During World War II, several cities and towns in the Netherlands played a crucial role in history. Venlo, a city in the south-east of the Netherlands, was no exception. In fact, there are several important sites in this city that played a major role during WWII. From a bridge that was crucial for the German advance west to a monument commemorating the victims of the war. We dive into the most fascinating stories of Venlo during this dark period in history during this diversions, which is part of the Hiking Trail Liberation Route Europe.
- Fliegerhorst Venlo: A former shooting and training area of the Dutch army, which was expanded into an air base by the Germans in the years 1940-1941. The complex included two runways of 1,450 metres and one of 1,200 metres, equipped with modern safety installations, radio equipment and night lighting with 2,000 lights. After the air base was captured by the Allies, it was renamed: Yankee 55: A former airfield taken over by the Allies after the liberation of Venlo in March 1945. The airfield was renamed Yankee 55, but had to be completely rebuilt because German Sprengkommandos had blown up almost all the buildings and hangars and damaged the runways. Life was primitive with trenches dug at the edge of the tent area as toilets. Meanwhile, the pilots made themselves as comfortable as possible by cruising around on captured motorbikes, looting and trading goods from abandoned houses in the area, and taking it up with home-brewed booze.
- Maasbrug: A bridge over the Meuse River between Venlo and Blerick, of strategic importance during World War II. The bridge was bombed repeatedly between 13 October and 19 November 1944, causing great suffering to the population. The last and heaviest bombardment hit Venlo on Sunday 19 November 1944 and the bridge was completely destroyed. In 1957, the bridge was rebuilt.
- Synagogue of Venlo: Opened in 1865 and used as a synagogue until 1965, located on the Maasschriksel. During the war, the building was badly damaged by violence in the autumn of 1944.
- Liberation Monument: A bronze sculpture of a standing female figure raising a child above her head, placed on a pedestal constructed from massive pieces of basaltic lava. The pedestal symbolises the ruins of the destroyed city of Venlo. From these ruins rises a woman raising her child to heaven as a symbol of new, young life.
- The Guardians: Statues in Venlo that warn against aggression, violence and war and serve as symbolic guardians of the city of Venlo.
During World War II, Venlo played an important role in the fighting between the Allies and the Germans. The Fliegerhorst Venlo was used by the German Luftwaffe as an important foothold in the air war, and the Maasbrug was of strategic importance for both sides.