Home & Secrets of the Euregio Rhine-Waal
Home. Home is something we are all longing for, a place that we can always come
back to and where we feel save. Since I left home when I turned 19, have lived
abroad and in different places of Germany, I love to come back to that place where I
grew up. I love to be with my family and discover my home from a distance,
seeing things that you never see when you are too close. I grew up on a farm and the
photographs reflect this special kind of life of my childhood.
The secrets of the Euregio Rhine-Waal is a research project. All four pictures
four true stories, which are totally unknown or to many quite unfamiliar Germany
and especially the Euregio Rhine-Waal were involved in some of worst battles
of World War II. As this period of time should never be forgotten and as I wanted
to find out more about it in this region, I decided to focus on this topic.
My old friend Friedhelm Hoffmann is only one of some of the last living witnesses,
who have a moving story to tell. And I think, they must be heard.
Summer semester 2013
Rhine-Waal-University of Applied Sciences
Friedhelm Hoffmann, Uedemerbruch, 21st May 2013
In March 1945, just before the end of World War II, the 15 year old
Friedhelm Hoffmann from Uedemerbruch was on
his way home. Because of the investment of their house, his family had moved to their relatives in the neighbourhood
just a few hundred meters away. Friedhelm Hoffmann was told by his mother to feed the cows.
Reaching home, he was suddenly surprised by canadian forces. They took him captive, put him into an armored car
and drove up to a small hill right at the front where terrible battles took place. There, he needed to stand infront of
a tree facing the German troops that hid further up in the forrest. A canadian soldier sitting in a small hole kept a close
watch on Friedhelm Hoffmann. The young man did not expect at all that he would find himself in deathly danger just
a little later when he witnessed a strong battle between Canadian and German forces. Still standing at the tree on the
canadian side, the Germans fired at the Canadians right into his direction. He survived the battle unscathed but
together with other captives he was brought to s′Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands. There they were held in a former
concentration camp of the Germans. He didn′t carry anything with him except for the things he was wearing when
he was captured. His family was waiting for his return in vain.
In s′Hertogenbosch Friedhelm Hoffmann was kept for three month. At this time the war had finally ended, so the
captives were to be brought back to Kleve. On the way there in Bedburg-Hau, Friedhelm Hoffmann together with some
other men, managed to escape. Totally starved out and devitalized they walked home twenty kilometers, passing the
His sister sat in a tree, picking cherries, when she spotted the lost one as the first from the family. Overwhelmed with
joy they embraced each other and celebrated the unification of the family.
Weeze, ″Kriegsgräberstätte″, 20th May 2013
At the war cemetery in Weeze about 2.400 soldiers of World War II are
burried. In February 1945 terrible battles hit
the region. The Operation Veritable, the bomb attacks on Marienbaum, the battles along the Uedemer Hochwald
and the Tüschenwald, the destruction of Weeze and many other villages left behind a sea of dead. Most of them were
still very young men. When the evacuated population returned in August 1945 they began with the recovery and burial
of the dead. All graves were registered by the commune Weeze and unified at a 2 hectare big site called „Sandberg”,
which was gratuitously made available by the family von Loë. Chief architect Robert Tischler from Munich took care of
the design. The cemetery was to be integrated into the landscape. Therefore the terrain wasn′t leveled. The names
of the fallen are written on little memorial plaets of hard burned brick. Groups of three symbolic crosses of basaltic lava
rock are spread across the whole area. At the centre of the cemetery another three high crosses of basaltic lava rock
are set up. The highest middle one measures five meters. The two smaller ones on each side are 3,5 meters tall.
On 10th September 1950 the war cemetery Weeze was dedicated by Federal President Prof. Dr. Theodor Heuss. It is
therefore one of the only two war cemeteries, which have been dedicated by a Federal President at all.
Uedem, 13th June 2013
Keppeln is a small village with about 1.640 inhabitants and politically belongs
to the village Uedem. Towards
the end of World War II, in February 1945, Keppeln and the sourrounding area came to be the place of the worst
tank battles on German ground. Canadians and Germans faught bitterly at the “Totenhügel“ (hill of the dead).
The Canadian′s Operation “Blockbuster“ claimed their greatest loss and damage throughout the whole war. In only
two days 214 Canadian soldiers died and at least 57 (probably it was more than 100) tanks were destroyed.
On the German side 330 people died, 54 of them were civilists.
Many years later the marks of the happenings still become visible when farmers in this area are finding fragments
and diverse metal pieces on their fields when harvesting. One of them was the pictured helmet of a soldier, found
by a family in the land where they wanted to build a foundation for a new barn.
Overloon, ”Oorlogmuseum”, 8th June 2013
In war areas so called flail tanks are used to clear up mine fields. At the
front of the tank a special
mine flail is installed. A rotating mechanism with chains where massive bullets out of steal are
attached to, will hammer those bullets into the ground with a weight of more than 150 kilograms. The
mines burrowed in the ground will so explode. This way an opening is created.
The tank pictured is a british model from World War II, displayed at the Oorlogsmuseum in Overloon,
Netherlands. There it has been involved in the greatest tank battles on Dutch ground throughout
the whole war. It weights 32,5 tons and could drive up to 40 km/h. Five people were needed to drive
the tank and operate the 75 mm heavy ordnance and two maschine guns.
Today modern well equipped tanks of this category also carry rokets tied to some kind of explosive
cord. As soon as the cord is spread across the minefield it will be ignited. The explotion will be like a
chain reaction so that the surrounding mines will detonate too.