After the war

Up until now, we have spoken about those individuals who were killed during World War II and who lie buried in Oegstgeest. At one time there were more. Directly after liberation, about 170 servicemen were buried here in Oegstgeest, including the 10 men buried near the Postbrug.

The Groene Kerkje cemetery held the bodies of 53 Dutch and 88 German servicemen. Moreover, several servicemen had been buried at Rhijnhof, then a cemetery belonging to Leiden but on Oegstgeest terrain which we have not included here.

German graves at the ‘Groene Kerkje’  

The first Germans were buried here as early as 10 May 1940: 26 died during the fighting, in particular at the Haagse Schouw. They were interred outside the relatively new northwest section of the Groene Kerkje cemetery where the curve in the fence begins on top of the dune upon which the church stands. In contrast to all of their expectations, the Germans saw the number of their fallen servicemen increase continuously. The cemetery was known to them as ‘Deutscher Kriegerfriedhof Oegstgeest’.

Quite a few soldiers who had committed suicide were also buried there but rather towards the back of the cemetery and then with different tombstones.

Some graves of German soldiers, buried temporarily at the ‘Groene Kerkje’.

One soldier buried here had accidentally died while cleaning weapons, although a few Dutchmen had a different story to tell. Even a Dutch member of the SS was buried there on 3 October 1941; according to one of his relatives, he had been liquidated while visiting family in Leiden.

Furthermore, there was a Junkers 88 airplane which crashed on 28 July 1942 into the garden allotments near the Zwarte Pad in Leiden, at that time terrain on the border with Oegstgeest. When it came time on 31 July to bury those three German crewmen, the Germans saw that their men would be buried too close to the six Blenheim crewmen already there.

Because the Germans considered this inappropriate, the British graves were moved farther towards the east where they are still located. In the end, there were 88 Germans, including that single Dutch member of the SS, buried in this graveyard.

Actually, it was extraordinary that the crewmen from the Junkers 88 were buried in Oegstgeest considering that German authorities generally attempted to return the remains of their fallen servicemen to their home base. The explanation for this case is that this Junkers 88 was stationed in France.

The Germans, including the Dutch member of the SS, were transferred in May 1948 to the cemetery ‘Deutscher Soldatenfriedhof Ysselsteyn’ near Venray. Thus the cemetery in Oegstgeest was liberated from the sight of those sinister-looking German tombstones.

Fallen Dutch soldiers  

Fifty-one Dutch servicemen were buried at the same time as the first Germans. These men included 19 servicemen who were killed while recapturing the Haagse Schouw, 11 who died during the dramatic events at the Postbrug, and the remaining 21 who were killed during fightings near Valkenburg or during other activities to the south or west of Oegstgeest. They either died on 10 May 1940 or were critically wounded that day and died later in the Anna Clinic or Academic Hospital in Leiden. The last man succumbed to his wounds on May 15th. They were laid to rest together at a modest location, four men to a grave, where soldiers Klaassens and Niemeijer are still interred and also somewhat to the east of this location. Originally black wooden crosses, varying in size and inscribed with white lettering, were used to mark a grave.

Wooden crosses of many Dutch soldiers who were buried after 10th May 1940.

The crosses were replaced a few months later by one tombstone per grave for four servicemen, just as had been done for the crewmen of the first Blenheim airplane. Later these tombstones were placed upright. One month after the very first burial, First Lieutenant Jaeger, who had been killed in Loon op Zand, was given burial as was Sergeant Anthonie Petrus van der Kraan who had lost his life near Dordrecht.

The Dutch servicemen remained buried there until 1970 and 1971 when most of the bodies were transferred to the Military Cemetery Grebbeberg; Van der Kraan’s body was moved in 1986. These men lay buried for nearly 30 years in the graveyard next to the Groene Kerkje. Klaassens and Niemeijer both remain buried in Oegstgeest because both of their families were against moving the men’s remains for religious reasons. Jaeger’s remains have been kept in the family grave.

This photo of the commemoration of 10th November 1947 shows at the background the graves of Dutch soldiers with richtup standing tombstones.

Map below shows the churchyard of the ‘Groene Kerkje’ in 1945.