Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Town Hall of Heusden

In October 1944, towards the end of World War II, the surrounding area of Heusden saw cities such as Tilburg and Den Bosch liberated by the Allied Forces. Heusden, strategically located on the river Maas, was still occupied by the Germans. The old town hall was used by the Wehrmacht as their communication centre and hospital.

The cellars of the old town hall, which dated back to 1588 were used as a shelter for civilians during artillery fire. The Canadian Army was advancing from Belgium and the British Army from the east to liberate the central and western parts of Noord-Brabant. On Saturday, 4th of November, two Scottish Highlander regiments advance towards Heusden. During this heavy artillery fire, 170 civilians sought shelter in the cellars of the town hall.

Early the following morning, three German army engineers detonated the explosive charges they had placed earlier. The forty metre tower collapsed, killing the 134 civilians in its cellars, with 74 being children aged sixteen and younger. 

A few hours later the 5th battalion of the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders from the 51st Highland Division liberated Heusden.

A new town hall was built in 1956 with much less splendour than its late-gothic predecessor and a memorial plaque has been placed next to it. The massacre is commemorated there every year.

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