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Just after the war in 1947, the Dutch government decided that all Dutch victims fallen abroad should be repatriated and reburied in the Netherlands. Many of these victims lay buried in “enemy” soil, deprived of a proper burial or even a proper grave. In order to give them a final resting place and the honour they deserved, construction of Ereveld Loenen was initiated by the Oorlogsgravenstichting (a Dutch version of CWGC) in 1948. The war cemetery was officially opened on the 18th of October 1949 by Queen Princess Wilhelmina.
Since the 80’s, next to victims of the Second World War, the cemetery is also the final resting place for Dutch soldiers who fell during (UN) peace operations. Nowadays almost 4000 people have been buried on Ereveld Loenen. Reburials are also very common here, as remains of war victims and soldiers continue to be found throughout the world.
Visit Ereveld Loenen War Cemetery
The thing that strikes you straight away is the fact that the lay-out of the cemetery is nothing like you would expect of a military cemetery. That is because it isn’t, even though a lot of the victims are soldiers. No endless straight rows with stately crosses here, but graves marked with flat lying headstones that, although well maintained, seem to fade into the 17 acres of forest floor. The meaning is to give all who fell for the Kingdom of the Netherlands an honourable final resting place.
The headstones show the large diversity in victims of the second world war, coming from all corners of the world and all layers of society. Among them are soldiers, civillians, members of the resistance, political prisoners, Engelandvaarders and forced labourers of Germany’s Arbeidseinsatz. Some of these victims are nationally or internationally known for their actions. Some remain unknown.
The Memorial Chapel
Although it was originally ment to keep church ceremonies for reburials, the chapel nowadays has a memorial function. Small monuments and plaques have been placed around and inside the wooden building. Most of all the chapel is a memorial for the victims that cannot be reburied or who’s remains were never found, like those who lost their lives at sea, victims of Japanese and German concentration camps, and many Jews.
130.000 victims without a known grave
A 130.000 names of these victims have been registered in a total of 42 books, which are displayed in an octagon shrine in the apse of the chapel. One book of the 42 is placed opened at the front of the shrine facing the isle showing their names. To commemorate all of them, every day a page is turned.
Engelandvaarders – join the fight for freedom
The Dutch term “Engelandvaarders” is used for all fellow nationals who tried to join the Allied forces by escaping to England between 1940, after the official Dutch capitulation and before the D-day invasion of June 6th 1944. The term itself was born after the succesful escape attempt of three fellow countrymen by boat across the North Sea, joining the Dutch government in exile and willing to join the Allied fight for freedom. Many more followed, by crossing the North Sea, travelling south to Spain and Portugal or north to Sweden. Either way, the dangers were considerable and there are many reports of both succesfull and unsuccesfull attempts, some organised as individual actions, some by the international resistance network. Many died along the way or in one of the German deathcamps as a result of being caught, some betrayed and arrested even before they had the chance to start their dangerous journey. An estimated 1700 Dutch men and women eventually made it to freedom.
All of the Engelandvaarders who lost their lives have been inscribed in the wooden panels placed against the back wall of the apse in the memorial chapel. The victims have been divided into two sections: Those who died after joining the Allied fight to free Europe and those who died on the road to freedom. The panels originate from “Oranje Haven”, which is the place in London where the Engelandvaarders were stationed during the war. At the end of the war it was given to the wargravescommision during the opening by Princess Wilhelmina. Two extra panels have been added since the opening in 1949 and contain 316 names.
For those who died at sea
During the Second World War the Japanese used forced laborers to construct the PakanBaru – Muara railroad track straight through the jungles and swamps of Sumatra, Indonesia (then the Dutch East Indies). On 18 September 1944 the prisoner transport ship “Junyo Maru”, with an estimated 2300 Dutch, British, American, Australian POW’s and 4200 mostly Javanese (romushas) slave laborers on board, was torpedoed off the west coast of Sumatra by the British submarine HMS Tradewind. About 5620 people drowned as a result, almost 4 times more than the disaster with the Titanic.
The plaquette shown here is not only in remembrance of these casualties, but for all who died at in the Oceans of the Far East during WW2.
Victims of the extermination and forced labour camps
Before entering the aspe, the two niches in the walls on both sides have stone white urns placed in them. The right urn (first photo) is a memorial for the Jewish victims of the extermination camps and holds soil from the Majdanek, Sobibor and Treblinka camps. The left urn holds the ashes of unknown victims from the concentration camp Buchenwald (2nd photo). Someone placed a stone next to the urn with a text claiming it is of barrack nr. eight.
Ereveld Loenen War Cemetery is open from 09:00 tot 17:00 daily.