Whether right or wrong, we are all human

How difficult is it for people to find reconciliation with an enemy? How many generations do you think it takes? One man, Lodewijk Johannes Timmermans, worked here at the cemetery in Ysselsteyn for 28 years despite the wounds he incurred from a German mine in 1945, and became a symbol of unremitting reconciliation between the Netherlands and Germany.

Shortly after the WWII, the Americans called for one central location for the burial and reburial of German soldiers. The Dutch government assigned a plot of land in Ysselsteyn, in the province of Limburg. Grave by grave, this plot grew into a striking cemetery where more than 31,500 German soldiers killed during World War II have been given their final resting place. The soldiers were brought here from all over the Netherlands, from Ameland to Maastricht, often without any form of identification. The chaos had left German soldiers looking after their fallen brothers, with little time to identify them or give them an honourable burial. The survivors had other things to worry about, including keeping themselves alive; partly why there are so many grave markers in Ysselsteyn reading ‘Ein unbekannter Soldaat’ (An Unknown Soldier).

Timmermans op begraafplaats

Listen to this story at the audio spot of the Liberation Route Europe near the German War Cemetery in Ysselsteyn.

Liberation Route Europe audio spot 203
Ysselsteyn 2

From 1948 to 1976 when he retired, Captain Lodewijk Johannes Timmermans dedicated his life to identifying these unknown soldiers and giving them an honourable burial. He traced their closest relatives and informed them of his findings and also gave tours of the cemetery. In his work towards reconciliation between the Netherlands and Germany he was unrelenting, all whilst having been blinded for many months by a German landmine.

Yet Captain Timmermans did not harbour any feelings of vengeance towards his former enemy. He came from an altruistic family where everyone respected the value of human dignity. Moreover, it had been a German soldier who had looked after for months whilst he was unable to see.

Curious about the perspective of Captain Timmermans himself? Read his personal story on this website or experience the story with an augmented reality video in the Venray Remembers app at experience point 1 of cycle route 'On the other side'.

More pictures with this story

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Routes with this story

Cycling route ‘Venray-Tienray’

Cycling route ‘Venray-Tienray’

This cycling route brings you along 10 locations that are clearly related to war, between Venray and Tienray, which offered a shelter to many people in hiding during the war. 

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Cycling route ‘On the other side’

Cycling route ‘On the other side’

This special cycling route (59 km) connects two remarkable places: the German War Cemetery in Ysselsteyn in Limburg and the War Museum in Overloon in Brabant.

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Download the unique app and experience the past

The free Venray Remembers app shows the past as you have never seen it before. Download the app, take the car or bicycle or go on foot and follow a beautiful route in De Peel. Follow the instructions in the app to project an augmented reality video at the indicated locations and become part of the story that happened there.

View the war past from a different perspective and through this unique app. A modern way to let young and old relive the past in a positive way. Let’s keep remembering!

More information

Download de Venray Remembers app