My name is Rob Hopmans , born in 1946 in Eindhoven, the Netherlands and I have four older brothers and one older sister
On 17th of September 1944 our parents lived at the Biesterweg 65 in Eindhoven, Holland, a street about 150 feet parallel to the march way of British General Brian Horrocks’s XXX Corps , the Aalsterweg or Hells Highway, at the beginning of Operation Market Garden.
The Airbornes of the 506th Easy Company of the 101 Airborne Division had liberated my birthtown Eindhoven already. Then the occupying Nazi pilots previously stationed at the military airport Fliegerhorst in Eindhoven had been withdrawn to Osnabrück in Germany, but because of their knowledge of the surroundings were sent back to the area on the of 19 September 1944, to bomb Eindhoven. On that evening, at ten after seven, they dropped flares and 76 aircraft’s, Junkers-88 en Dorniers-217 of the Kampgeschwader 2, 30 en 66 and Lehrgeschwader 1, part of the IX Fliegerkorps under command of Oberstleutnant Rudolf Hallensleben , attacked unnoticed Eindhoven. Rudolf Hallensleben, was killed in battle 19-04-1945 (near Leipheim/Bavaria), Luftwaffe aircraft prepared for the planned air raid by dropping flares, which some people mistaken for celebratory fireworks. There was no effective resistance from the allied forces in Eindhoven; Allied air defenses had not yet been installed. A large part of the city center, the vicinity of the railway station, the Geldropseweg and Stratum, among others, were affected.
I still have the long-case clock of then which was stocked at that time by a bomb splinter. Horrocks’s army, on their way to Arnhem, happened to be stopped by a counter attack in the surroundings of St Oedenrode. At the same time the whole road, Hells Highway, was stock for many kilometers with ammunition trucks and tanks and the Germans took the ”good” opportunity to attack Eindhoven out of the air. When the Germans dropped explosives, my parents, then with four children, wanted to hide in the storage room of the bicycle shop Ligtvoet at the Aalsterweg in Eindhoven.
The back entrance to the storage room was in our street opposite our house Nr 65, but the bicycle shop storage was already overpopulated. On the way to an emergency bomb shelter created in a U form, in the fields behind their house, my parents lost my brother Kees. He, then four years old, panicked and ran away. Going after him, they fortunately came across a much more calm area and found him again. At that time, the Germans planes bombed the town. Hours later, they went back home and learned that the supposedly bomb shelterin the field had been directly hit and that all the piled-up sand was propelled at great speed back into the trench by the bomb’s air blast. In total, 41 people from their street had been killed under the sand, amongst them 22 children. The excavation of the bodies from the collapsed trench was real dramatic according to bystanders.
This bombardment cost Eindhoven 227 dead. The remains were collected and laid out on the playground of the Primary School, Thijmstraat, 22-09-1944.
The house Nr 65 of my parents was one of the few houses in the street that had a directly hit, just fifteen minutes after they had left. Later they moved to the house Nr 48 of the widow Catharina van Valen-Leemeijer, age 32, who had died with her children, Adriana (one year old), Henricus, (age 7) and Johannes, (six years old), in the trench. My parent’s grave (mother died at the age of 93, my father 89), is only a few steps of the Biesterweg mass grave. Destiny ?
A week before the end of the war, two brothers of my godmother Annie Looymans were murdered by the Germans.
The brothers Leo and Martin, who were members of the resistance in Budel Dorplein, derailed a German train, the intention was a freight train, with four others. Four of the six resistance fighters are present at the action and hide in the reeds of the Ringselven. The derailed trian was however full of SS soldiers and they are discovered and tortured, beaten and eventually shot by the SS on the spot. and were beaten to death by the passengers, “SS soldiers”, and half buried on the land of the zinc factory there. Three days after the liberation of Veghel by the American 101 Airborne Division soldiers
my wife’s aunt, Sister Peters Maria Clothilda, Lies Elisabeth with two other nuns in the convent in Veghel were killed in the shelter by a deacon-er during an artillery attack by the Germans. A dud felt down the stairs outside and shards slammed through the door against which three sisters stood.
This story of my youth, repeated by word and in memory since that time and the yearly “Remember September” festive liberation parades shared by my older brothers Kees and Peter and military veterans, have strongly awoken my interest in WWII. In the past decades, I have visited the battlefields of Europe, first with my wife Mieke and sons Tommy and Danny and later alone with my wife. Because of my interest about what happened during the war, especially in September 1944 and due to my membership in the Eindhoven 101 Airborne association (liberators of Eindhoven), many English and American war veterans have visited our house and stayed with us during the commemorations every year. During one visit to Luxembourg, in order to pay respect to the grave of General George Smith Patton, located in the war cemetery of Hamm, this was the time when I became interested in the background of the many WWII personalities. My son Tommy became a veteran of the Yugoslavia war in the 1990 years. Here I started my search for their biographies, graves and personal stories and are meanwhile 76 years old.