The international character of Neustrasse/Nieuwstraat

Another image reflecting the good relationship between the German and Dutch border guards. The text on the shield on the guardhouse reads: ‘We are brothers, as you can see. Border guard 1914’, September 1914 (Kerkrade Municipal Archives)

Nieuwstraat has been an international street since its infancy.
In the space of half a century, the residents of Nieuwstraat in Kerkrade were first Austrians, then French, then Dutch, shortly afterwards Belgians, and finally both Dutch and Germans.
Before the French Revolution, Kerkrade was part of the territory of the Austrian Netherlands, after which it became part of the French Empire. The Congress of Vienna in 1815 and the subsequent negotiations in Aachen created an unusual situation in terms of nationality around Neustrasse/Nieuwstraat.
The citizens on the west side of the street were now citizens of the newly established Kingdom of the United Netherlands, making them subjects of King William I of the originally German royal house of Orange-Nassau.
Like most inhabitants of the southern areas of this kingdom, the residents of Kerkrade were not happy with their king’s new rulings.
The dissatisfaction of the population reached a peak in the revolution that originated in Brussels and created the new Belgium in 1830, which separated the southern Netherlands from the northern Netherlands.
The citizens on the west side of the street suddenly became Belgians, and therefore subjects of the Belgian King Leopold I.
However, the area around Maastricht formed a kind of large island in the middle of this Belgian territory, because the leading military commander and his soldiers were strictly loyal to the Dutch royal family, against the will of the population. After almost a decade, the area was newly divided again, with the British playing a particularly key role. Kerkrade once again became Dutch territory.
However, special arrangements tied the Duchy of Limburg to the German Confederation, so the inhabitants were officially Germans at the same time.

Peter Dinninghoff


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