Us would not be defended as an ‘open city’ if war broke out | Oss eo

Silent witnessesFAQ – In the month of May, the extremes are close to each other. Where there were originally five years between occupation and liberation, the memorial times for World War II differ by only five days. We celebrate the liberation on May 5th, and we must dwell on the German invasion on May 10th. There was fear in Us in 1940, but there was no struggle.

From the announcement of mobilization on September 1, 1939, there is an unreal mood in Us. The Queen’s festivities on 31 August have been canceled, hundreds of soldiers have been housed in school buildings and in private homes, a lot of food is already on the receipt.

Plane crashes

Air battles between British and German aircraft take place in April 1940 at the Dutch eastern border. A Dutch coaster hits a sea mine near Vlissingen. Planes crash regularly during exercises by the Dutch Air Force. The newspapers are full of war news. On April 9, the Germans invade Denmark and Norway, and at the end of April, Prime Minister De Geer declares martial law for the whole of the Netherlands. The war is approaching, but the Netherlands wants to remain neutral.

We would not be defended

What did we have to expect if the Netherlands were attacked anyway? Us was an ‘open city’ and would not be defended in the event of a raid, it was determined. Since the second Dutch territory was to be defended on May 10, it therefore made no sense to keep all the accommodated soldiers in Us. So they were sent to the front (Grebbenberg). Even the Ossenaren from Luchtwacht, who was once promised never to perform outside Oss, was directed to Tilburg by bicycle.

Read more below the picture: Germans reached Us

Front page of De Stad Oss of 10 May 1940 with the news of the German invasion © John van Zuijlen

awakened at dawn

On Friday, May 10, many residents were awakened at dawn by planes flying overhead and the chatter of machine guns. Many stood to watch the performance on the street or from flat roofs. “We already felt the beginning of the disaster that had befallen our country,” wrote the newspaper, which was allowed to appear again for the first time on 7 June. The Germans reached Us on Saturday morning, May 11, between 7 and 8. In the afternoon, they arrived by light armored vehicles at Heesch and Nistelrode, the next day at Berghem.

We were allowed to become ‘state end vests’

How different was Oss’ position when it was granted city rights in 1399. Even then, Oss was in a war zone: on the border between the Duchy of Brabant and the hostile Duchy of Gelre. By granting a number of privileges, Us was able to fill a defensive military role. We were allowed to become ‘state end vests’. The fortifications, which the militia had already built in 1359 at some distance from the city, were allowed to be extended by erecting earthen city walls. But no soldiers were posted to Us. If necessary, they would come from Den Bosch. We were initially on our own for the defense. It has always been like that.

Read more below the picture: The extremes in May

Classroom in the newly built Gabriel School on Slachthuislaan, which was immediately requisitioned after mobilization for the accommodation of soldiers
Classroom in the newly built Gabriel School on Slachthuislaan, which was immediately requisitioned after mobilization for the accommodation of soldiers © Stadsarkivet Oss

As violent as World War II began before Us, it ended in fierce fighting in September 1944. Us could celebrate freedom on May 5, but should also remember the 263 Jewish citizens who never returned because they had been murdered in camps. The extremes of May.

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