Painful Reminders of World War II in Europe.

We must always remember so we don’t allow it to happen again.

Painful Reminders of World War II in Europe.
Ceremony in Veghel, Netherlands, commemorating the 75th anniversary of Operation Market Garden (all photos by author)

Europe is near and dear to our hearts. My mother-in-law is from The Netherlands so my husband has a rich, Dutch heritage and we love to visit and experience it as much as we can.

We have traveled to Europe several times and we try to visit new places and see new things each time we go but The Netherlands is always a must when we go. We have family in the Limburg region so love to visit there and spend time with them. We’ve even been venturing out on little trips together with them and that’s been fun!

On one of our first visits, we visited Maastricht to see the location where my husband’s family had a butcher shop with living quarters above it. It was here that we discovered these little metal plates on the sidewalks that had names and dates on them. We had to ask what they were and we learned that they were the names of Jewish people who were taken from their home or from where they worked and shipped off to concentration camps. It was a sobering moment to learn that and realize how many of these we were seeing all over the towns and cities we’d been visiting.

Names of people taken from Maastricht
Names of people taken from Maastricht.

I recently read this story by Marie Kester about a city in Austria and in it she mentions these plates which reminded me of our experience seeing these for the first time. Side note — interestingly enough, she wrote about the city of Graz and it sounded familiar to me so I looked it up and realized I have it on our list of cities we want to visit! I’m hoping we get to go there on our next trip to Europe. My husband has an aunt who is from a small town not far from there and we have been wanting to visit the area and see where she grew up. :)

Anyway, one of the things that’s been super important to us as we’ve visited different places is to see the places that my mother-in-law and her family lived when she was young. Her dad was in the military and worked in the Dutch underground so they had to move around to different cities and live in different places.

Being able to go there and find the places where she lived — including places where they had to live in fear and hide from the Nazis in order to keep safe — it’s just an amazing experience. There were times my husband was overcome with emotion just thinking about what his family went through while they were there. We had heard some horror stories from his grandmother and from some of his aunts and uncles about things that happened to them during the war.

We’ve said before that it’s amazing that the whole family survived and nobody was lost in the war. My mother-in-law is one of 16 kids in her family and all but two were born in The Netherlands before or during the war. One died shortly after birth due to illness but not a single person came to harm because of the war. Truly a miracle — especially in a family that large.

If you have the chance to visit Europe and see some of the things that are vivid reminders of WWII, I would encourage you to do so. I sure makes me appreciate the freedoms we enjoy and the life we are able to lead now. That’s for sure! But in addition to that, it’s just an amazingly beautiful place that can’t even be accurately described. Experiencing it is something I would wish for everyone! It’s that incredible.

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