treachery, they had found out where the resistance fighters were hiding.

Although the initial attack on 9 September was thwarted, a next attempt was bound to come soon. The Germans brought in reinforcements very quickly in order to attack the Belgians from all sides. At the beginning of the afternoon, it finally happened. Even though there were hundreds of them, the resistance fighters were no match for such overwhelming power. A number of them fled.

Those who fell into German hands were executed without mercy. A total of 26 detainees were loaded into closed trucks and sent on their way. The journey ended in the village of Scharn near Maastricht, from where they continued on foot to Heer. There they spent a sleepless night in a cellar. The next morning, Tuesday 12 September, twelve men were taken from the cellars. German soldiers and Belgian SS officers led the group to the nearby St Joseph's House, where they were shot in the early evening.

The remaining fourteen prisoners were taken to Schinveld on an open truck, escorted by Belgian SS men. Seven men had to get out and dig their own graves just across the border in Mindergangelt, Germany. The seven remaining prisoners ended up in German camps, where four of them died. Only three, two women and one man, survived the horrors and returned home after the liberation.

The Belgian monument to the fallen resistance fighters dates from 1948. A memorial stone in memory of the fusillade, the Flemish Monument, was placed next to the monument in 1955.


Pater Kustersweg 20, 6267 NL Cadier en Keer