Abteilung 500 in Hellendoorn
/ Dalfsen, Holland
Tracy Dungan - Ed Straten - Cor Lulof
The locals noticed odd German troop movements on the afternoon of Nov. 16, in the forest on the edge of Eelerberg (Eelermountain) in Hellendoorn. The ground was still wet from recent rains as dozens of German rocket soldiers had arrived, under the cover of night, quite unexpectedly a few days earlier.
The German SS Werfer Batterie 500 motorized convoy came across the border and drove to Nijverdal and Hellendoorn on Nov. 13. The convoy split into two sections. One detachment moved into Hellendoorn and the other moved north to the forest at Archem. This was the "Sonderkommando" of SS Hamptsturmfuhrer Miesel “Miesel (IVA)”, comprised of about 400 soldiers with 100 vehicles belonging to the Waffen SS, specially trained for months at the Mittelwerk and also in Poland for V2 operations. The troops of the "Vermessungsbatterie" had calculated the launch coordinates according to the "triangulation" procedure. Seventeen Dutch families, all within one kilometer of the launching areas, were evacuated from their homes. These homes were then immediately occupied by the German rocket troops. A command center was set up in Hellendoorn at the local parsonage.
On Nov. 16, 1944 the activity around the Eelerberg forest had increased. The giant projectile, that was the center of their attention, stood approximately 14 meters tall. The rocket, which was transferred to the firing troops from the technical troops at Archem, was placed on a small iron table (the firing table) at the edge of the tall Eelerberg trees. This activity by the Germans was followed by a long silence from the forest. An armored vehicle (Feuerleitpanzer) drove up near the launching site. Then around 15.00 hours there was heard quick, heavy beats, followed by a tremendous roar and scream unlike anything ever heard near Hellendoorn. The A4 rocket rose from its perch, slowly, spewing fire and smoke. It came up several meters, then twisted back and crashed into the wet earth. The resulting explosion shattered up to 150 windows of a nearby sanatorium hospital sending splintered glass fragments raining everywhere. Dozens of medical personnel inside of the building were sent scrambling for cover.
This was the introduction of the V-weapon, the A4/V2, to the counties of Twente and Salland in Holland. The Hellendoorn area was about to become linked in history with Hitler's vengeance weapon. The almost daily sight of the "huge torpedo shaped projectiles" rising from the forest, with an even longer mass of fire coming from the tails, followed by the long twisting trails of white smoke high in the heavens (frozen lightning), became a common occurrence for the citizens of Hellendoorn. Starting Nov. 17, V2 rockets were fired two to four times a day toward Antwerp. On Nov. 26, two rockets were fired simultaneously.
It all started in September of 1944, the SS-Werfer-Abteilung 500, under command of SS-Hauptsturmführer Johannes Miesel, was transported by train from the Tuchel heather via Freieinwalde in Pommeren to Rheine near the Dutch border. In a forest near Schöppingen (near Burgsteinfurt) at the launch site code named Schandfleck (stain, disgrace), the first V2 towards Antwerp was launched on Oct. 13, but the projectile didn’t fly farther than 3 kilometers, crashing in a meadow.
Later, on Nov. 13, the batterie started in Hellendoorn (Overijssel). Until Dec. 14, they never succeeded in launching more than (4) V2s within 24 hours, but on that date (7) V2s were launched. After that they repeatedly succeeded in launching more than 4 rockets per day. They averaged one failure for every 5-6 rockets fired, many crashing near the launch area.
The strength of this SS-Werfer-Abteilung 500 was 8 officers and about 400 crew. There were about 100 vehicles of several types available. The classification of the division was as follows: firing battery, supply battery, flak-battery, carpark and I-Staffeln for repair and recovery of the vehicles (usually called technical battery) There were also an office, a nurseroom, field-kitchen, etc. The firing battery was divided in three groups (Schiesszüge) each of 30 man and these again in a special groups for the rocketpropulsion, the electrical installations and the Feuerleitpanzer, from which the projectiles electrically were fired. The fuel cars belonged to the supply battery.
Because the Abteilung 500 was the only SS-Abteilung of the division, they received special attention of the division commander, SS-general Kammler. Repeatedly, he wished that the SS 500 would become the Abteilung with the highest average of launches per 24 hour period. But, it seems that the extended Wehrmacht Abteilung 444, that launched toward London, had achieved the highest result.
Kammler also made sure that the SS 500 received the best in equipment and training. The troops were educated for this special job in the Freiherr von Fritsch-Kazerne in Köslin in Pommeren, that under control of the Wehrmacht was started as the main education school for the V2 crews. Here were courses for the general tactics and technical head, also special courses for the firing, the electrotroops, the vehicle troops, for the leaders of the Hochfrequenzanlagen (High frequency devices) and for the battery-troops (calculating of the launch site, Brennschluss and Leitstrahlstellung, mounting of the V2, etc.) The education was both theoretical and practical, although of course no rockets were fired. All members of the Wehrmacht, officers and crews, also met the V2 here. Only the SS crew, meant for a special SS division, had already received a special education. A part was detached in the underground factory in Nordhausen, where the projectiles were made. In Köslin the lessons were given by civil engineers. The fact, that the SS-men on specific orders, received an extraordinary education at the rocket factory of Nordhausen, proves that Kammler wanted to give his SS-Abteilung an advantage over the other Abteilungen that all belonged to the regular army.
The A4/V2 rockets were transported from Germany by rail and delivered to Nijverdal. Nijverdal had been used for unloading V2’s and local residents had only seen rockets passing through by road and suggested that they were unloaded west of Nijverdal on the hill. The Dutch residents at Archem reported that rockets were unloaded at a siding in the woods between Marienburg and Ommen. Two long sidings existed to the south of the main line running from Marienburg to Ommen in the woods, these sidings served as a main unloading point for rockets.
After unloading, the vehicles usually went to the presumed launching site, but occasionally returned to a parking place in the wood for a short time before going to the launching site. Within one or two hours of the departure of the vehicles to the launching site, a rocket launch usually took place.
Rockets were not unloaded at Ommen station, although alcohol or some other liquid had at times been brought there. The Heino station appears to have been used mainly as an unloading point for fuel.
At Eelerberg / Hellendoorn there were at least 6 - 7 firing sites, maybe a few more. Several were located in the Eelerberg forest 1.8 kilometers northwest of Hellendoorn (Feuerstellung Nr. 410) another closer to the local sanatorium, and another (reported) about 1000 meters from the sanatorium behind an old castle-like estate. The Eelerberg woods, which are entirely coniferous, were crossed by a number of roads and all of the firing sites were on or beside these roads. Some of the actual firing platforms were built on pine logs cut to equal size, trimmed and bound together with wire and some were leveled sand only.
The SS officers stayed at House Eelerberg, under the command of Kommandant Miesel while the men were housed in farm buildings near the sites. The second firing platoon was billeted in a house very near the launch sites, and their vehicles were parked behind the house. During the launching periods, men arrived day and night and there was a constant coming and going of people carrying boards and map cases and bringing in reports.
The launches occurred regularly near Hellendoorn until a break on Dec. 30. The total rockets fired up to that point at Hellendoorn was 126, with 15 rockets crashing during or shortly after lift off. The troops returned to the Eelerberg / Hellendoorn firing sites on Mar. 08, after a short stint in the Dalfsen area to the north. The unit returned about 07 March from Mataram and fired from 09 – 27 March. At the end of activity, the daily rate of fire reached its peak on 17 March when 11 rounds were fired, all of them aimed at the Remagen Bridgehead.
On 17 March, the firing crews stated with great elation that they had been firing against the Western Front (the Remagen bridgehead). This was a matter of common knowledge in the neighborhood and it was even said that Hitler had sent his personal congratulations to the crews for hitting and destroying the Remagen Bridge. All the evidence of three residents' diaries and the tracking by British Type 9 Mark V Radar proves conclusively that all the eleven rounds which fell in the Remagen area came from the Eelerberg / Hellendoorn sites.
Cor Lulof was a nine year-old boy at the time of the V-Weapon activity near Hellendoorn. During these months a normal child's time would have been occupied with school, but in Holland during the occupation things were different. The Wehrmacht used Cor's school as a barracks, so kids around Hellendoorn were taught at home by their parents and had much free time on their hands. Leather was not available, so they were wearing wooden shoes. Food was rationed, in fact everything was rationed and the Wehrmacht confiscated all leather, non-ferro-metals, horses, bikes, grain, cattle, radio sets, etc. Electricity was cut off, so at night there was only candlelight. Windows had to be blinded against air attack and everybody out on the street after eight o’clock PM without a permit was shot.
Cor's father worked for a "Wehrmacht related firm" and managed to avoid the Nazi’s who were rounding up slave laborers. By using all kinds of fake permits (Bescheinigungen) to confirm his important work for the Wehrmacht and to keep his bicycle, Cor's father was not removed from his family. Cor owned a small bicycle, too small to be confiscated, so he joined his father every weekend on a quest for food. Food was traded against wool, stolen from the Wehrmacht-related firm he worked for, wool was a precious article in those days.
Cor's 'Uncle Bats' had a son called Henk, who was a bit older, and the two of them used to roam through the woods in the direction of the sanatorium (a pre-war fresh-air centre for tuberculosis-patients), while their fathers talked about the war and drank Ersatz-coffee and smoked home-grown tobacco. Late in ’44, between Sinterklaas (5th of December) and Christmas (25th of Dec.), Henk told Cor a confusing story about big guns and aircraft and lots of smoke and fire, seen on occasion half a kilometer to the north, and they started to cross the wooded terrain into that direction.
They did not follow the road west to the sanatorium because the intersection was guarded by German troops and there was occasional German traffic on that road. Walking through the woods, they soon heard a horn or claxon signal some distance ahead of them and seconds later heard a tremendous roar and saw a big cloud of smoke rise above the trees. The roar increased to a thundering noise, they did not only hear it, but could feel it pounding in their chests. Then from the cloud a big dark, grey-green burning thing the size of a church tower rose into the air, trailing a huge flame, on top of a pillar of gray smoke. They ran away as quickly as possible, shocked and stunned by the experience. Running all the way back to the farm, they were looking up into the sky and seeing that strange, kinky, broken contrail. Cor had seen (frozen lightning) many times from Almelo, but without knowing what it was.
On Dec 04, an A4 rocket was fired from Hellendoorn. Shortly after lift off, the rocket malfunctioned and plummeted to the earth about 5 kilometers southwest of Hellendoorn, near the small town of Luttenberg. Many civilians witnessed the crash and hurried to the impact site to get a look at the curious machine. Local residents had heard the noise of previous A4 rockets blasting into the heavens for many days, but had never seen the weapons up close.
Mr. A Kleine-Toereers remembers, "…It was on the afternoon of Dec. 04, 1944. I suddenly saw an incredible sight of this thing falling from the sky. I wasn’t sure exactly what it was, probably a German V2. My neighbor came over on his bicycle and we went together to see. After we had rode some distance, we could finally see the big hole in the land where the thing had fallen. I placed my bicycle near the ditch and walked some 10 meters across the field and there I looked into the deep hole. I could see a fierce flame burning. Around the rim of the hole I could see many others who had gathered to see the object. Men, women and even children were standing very close (local newspaper says that some people actually were sitting on the remains of the crashed rocket when the warhead exploded), when suddenly an enormous bang – and then we were all pushed to the ground. Perhaps I had lain there between the dead and dying for about 10 minutes and I was still dazed when I left. I could not hear anyone groaning, as they might, because I was totally deaf. I took my bicycle and was only a little on my way when I met two acquaintances. They told me that my clothes were still burning at the top. I looked down to see that my trousers were vanished altogether, I was wearing only the top portion of the trousers."
A local nurse saw the rocket when it was launched. Her and her relatives were terrified because they never before heard anything like the V2. The nurse immediately got the feeling that there was something wrong. After the rocket came down in the meadows, nothing happened. About 15 minutes later, there was a huge explosion. The windows of the farm where the nurse was, about 800 meters away from the accident, were broken. The farmer Heuven said: "Oh, noe bint ze allemoal dood" (Oh, they are all dead now). Immediately the nurse got her first aid kit and ran outside. On the way she saw several sons of the this farmer Heuven, some other boys and her Brother-in-law. They weren’t at the accident. Luckily, they saw the thing smoking and knew that something was not right. Their upper cloths were, even still, blown away. When the nurse saw the accident site, she felt like it was an unbelievable movie. Everywhere there were torn apart bodies. She then asked a person to go get bed sheets for the wounded. At that moment, the Germans arrived with about four German and French made ambulances. The doctors immediately started to nurse the victims. As soon as possible they were injected with anti-tetanus. The doctors asked what she was doing there and who she was. She explained that she was a nurse, which they accepted, then they all did what they could for the wounded and dying.
After talking with the German doctors, the nurse realized that they immediately left after the launch and following crash to help some wounded people if possible. Near Luttenberg, they took the wrong road and they went in the direction of the village. Just at the moment they noticed their mistake, the explosion occurred. Then it was easy to find the place. The nurse noticed Lady Heusen who kneeled at her son who was heavily wounded. The son told the nurse to leave before the rocket would explode a second time. So far as the nurse can remember, the injured people were moved to Almelo as soon as possible. Later, the Germans asked her if she knew if any of the injured were already at home. Fortunately, she knew many local people and she knew where they lived. Doctors left the "undergrounders" alone. Even still, many of people that went underground were victims. They left the scene because they were afraid of the Germans. With the Germans, the nurse went to all those people. The injured were helped very nicely without any hassles. There weren't asked for their papers. The Germans did their jobs like doctors. For all the other concerns they left the victims alone. The nurse said later, "You can say whatever you want to say about the Germans, but the Germans doctors really did their duty. One can be very anti-German, but what the Germans did to ease the suffering was extraordinary."
When she came home that evening to the farm of Heusen she thought about what she saw that day. She was broken and sobbing. The next morning, she went to all addresses where she nursed victims the day before. Then she received word of those that died that night. The son of farmer Heusen, an undergrounder from Haarlem called Lobry, a cousin of the family Heusen and several others had not survived. The victims of the accident were buried several days after the accident. On December 7, the Catholics were buried in the Roman Catholic cemetery in Luttenberg. Several others were buried in the General Cemetery in Raalte. The son of the family Heusen that passed away on December 20, was buried on December 23, in the Roman Catholic cemetery. After the accident, the nurse was asked if she would like to stay in Luttenberg. After the war, she was to unveil the monument to the disaster.
Nineteen people died at Luttenberg that afternoon when the warhead of the V2 rocket, which remained unexploded after the crash, detonated with the crowd surrounding it. After the war, a monument was erected at the crash site in memory of those who perished that day. The monument reads as below-
of the V2 disaster on
Area - Hessum and The Mataram
In late December of 1944, the SS troops pulled out of the Hellendoorn area. It seems that, V1 launching crews near Hellendoorn were protesting the fact that V2 trajectories crossed right over the V1 launching sites just southwest of Hellendoorn. The Luftwaffe crews did not want the SS launched missiles crashing down upon them. It was also felt that the many failures could be seen by Allied aircraft as large scars in the forest from above and this would reveal the firing locations.
It appears that another reason launch operations were moved to Dalfsen (a few kilometers northwest of Hellendoorn) was the arrest of resistance militant Chiel Dethmers from Almelo on December 8th. Dethmers (19 years old) had made complete drawings of the launch sites in Hellendoorn, which the Germans captured. Chiel Dethmers later died in a concentration camp. He died on Mar. 08, 1945 in the Reyerhorst concentration camp.
In area Dalfsen, there were V2 firing sites in woods near Hessum and also in the forest at the estate of Mataram. These were used when the batterie pulled out of the Elerberg / Hellendoorn area. Many of the local Hessum / Dalfsen families had to vacate their homes for the SS soldiers. One of these was Jaap Janssen, a local forester. Another was Willem van Leussen, whose farm was used for the placement of the Leitstrahlstellung (V2 guiding beam) for targeting. This apparatus was connected to a telegraphing antenna that was mounted in the meadows. The SS 500 Battalion used the Leitstrahl guide beam apparatus to increase the accuracy of the rockets, and in each case - when the firing units moved, so did the wireless troops associated with them.
The firing sites at Hessum (Madrid) were close to the tiny town, which itself is situated in a forested area. A group of four firing platforms were close to each other in a coniferous wood on the right of the road from Vilsteren to Dalfsen. All four platforms were on or beside old established roads or paths, the firing points being made of cut tree trunks buried in the soil for firmness. For the launches at Hessum, the warheads were fitted to the rocket at the field store at Archem. The complete projectile was then brought by road on a long trailer (Vidalwagen) to Hessum.
On one occasion a rocket toppled over just before taking off and a terrific tongue of flame 50 meters long shot from its tail, causing severe casualties and doing much damage. Eyewitnesses stated that on this and similar occasions when a rocket fell back on the firing site, the warhead exploded 10-20 minutes later.
The first V2 launch from Hessum occurred just after midnight on New Years Eve. About 19 of the 118 rockets fired near Dalfsen crashed nearby. On the land of local resident Von Martels zu Dankern an impact crater was made that was 30 meters wide! The launches were soon moved to the county seat of Mataram in February.
At Mataram five firing platforms were located in the woods of the estate of Baron Von Vorst. Vehicles were parked near the site and a number of hard standings with shelter walls were built in addition to those required for the Feuerleitpanzer. One V2 crashed at the entrance to a fire control (Feuerleitpanzer) vehicle shelter and caused a large crater, and smashing the vehicle.
In Vilsteren, near Dalfsen, V2s were tranferred from the train to the Vidalwagen road transport trailers. When firings were being conducted at Mataram, the storage / field store seems to have been the old launch sites at Hessum.
All personnel engaged in rocket activities did not live on the sites, but were billeted in nearby houses and villages. A senior NCO, or junior officer, according to Mr. Janssen, was billeted in the large house near the entrance to the park Mataram. He appeared to be in charge of the site and had a telephone line to his direct superior who lived in the village of Dalfsen.
The units flak batteries were positioned behind the cichorei factory in Dalfsen. There were many forbidden areas for the local population. The Germans took resident's horses and wagons for the transport of gravel to firm the roads (for the rockets) just past the Poppenallee. Whenever a convoy of rockets would arrive, the residents in Dalfsen could see the camouflaged rockets in Dalfsen, the SS soldiers milling about listening to the BBC on their radios.
Surprisingly, many local stories of the German rocket troops stay in Hellendoorn and Dalfsen include statements to the effect; that the SS soldiers were not cruel to the residents. Some tell of the Germans handing out food, glass for the shattered windows and good care of occupied houses. Some eyewitnesses believed that many of the soldiers were tired of the war - and the "strict rules" were sometimes relaxed on the Dutch for no apparent reason.
soldier even spoke of returning to Dalfsen to live
after the war. He did
not, so he probably did not survive the war.
However, other residents told
of Dutchmen without proper work papers being
deported to work camps and
even SS soldiers "shooting on sight" anyone who
ventured too close to the
|The Bridge at
Remagen and the
March 07, 1945, was a drizzly gray day, especially for the Wehrmacht troops near Remagen Germany. American troops of the U.S. First Army surprised the German garrison at the old Ludendorff railway bridge across the Rhine River and captured the bridge. The German defenders of the bridge did manage to detonate a huge charge that raised the bridge in the air but, it settled back to its foundation, seemingly intact.
Over the next ten days the Americans poured thousands of troops and supplies over the Rhine into Germany. Hitler ordered the immediate destruction of the bridge using any and all means possible. The 9th and 11th Panzer Divisions hurried to battle the American 9th Division in the bridgehead. On March 08, ten Luftwaffe aircraft (including eight Stuka dive-bombers) attacked the bridge, scoring two hits. On March 15, twenty-one German jet aircraft attacked the bridge with poor results - fifteen of the aircraft were shot down by U.S. anti-aircraft batterys.
Hitler then tried other weapons on the bridge. These included; a tremendous 17-centimeter railroad artillery gun, intreped underwater scuba men (they swam down the Rhine in an attempt to place demolitions on the piers) and also the use of the V2 rocket to strike the bridgehead area. Hitler was sure the rocket attacks would disrupt the whole bridgehead area. He envisioned 50-100 rockets over a 2-3 day period but, at this point in the war there was no way the rocket troops could muster such an effort.
On March 16, Hitler notified German General Bayerlein that he was ordering the attack of Remagen using V2 rockets - regardless of casualties to civilians. Late on the evening of March 16 - because of the accuracy problems with the new terror weapon - the Germans fighting in the bridgehead were moved back from the area about 9 miles. American commanders hushed the possibilty of a coming "V-weapon" attack on the bridgehead.
General Kammler received the order to attack Remagen and immediately issued commands to Batt. SS Abt. 500 at Hellendoorn to target the American bridgehead. The SS Abt. 500 had just moved back to the old firing sites at Hellendoorn (130 miles north of Remagen) on March 08 and was suffering fuel supply problems and very few rockets. Dispite this, the troops were able to launch eleven rockets on March 17, all impacting around Remagen, with the farthest away being 40 km. near Cologne.
One V2 fell close to
Church in Remagen, about 1 kilometer from the bridge.
This round destroyed
several buildings near the church and caused
collateral damage to buildings
within 1000 meters. The impact shook every structure
in the city. Another
V2 fell directly into the Rhine River a little less
than 1 mile from the
Late the next day, Hitler sent his congratulations to the SS Abt. 500 at Hellendoorn for the destruction of the Ludendorff Bridge.
*U.S. Army Green
The launch operations were located near Hellendoorn until Dec. 30, 1944. In January, the SS-Abteilung-500 commenced operations at Hessum and The Mataram, near Dalfsen, before returning to Hellendoorn on Mar. 08. The last firings near Hellendoorn occurred at the end of March 1945. The exact locations of the Eelerberg, Mataram and Madrid firing sites had been reported repeatedly by partizan-organisations to allied intelligence, but no Allied attacks on those sites ever occurred.
The SS-Werfer-Abteilung 500 left Hellendoorn in three groups on March 28, 1945, because of the approaching Canadian troops. Some of these SS troops were, in the last phase of the war they were equipped with Nebel-Werfers (15 cm, Do-Werfer) and received orders to go to a Panzer Division staging area. From there they were supposed to proceed to Berlin and battle with the Russians. Arriving at the staging area they could not find the Division they were to join, but continued toward Berlin anyway. They moved at night due to the constant air attacks. The collapse of Germany caused much confusion and it is not clear if any of these SS troops actually reached Berlin. There is some indication that they had expended their ammunition for the Nebel-Werfers in battles with the Allies along the route to Berlin.
The fate of SS General Kammler is still unknown. (An exhibition in Antwerp recently reported that Kammler had himself shot by a soldier to prevent his capture - this is not confirmed)
(Some photos are NOT specifically from Hellendoorn / Dalfsen.)
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