The military cemetery (Kriegsgräberstätte) can be found in Ysselsteyn, Netherlands, in the Province of Limburg close to the German border. The cemetery is the only German military cemetery in the whole Netherlands. 85 killed soldiers from the First World War (photo 5) and almost 32.000 from the Second World War are buried here on a territory of 28 hectares.
For each killed soldier one cross has been placed. The data (name, grave location, dates of birth and death, rank - if known) have been written on the crosses with white color. Rewriting the data belongs - among other things - to the work which is regularly done by the young people staying in the Center. There are approximately 5,000 unknown soldiers buried on this cemetery. These are buried in graves with crosses on which it reads "Ein Deutscher Soldat".
In the information building at the entrance area of the graveyard you will find a lot of interesting information. A visit to the information building is worthwhile - especially following a guidance over the cemetery. There you will find additional information over the cemetery and an alphabetically structured register with all known names of the soldiers buried on the cemetery. That way it is possible to locate a specific grave. Wreathes can be purchased there as well.
Close to the central memorial place there is a memorial stone for Captain Timmermans.
Captain Timmermans had fought against the German occupants during World War II. After the German occupation in 1940 he entered a Dutch resistance group. In 1945 he was part of a mine search service. He stepped, however, on a wood mine. As parts of the mine exploded in his face he was temporarily blind. Thus, he was taken to a Canadian military hospital in which also other Dutchmen, Belgians, Canadians, Americans and even Germans were treated and cared for. Next to him, a slightly wounded young German soldier from Lake Constance was treated. When this young soldier recovered he stayed in order to care for Captain Timmermans. A dialogue between both of them unavoidably took place. Step by step both of them realized that the prejudices they had against each other were flawed. Captain Timmermans realized that often - especially young German soldiers - were forced to go to war rather than volunteering for military service. Despite some investigations it was impossible to trace back the whereabouts of the young German soldier after the war had ended.
In 1948 - three years after the war - Captain Timmermans got the opportunity to temporarily take on an administrative position in Ysselsteyn. In the end, he has remained in Ysselsteyn for 28 years... As administrator of the cemetery he placed war graves, cared for them, identified killed soldiers, guided visiting groups and informed relatives. He was also one of the founding members of the youth work. In cooperation with a Bavarian priest and the priest of Ysselsteyn he organized the first youth meetings close to the cemetery - at that time in the form of camps.
Through his engaged commitment to the Dutch German reconciliation after the Second World War he was an important unifying figure.
Before he died in 1995 he had a last wish: He wanted his ashes to be spread over the cemetery. He wanted to be with "his boys". This was done in 1995 according to his wish.
On May, 8 1995 a so-called Gingko tree was planted at the entrance area of the graveyard on the occasion of the 50th remembrance of the end of World War II. This was a signal against war and violence.
This kind of tree was the first that begun to blossom again after the dropping of the atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. That way it became a symbol of hope - hope for peace in a better world.
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- Text: JOC Ysselsteyn
- Photos: Arjan Vrieze (1), Jeroen Koppes (2,3,4) & Anneke Moerenhout (5)
- LEEUWEN, M. VAN & STAARMAN, A., Tastbare Herinneringen 1914-1918, Western Front Association Nederland, 2008.