Mike Strachan’s e-mail journal — Entry #38, from Germany
Received 30 May 2008
Travels for May 29/08 — To Groningen, Netherlands & Esterwegen, Germany
After a nice B&B breakfast I head for the train station to get a schedule for my trip on Saturday to Haarlem. The agent provides me with two options:
1) One leaving at 10:56 AM that takes 5h27m with three stopovers, or
I choose option one — keep it simple.
Then I'm off to Groningen in Holland, as it‘s on the military trail — the QOR left here in late April/45 to head into Germany. Finding the VVV is no easy matter due to road construction, but I finally get there via the train station — a lovely old brick pile.
At the VVV I find out that there are two WW2 memorials nearby. The first is on the other side of the church next door. It's a statue of Saint George having slain the dragon, and simply enscribed 1940-45. The other one is not far away on the road I'm taking out of town. It's called Six Hands, and it's a sculpture of six hands raised in the air, to commemorate the deaths of Jewish people from Groningen in 1940-45:
The next stop is Westerbork, south and east of Assen, and it takes a while to get there due to road construction. My reason for going there is to see the WW2 concentration camp that was liberated by the South Saskatchewan and North Nova Scotia Highlanders regiments on April 12/45. There was a VVV here in the town but it shut down.
I eat lunch in a café and the waiter gives me directions to the camp. It's 16km out of town, half way back to Assen. The camp itself is not accessible by car due to possible interference with the radio telescope nearby, and tours on foot are only in the mornings. There is an interpretation centre there (pictured at the right) with good educational material about the purpose of the camp as a transit centre. Over 100,000 people, mostly Jews, were sent to other camps, and only 5,000 returned alive. Anne Frank went through this camp.
On April 26/27/45 the 1H moved towards Godensholt in Germany via Deventer and Almelo in Holland and Meppen, Haren, and Sögel in Germany. So my next stop is Meppen in Germany, and as I approach Emmen in Holland I see the signs to Meppen.
When I get there it's a sleepy little village where most of the old style houses have thatched roofs — a good photo opportunity. Since I can't find signs directing me to my next destination, I drop into a shop to ask. It turns out that I'm in Meppen, Holland, and I've gone about 25 kms in the wrong direction, Yes Virginia, real men ask for directions, but always too late. The shopkeeper sells candy, so to console myself I buy a bag of gumdrops.
Next it's off to the real Meppen in Germany, but it's hard to get onto the N37 highway. I can see it running parallel to the road I'm on, but more construction has blocked access to it. Backtracking, I go about 10 km to find an access point.
Once I get to Meppen I don't go into town, just the outskirts, since it's already 5:30 PM. Then I head north to the other three towns and just visit them briefly. There is virtually nothing in the way of war memorials in the German towns I have visited. In Sögel there is a chateau, Schloss Clemenswerth, which has been converted to a children’s school. Before I head back to Papenburg, I stop at Esterwegen, just south of the Kusten canal. This is where the 1H harboured on May 8/45 — VE Day.
It's already 8 PM when I park the car to go for dinner — 10 hours on the road. Then I have just enough time to do a few e-mails before I head for the B&B, before it gets dark.
Tomorrow — the end of the military trail.