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17 September 1944, Oosterbeek, near Arnhem. Hotel Hartenstein was the residence of the staff members of Heeresgruppe (Army Group) West, while Field Marshal Walter Model had taken hotel Tafelberg as his residence.
There had been reports coming in of Allied bombardments on the cities of Ede, Arnhem, multiple airfields, and anti aircraft positions, but nothing disturbing though (more than 1100 planes in two days). At least not disturbing enough to stop Field Marshal Walter Model and General Krebbs to have lunch together at Hotel Hartenstein in Oosterbeek just West of Arnhem.
Only when personal staff member Gustav Sedelhauser reported that gliders had landed at Wolfheze, just 4 to 5 kilometers away from the staff quarters of Heeresgruppe West, Walter Model assumed they came for him, and rushed off with General Krebbs. The staff cleared the hotel of maps, documents and other information while the British paratroopers closed in, just 3 kilometers from the Hotel.
Hotel Hartenstein had been transformed into a hotel only recently, in 1942. Before this it was a Mansion and even further back in history it started out as an inn with the name “The Red Deer”
Operation Market Garden
With operation Market Garden the Allies tried to jump deep into the German lines to get a foothold into Holland and bypass the Siegfried line in the hope to stop the war before Christmas. They mustered the biggest air armada ever seen, with 1051 troop carriers and 516 glider – tug combinations, they had a total of 2083 aircraft flying towards the Netherlands. The fleet consisted of two columns of aircraft, covering a 150 kilometers in depth and 5 kilometers in width in the skies over the channel.
The armada dropped their load on strategic targets to capture vital bridges and key locations for the cavalry and infantry planned to storm up from the Northern border of Belgium. Paratrooper units and gliders landed at Grave, Son, Veghel, Nijmegen, Eindhoven, and Arnhem for example. The cavalry, the British 30th Army Core tried to rush towards the key objectives and relieve the paratroopers, with 50.000 men and 22.000 vehicles.
The 1st British Airborne Division and the 1st Polish Parachute Brigade landed near Arnhem and had to secure the bridge and the road to Arnhem. The Division landed with more than 12.000 men near Arnhem and tried to get to the bridge. Commander John Frost and his men were able to reach and secure the bridge with just 700 man. Unfortunately Major General Urquhart and his men were unable to reach them due to strong German opposition. After 7 days John Frost and the surviving men had to give in.
As operation Market Garden progressed the British Paratroopers near Arnhem needed a headquarters and a place to house and care for their wounded. For this location they chose Hotel Hartenstein, the same place Field Marshal Walter Model tried to have lunch some time before. The staff was housed on the upper floors and the wounded were tended in the basement.
Unfortunately the operation was not successful and the war took another turn.
Airborne Museum Hartenstein
Today the former hotel is turned into a museum dedicated the brave men who fought at Arnhem and the Oosterbeek surroundings during Market Garden. It is a good museum, with 3 floors of information and lots of items and photos of this time. In the basement they have created the “Market Garden” experience, a cinematic display of Arnhem and Oosterbeek during war activities, with light and sound to make it even more vivid.
And of course there is a famous picture of Major General Roy Urquhart standing in front of the hotel during Operation Market Garden. Major General Urquhart also officially opened Aitborne Museum Hartenstein on 11th May 1978.
Visit the Airborne Museum
Take an hour or two to walk through the museum, it’s quite impressive. Across the street from the museum there is a huge memorial square.
Close to the museum is a Commonwealth Cemetery with fallen soldiers from the operation.
You can find the Airborne Museum Hartenstein, in Oosterbeek.
Airborne Museum Hartenstein
More information about opening hours can be found on the museum website.