Liberation of Ootmarsum – April 1945 – Anny’s diary

These are the entries in Anny’s diary. It provides an insight on the emotions of that time. It is an on-the-spot report written as it all happened. Most of such stories are written afterwards, Anny’s diary provides a unique – in the moment – commentary. I have left the entries as much as possible as they are, only translated them with a few explanations attached where needed. While the names of various persons might not mean a lot, I have kept them to capture the emotions of this period both from Anny and the people around her. As she worked at the Town Hall, she had access to firsthand information.

It also shows how important freedom is.

April 1: Easter! But Easter without singing outside, vlöggeln (age old tradition of forming a human chain walking through town) or the Easter bonfire. Despite that an Easter that will remember us for a long time.

This morning around half past eleven Johan Grimberg comes storming out, just when we wanted to sing the Easter songs in the church from full chest. He said that the allied tanks were already before Enschede and Haaksbergen.  Beckum and Delden had been liberated. Almost unbelievable. A little later, these messages are confirmed from all sides. At 2 o’clock Mr. Schulten, who has so often inquired about the situation in Enschede, calls: “Miss we are free!!” He was beyond himself of joy. The tanks roll there through the streets and the English are handing out cigarettes and chocolates. The flag hangs from the town hall. Everything is orange, red, white and blue. It’s like a dream. They are now going to liberate Twenthe airport. We are already in liberation mood.

This afternoon the assistant of the Town Clerk on the phone. The Germans find the situation hopeless. The Ortskommandant had left the building. Ootmarsum is feindfrei (enemy free) except for some fleeing Germans. It’s even busier than usual at Easter. The bridges over the Twente – Rhine Canal are all blown up.

We are waiting in anticipation.

April 2: The moment I’m writing this, it’s 12 o’clock and I’m still waiting for our liberators.

This morning at eight o’clock calls from Oldenzaal. A cry of cheer: “We are being liberated. It’s great to see. The tanks rumble across the railway track, it’s unbelievable. Everybody hangs out flags. Everything orange. The tanks are decorated with flags and are greeted enthusiastically. The Brits, mainly Scots, throw cigarettes and chocolates.”

At eleven o’clock they will be here for sure. How is it possible,  so soon?

This afternoon at one o’clock message: hundreds of tanks roll towards Denekamp. Denekamp has been liberated. Celebration!

They’re in front of Tilligte and Lattrop. We firmly believe that they are here in a few minutes. Red, white and blue and orange for the day. Exuberantly dancing through the house. At about 2 o’clock I personally talked to a Tommy, but over the phone. “I come to you.” But unfortunately, he’s not here yet. Incredibly interesting.

Very annoying that we can’t make calls outside. The tank column goes towards Denekamp – Nordhorn and the other via Lattrop – Noord Deurningen to Nordhorn.

Ootmarsum is forgotten! Sat at the town hall all afternoon; everything decorated. Queen Wilhelmina taken out of hiding. Johan Bloemen and Verhulst have gone to the English with a message from the mayor. Until 9 o’clock still waiting at the town hall.

We’re still waiting and waiting. In Almelo there is fierce fighting. The guns are clearly audible here. It is said that Hengelo is not yet free.

Last night the Radboudschool and Heinink and Alstede (in Oldenzaal) set on fire.

The bridges over the canal are too narrow. A tank has turned over, a chain has been tied around the bridge (between Tilligte and Denekamp) and the tank is pulled off the bridge. Within 45 minutes a new bridge was built and now the tanks are rolling continuously over the bridge.

Several people have been to Deurningen. It must be great. The army is beautifully organised. It goes very orderly and without that shouting and roaring that we are used to from the Germans. The local boys climb onto the tanks, open the hatches and give the Tommy’s orange banners and they get cigarettes and chocolate. They’re all incredibly excited. Amazingly some fleeing Germans are still passing by.

April 3: Tonight a whole row of German wagons with horses passes by here. They didn’t know where they were going to go. It’s now eight o’clock and Lattrop has now officially fallen. Still no Tommy’s here. I hope they come today.

April 4: Ootmarsum liberated by Canadians and Tommy’s.

(Anny has experienced the event up close. She probably went to the liberators with her diary trapped under her arm and collected many signatures).

At about one o’clock the first English tanks rolled into Ootmarsum. Under loud cheers from the population. It was a moment to never, ever forget. We were waiting all morning. Because at eight o’clock it was known that there were three English tanks at canal lock 5. At 9 o’clock three were spotted in Tilligte near Enkman the question was will they this time come, or as happened yesterday when they turned around again. The Resistance was already busy. Group Vasse marched through the city in blue uniform, white SG band around the arm, armed with an English sten or another firearm. A flag even came out of the roof tiles. Everything in turmoil. The tension was terrible. The hunt on NSB persons was started by the NBS. But most NSB members had already fled. Kip was one of them, he had already left on Easter Monday.

At 11 o’clock the English tanks arrived, Udes in front of the tank, they came rolling in from Tilligte. The monastery bell and the steam whistle of the milk factory announced the moment of our liberation. Flags were fiercely waving from the houses and in an instant the Market Square was packed with smiling and cheering people. The tanks were overrun by people and for the first time after 5 years the Wilhelmus was enthusiastically sung. Everything was transformed into orange, red, white, blue in a moment. The English were welcomed with cakes and Dutch gin. The tanks were decorated with daffodils. Everyone was beside themselves of joy. Soon the first American cigarettes were smoked. In procession, our liberators were led through the city.

Lunch at Budde in the afternoon, no time to go home. At the town hall orange bitters (liquor) were served and cigars were smoked. Queen Wilhelmina and the portraits of Juliana and Bernhard were adorned with orange in front of the windows of the town hall. (ed. The Buddes lived right in the middle of town where all the action took place, Anny’s house was just over a kilometer from there)

At half past two, parade, preceded by an orange flag and serenades were given in front of the houses of NSB members ….  “We live freely, we live happily” was sung a hundred times.

(Also later, out of revenge, a NSB member was treated mockingly by a group of residents).

We had Canadians and Englishmen staying at our house. They were welcome everywhere. In the evening we danced at Hotel Rolink.

April 5: This morning was the first surprise. NSB member Jonkheer (Lord) von Bönninghausen, ex-mayor of Hilversum caught by the Resistance of Ootmarsum and welcomed to cheers by the Ootmarsum citizens. He refused to sing the Wilhelmus. (This Von Bönninghausen was family of the former mayor of Ootmarsum mentioned before. The latter, when he had been dishonorably removed from office in Ootmarsum, had become mayor of Tubbergen and then Commissioner of the Province of Overijssel. He then enlisted himself in the German army, fought on the Eastern Front and was killed in Russia).

Later in the day, hundreds of tanks came through the Molenstraat (on the way to Germany) and there are also more Canadians in town. A pity that the weather is so bad. Today we had about 20 Canadians at home to fresh up and they eat eggs, which they love. Eggs, cigarettes, soap, coffee, tea and the like are exchanged. They are generous with cigarettes. Got a nice package of Winchester from Roy Smith. He is a cook at the troops that is billeted in Hotel Tubantia. At (hotel) Kip they took the preserved food and everything else that was there to eat and finished that of. Here there are 16 Canadians billeted. Too bad there is no power: no radio.

April 6: Today again a lot of material came through town. You are amazed how beautifully organised this army is. The tanks now approach Bremen. Some NSB members caught on Springendal (ed. forest just outside Ootmarsum). They are treated far too softly. At the police barracks – where the headquarters of the Dutch NBS is – they are put into custody.

The Canadians who are billeted at Kip eat everything there. Children walk in and out and get chocolate. Tonight Roy Smith visited us again. Brought four packets of Winchester.

April 8: Trucks and tanks still pass through Ootmarsum. Everything else is quiet. At a quarter to twelve, for the first time since our liberation, at Hulsink, we again received news reports be it via a loudspeaker, so that everyone could hear it. No power, but on battery. (Anny reports on further fighting in Twente, such as in Almelo and Bornerbroek).

The Resistance is still active. Too bad they don’t have all the Kip family yet. All NSB women have a guard at the door.

In Oldenzaal, a car of the Dutch NBS has collided with a car of the Canadians. Canadian dead. Mr Piest was seriously injured.

April 9: Tonight we had a visit from two captains, 1 sergeant, 1 bottle of champagne and 1 bottle of gin; it was all right.

Today several NSB members brought to the barracks. Evers (nickname Pope) was caught in the house of Heupink on the Westwal.

April 12: The monastery, seminary and hotel Kip transformed into a General Canadian Hospital. Many of the injured have already been brought in here.

April 13: 75 good girls have been asked for a dancing recruitment at Beukers (hotel de la Poste). Really American. Cigarettes, lemonade and other goodies are provided. (ed. working at the council Anny was asked to organise this)

Difficulties with attracting girls to assist with work for the troops no longer occurs. They report in droves. 17 boys are asked, 130 showed up. (ed. earlier in her diary she reported how difficult it was to get girls to work for the German military).

The Boys’ School has become the quarantine station. Several guys have already arrived here. The English provide sugar, biscuits, pudding and much more for the boys who are often weak and sick. (ed. These were young Dutchmen who had been taken to Germany (ed. Arbeitsfront as discussed before – during the war they had to work as forced labour in the (war) industry. Often weakened they came back to the Netherlands and were first taken care of in the east of our country to strengthen).

Last night a scare. A German flare fell behind the house near Essink. Incredibly bright. In Oldenzaal and Enschede a few Nazi bombs have been dropped. Disgusting!

I forgot to mention that Mr. Johannes Andreas Rorink, ex-constable, was placed under house arrest. Since Wednesday, Udes has been the new police chief. (ed. Rorink was mentioned earlier he did find a compromising note from Anny re her resistance work).

April 14: The dancing set up by the Canadians threatens to become a disgrace. By 6 a.m., only 10 girls had reported. No one was going there. The mayor, who regretted that our liberators would be so disappointed, made every effort to make the evening a success. Despite everything, it’s been fun. There was beautiful music and fine coffee with cookies was presented.

‘Dangerous’ soldiers

Parents were worried about their daughters. Soldiers are soldiers, it was thought. There are a lot of Canadian and English babies made in the liberation rush. See also Anny’s note of April 22. 

 April 15: Had a meeting this at the quarantine station. The first aid is called in to help in the kitchen and with the nursing. Anny Steinmeijer and Anny Lohuis are permanently employed. It will probably be a triage station for Twente here in Ootmarsum. The villa of the PTT (ed. Situated on the Kuiperberg owned by the post authorities) will also be added. (ed. It was built as a holiday resort for Post Telegraph and Telephone (PTT) employees and since 1999 Hotel Wyllandrie – the villa was in the 1930 build by my grandfather Jan Velthuis).

Been to the hospital this morning. There are many wounded here. They are operated on or will undergo amputations. The non-seriously injured are transported further. About 35 male persons are employed to help. The Red Cross Trucks drives through the city all day long.

Football match Ootmarsum-Canada. A nice match. KOSC lost 3 – 4.

16 and 17 April: Report on news from the front.

April 18: Today we spent the whole day on the Kuiperberg. With the first aid team the whole villa cleaned. A pleasure to work with these people. The Germans had left the building in a good condition.

This afternoon a member of the NBS section SG was buried with military honors at 2 p.m. He had arrived here injured at the 6th Canadian General Hospital and died yesterday. It was very impressive. In front two drums shrouded in black, 4 members of the SG and Paddenberg and the pallbearers of the NBS. Behind it the Mayor, Canadian chaplain Padre File, the vicar and the riffle party for the salute.

April 19: The Allies are still 30 km from Amsterdam. The Germans breached the dikes of the Wieringermeerpolder. In the west (of the Netherlands), the situation is hopeless. No food. Everything that is left, the Germans eat.

Leipzig occupied. Suburb of Hamburg reached.

April 20: Adolf Hitler celebrates his last birthday.

Several camps released: Buchenwald, Belsen, Neuengamme. The situation there was terrible. The NBS today very active. Comrade B.W. brought here by the SG, Van Slagharen. Like other NSB members, he had to nicely walk in line as he was marched to his work. He looks awful.

April 22: Today’s general day of prayer for the west. On the radio a beautiful Mass broadcast with preaching that mainly applied to the women and girls who gave themselves away to the military. This afternoon football match Canada – Weerselo: 3-3.

April 23: Last night we had a top party from the first aid team on the Kuiperberg. A nice evening. The mayor, his wife, an English officer, a nurse from the hospital and Chaplain Hakewessel were also invited.

The Russians are fighting in the center of Berlin. The British troops storm Bremen and Hamburg. The battle in the Netherlands is not going so well.

April 28: The messages from the fronts are amazingly good. Himmler offered general surrender to England and America, but not to Russia. The proposal was rejected. Mussolini executed.

April 29: The west of the Netherlands receive aid. Planes bring food and drop it off. Even the Germans helped with the distribution.

April 30: Today H. K. H. Princess Juliana’s birthday; 36 years. It is the first national holiday that we celebrate as liberated Dutchmen. All flags are out, but at the express request of the prince, no celebrations, because about 4.5 million Dutch people are still exposed to starvation.

Two locals detained at the barracks. They are suspected to be secret NSB members.

May 1945

May 2: Hitler is dead!! Officially announced this morning.

May 3: Berlin is surrendered to the Russians. Italy has capitulated.

In Holland, 200 English trucks have been made available to distribute food.

May 4: All of Holland liberated!!!

We were just in the dancing room when the officer told us, “The war is over.” The mood was lifted. Everyone was happy that the west had now been liberated as well. Salute volleys were unloaded on the street by the NBS and several jugs of “old gin” surfaced.

May 5: At 8 a.m. this morning, the capitulation took effect. Holland is alive again after 5 years of war. The Wilhelmus now sounded through the radio for the whole of the Netherlands. At the barracks people were on a high. All NSB members had to appear and while the Wilhelmus sounded through the street, they had to stand with their caps in hand and their heads bowed. Three salute volleys were given.

The Queen and Princess Juliana, who had arrived in the south of the Netherlands on 2 May, also heard the news over the radio and were soon after cheered on by a 1000-strong crowd.

Liberation of the Netherlands 5-5-1945

This ends the diary of Anny. A bit abrupt perhaps, in the middle of the liberation parties, too busy partying maybe. Without an afterword or an afterthought. But in fact in the same way as it started: in the middle of the war, without introduction. She started her diary at the time she thought it was important to do so and with the war over she did what she felt she had to do; job done. This makes her diary special; it makes you a direct observer of events as they happen.

Her diary never left her side, it was always on the table next to her until she peacefully died on the 27 of February 2018 at the ripe old age of 94. Her diary is now at the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation.

Soon after the war my mum and dad started to date. They married in Ootmarsum on the 3rd of May 1949 and soon after that moved to Vught where my dad was appointed at the local council.

Next:  Herman’s Police Statement – June 1945