Barbed wire

The German-Dutch border near Pannesheide, immediately after the Second World War (Herzogenrath City Archives)

During the First World War, effective barriers prevented unauthorized border crossings, especially from occupied Belgium into the neutral Netherlands.
Initially, there was also a barbed wire fence on Nieuwstraat, built by the German army directly against the border line.
However, smuggling flourished in the area anyway, due to the increasing shortages of food in the German Empire.
The Dutch confirmed their neutrality by constructing a second fence with barbed wire right next to the German fence. This brought the smuggling to an end. After the First World War, the residents removed the fencing, and used the material for their own purposes.
In the post-war period, the occupying powers moved the border a little further towards Germany, where a new, elaborate fence with even more barbed wire was built.
After the departure of the occupying forces, the fencing was once again ‘recycled’ by the residents on their own initiative, and in 1930 the border was moved back to its original location. The National Socialists built a high fence with barbed wire in 1939, this time slightly further from the border.
Immediately after the US Army liberated Kerkrade, the residents of Kerkrade mockingly hung an effigy of Hitler on this fence near the border crossing.
The barbed wire and the posts securing it were ‘reused’ by the residents after the war, only for it to be replaced immediately afterwards by yet another barbed wire fence in the middle of the street; this time built by the US Army.
Shortly afterwards, the Netherlands extended its territory to cover the full width of the street, except for the tramline. Not surprising, as the people felt they had suffered enough from the war!
This fencing was also placed at this location. It was later replaced by mesh fencing, and finally a wall of Leicon concrete blocks in the 1960s.

Peter Dinninghoff

RAD workers build a fence right next to the railway tracks in 1939. In the background the cinema Jodoko-Lichtspiele (today’s house no. 113) (Gemeentearchief Kerkrade).

In September, 100 members of the Reich Labour Service were ordered to Neustraße to erect a barbed wire fence more than 2 metres high. The Reich Labour Service (RAD) was a Nazi organisation. Male youths between the ages of 18 and 25 had to complete a six-month labour service here. In Pannesheide they were also used for the construction of the Westwall.

The fence was erected on German soil, right next to the railway tracks. This meant that Neustraße, which was German property, was no longer accessible to the people of Herzogenrath, but the bypass had been built for this purpose. The people of Kerkrad could no longer use the railway connection. The cinema on Neustraße, which had also been visited by Kerkraders, was also no longer accessible.

On the right the cinema 1930 (Gemeentearchief Kerkrade)

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eyewitness report

eyewitness: Ingrid-Wiebeck