This website is a spinoff of the oral history project ‘African American Liberators in The Netherlands’. A history that till 2009 did not exist in the collective memory of a country that has strong historical ties with the United States and that has a long tradition in memorizing the liberation of the country in 1945.
We need your help!
Historical reasons as refusing reports in media on their participation at WWII by the government, is one cause. Besides, African American soldiers returning home after the war didn’t have veterans organizations. They were not accepted in the white veterans organizations to keep their memories of ‘Europe’ alive. They had other things on their minds as well: the civil rights movement got a boost after WWII. Apart from that: assembling was not allowed for them in many places. Communication with their Dutch friends was rare and expensive. They had to make a living and may have moved to find work. No heroism at their home front.
Adoption program from 1947 on
Today, the people of the Netherlands have still adopted each of the 8,301 graves and 1,722 names of the missing soldiers at the cemetery out of a heartfelt gratitude for the sacrifices these soldiers made of their freedom. www.adoptiegraven-margraten.nl... an exclusive Dutch tradition that started in 1947. Many relations are established since than between relatives of ‘American soldiers of Margraten’ and their adopters. Some already for the 4th generation.
A first attempt (2015) to make an inventory of connections between adopters of the ‘African Americans of Margraten’ and their relatives in the US though was very disappointing. Attempts by some of the adopters to find relatives in the US failed. Biographical facts of only a few could be found (as mentioned above). Veterans history project (VHP).
How can you help?
How difficult it is to find out about where the grave is of a relative, killed after WWII is recently described by David McGhee. He always knew his grandfather had died in WWII. His grandmother had remarried. Only after she died David started to puzzle on the documents left in a suitcase under her bed to find out by and by his grandfathers was buried in Margraten. He finally visited Margraten, together with the adopters of his grandfather’s grave. Willy F. Williams now is known by his relatives in the US as well in NL.
This project may help to establish many more of these connections.
The stories of the 172 African Americans of Margraten will bring alive part of still missing history of WWII in The Netherlands as well in the United States. They may lead to better understanding the living history made today. Personal stories as part of public history is better suited to make history land in people’s hearts.
Dr. Jefferson Wiggins (†2013), the first African-American veteran of WWII who shared his memories of his time in the segregated American liberation army with the Dutch in the book From Alabama to Margraten (2014).
Janice Wiggins who helped with the book's completion after Jeff’s death.
Huub Schepers (†2016), who after 70 years of silence in April 2017 told what it was like to grow up as a child of a black liberator in Limburg. He initiated the oral history project "Children of black liberators" followed by the book of the same name, (Mieke Kirkels, VanTilt April 2017)
De kinderen van zwarte bevrijders from the book of the same name
Rosy Peters, Els Geijselaers, Ed Moody, Wanda van der Kleij, Trudy Habets, Robert Joosten, Huub Habets, Petra, Cor Linssen, Donna Bastiaans and Maria Andres and their families.
Harie Rouvroye (†2018) for his help with the investigation of the stationing of black troops in Limburg
Jo fonsaer: filmmaker of great-grandchildren of black liberators: Diede van Dam, Noortje Schepers, Delano Geijselaers
Jan Kohlbacher for making available historical material regarding the only black R&R in the history of the US Army in 1945.
Kees Ribbens for his support and advice during the investigation.
Sebastiaan Vonk for detecting and checking military data.
Kelly Krijntjes great support and assistant project manager Black Liberators. Without her, this digital book would certainly not have been launched on time!
Rick Moermans and Julian Bruinse for their great and creative commitment with which highly professional and innovative digital teaching methods can be offered for secondary education.
Dr. Jenny King for her translation work.
Dr. Anna Wolters for the text corrections of the digital schoolbook.
Blackliberators.nl was created with the help of the above persons who for the most part helped on a voluntary and friendly basis in the creation of this website.
We would also like to thank these institutions for their financial support:
- municipality Eijsden-Margraten
- American Embassy Den Haag
- Province Limburg
- Stichting Aanmoedigingsfonds De Koninklijke Facultatieve
- Stichting Kanunnik Salden
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