94. Middelaar in spiritual exile
After 17th September 1944, Middelaar had found itself directly on the frontline, with heavy bombardments making life unbearable for the local population. The villagers were forced to evacuate and make their way to a safe haven in the area around Mijdrecht via Germany, and then back across the Dutch border past Arnhem and Ede.
Operation Market Garden was launched on 17th September 1944. Parachutists were dropped around the cities of Eindhoven, Nijmegen and Arnhem. Their mission, was to conquer a number of bridges across the main rivers in the Netherlands, and to maintain their positions until the ground forces advancing from Belgium had arrived.
The Airborne parachutists were dropped in their thousands. Just like that, hundreds of gliders appeared in the sky, landing in fields and farmland with artillery, ammunition and even entire jeeps in their underbellies. The German resistance in the area, however, was strong.
To the south-east of Nijmegen, villages such as Mook, Molenhoek and Bisselt were soon liberated, whilst only a few kilometres to the south lay Middelaar, a village sandwiched between the Maas river on one side, and the steep hills of the Reichswald Forest on the other.
For four months, the frontline ran from Erlecom on the Waal river, via Groesbeek, to this point along the Maas by Middelaar. Life on the frontline had become unbearable, and everyone was evacuated. They spent weeks on the road, passing through Goch and Rees in Germany, and back into the Netherlands to an area near Mijdrecht. Their priest, Father Veugelers, had shepherded his villagers on this long journey, but would never see Middelaar again.