Local Heart, Global Soul

December 28, 2017

History Records Little Of The Wire Of Death…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

When Himself and I were driving around the small roads of the district that surround Baarle-Nassau / Baarle-Hertog we drove past an information board.

Stopping to take a closer look we found lots of information in Dutch which translated into English read:

Doodendraadroute “Route of the Wire of Death”.
“Tension at the national border”:”Because Germany failed to control the large flow of influx of refugees, spies, soldiers, deserters and smugglers entering the Netherlands in mid-1915, they started to erect an electric fence along the entire Belgian – Dutch border: “Doodendraad” (Wire of Death).

The fence ran from the gate at the Meersweg in Minderhout (see photographs 1a and 1b) to the meadows along the River Mark.

The river was followed in a straight line to the bridge of Castelre about 200 yards from here.

There was also tension at the peace conference at Versailles (1919) where Belgium asked for border correction.

For it’s defence it had to rely on the Maas and Scheldlines (natural boundaries) Zeeuws-vlaanderen and the Dutch province of Limberg were claimed.

They also asked for a border correction in Baarle (see map) . Baarle-Nassau was already coloured (in their application) as Belgian soil. The trust between Belgium and the Netherlands was completely gone.

Belgium was furious about the retreat of 12 November 1918 of 70 000 German soldiers over Dutch soil with the spoils of war. The Allies were not informed beforehand.

In Baarle-Nassau190 German soldiers crossed the border. They were disarmed and returned home by train via Eindehoven and Kaldenkirchen.”

Here Lies Jeanne Philipsen / Born: Hoogstraten 23 August 1892 / Died: Minderhout 27 December 1914 / Victim of War

On the 27th December 1914 the congregation of Castelre were permitted to return home at 11:00 p.m. after the service. Afterwards the road between Minderhout and Castelre was closed by German soldiers.

In the late afternoon Jeanne Philipsen was shot here when she with her mother and brother still attempted to cross the border. Jeanne lies buried to the south of St Katharina Church in Hoogstraten.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Scan the QR code and listen to the story of Joke (Kiwi’s Note: this name is pronounced: “yoke-ah”) and Toke Verheijen. Joke lived with her parents in the second house along this side street.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Toke (in photograph) worked as a maid in Minderhout. The Wire of Death wire separated the two Dutch sisters, but they still kept in touch. On 9th October events went tragically wrong when both sisters were electrocuted.

“Wire separation WW1”. On 10 November 1918 the Netherlands granted political asylum to Wilhelm II, the German emperor.
The Dutch tradition to grant asylum to anyone who was persecuted was not set aside to allow the war’s victors to take revenge. The allies found this standpoint hard to understand.”

This is a part of the First World War that I knew nothing about. Before our visit to Brabant my Dutch husband hadn’t either. I find it amazing that books, films, and documentaries cover some areas and events of both WWI and WWII almost ad infinitum and yet other events, like this Wire of Death, so very little is recorded that it’s a complete shock to discover that something so inhumane existed.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Sign 9 after 1.9 km:   – follow junction 52

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

2 Comments »

  1. The atrocities imposed upon these people remains astounding to this very day. The fact that they are little known renders it all the more horrific. So many innocent lives lost, by simply being in the area. Your present day photos make it difficult to believe it was the site of such sorrow. Man’s inhumanity to man, past and present, never ceases to amaze me. Thank-you for this valuable piece of history, may it never be permitted to happen again.

    Comment by Ellen — December 28, 2017 @ 5:33 pm | Reply

    • Ellen,
      I can not agree more. Even Himself was shocked this this part of history has not been taught in Dutch schools. There was outrage in neutral Netherlands at the time but they were powerless to stop it being put up. Ironically barriers are still being put up in Eastern Europe to stop large flows of refugees, but thankfully they are not electrified. Ironically the Keizer, having lost the war he started, was later accepted as a “refugee” (political asylum) into neutral Netherlands, despite having previously built this deadly wire to keep others form doing the same.

      Comment by kiwidutch — December 28, 2017 @ 7:21 pm | Reply


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