A Chronicle

September 1, 1939     War breaks out. German invasion of Poland. Soldiers billeted in the castle. The farmers are forced to donate their horses, they are needed for the war effort. Men of older age groups and veterans of 1914-1918 are called up.

September 3, 1939     England and France declare war on Germany. The World War I veterans who had been called up two days earlier are sent to the Hellenthal area to protect the western border. They are billeted in what is today the youth hostel. Other soldiers are billeted near Dreiborn.

Winter 1939/40     After the conclusion of the Poland campaign, the units in the castle are replaced by younger troops. The winter is very cold, a lot of snow and frost.

May 10, 1940        Beginning of the campaign in the West against Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France. Numerous planes fly toward the West. A German plane is hit and crashes near the dynamo generator house. Troop movements on railroad tracks and ReichsRoute 264.

June 25, 1940         After only six weeks the campaign in the West is over, a complete success. Among the casualties there are soldiers from the county.

August 13, 1940     Battle of Britain begins.

June 22, 1941        Beginning of the campaign in the East.

May 30, 1942        English air raid at night against Cologne with more than 1,000 planes. Between the western border and Cologne alone, 46 English bombers are downed. A Flying Fortress crashes at the Schlicher Heide. The local citizens curiously investigate the debris.

Easter Thursday 44        The first bombs fall in the Díhorn-Merode area, but they only hit open field and cause no structural damage. Apparently they must have been dropped in a difficult situation out of necessity.

Spring – Summer 44     War is being felt mostly through the call up of many young men. We mourn about 2 dead every month now at an average. Almost no night goes by without air-raid alarm. Concerned citizens begin to build shelters in their gardens. There isnít enough construction material though. The basement of Merode castle is opened as public air-raid shelter.

June 6, 1944            Allied invasion in Normandy begins. Paris will be liberated, the troops cross the Seine and reach the Franco-Belgian border near Mons.

End of August 44     Situation declined day by day. Every day soldiers streaming back form the West are billeted. Large parts of the Wehrmacht move across ReichRoute 264 toward Düren. An ammunition train that stopped on the railroad Düren – Langerwehe, is targeted by American fighter-bombers and goes up in flames near the Schlichen tunnel. The tunnel and the nearby railroad flat of Barth are destroyed.

September 3, 1944     The boys and girls of the county are assigned to work at the entrenchment of the Westwall.

September 12, 1944    1st American Army reaches the German border near Roetgen.

September 13, 1944     The political leaders leave the county by bike while American tank units have advanced all the way to the south of Schevenhütte and have reached the Krichelsmühle to the north. The population ignores an order to evacuate Merode, Schlich, and Díhorn. The order is later revoked. Only very few people leave their home. The American advance stops because of a lack of supplies.

September 14, 1944     American long-range artillery fires at main intersections west of
the Rur, ReichsRoute 264 and the railroad tracks are targets. They also fire at the villages in the county because reconnaissance planes have reported movements.

12th VolksGren Div under command of Colonel Engel fortifies the front-line near Schevenhütte and Stolberg.

September 16, 1944    The schools are closed due to increasing barrages and fighter-bomber activity.

September 23, 1944    First pointed artillery assault on Merode. A shell explodes in the village (between Hamacher and Bartz) and several in the courtyard of the castle. Windows and walls are damaged. Beforehand, an aid station had been set up in the school in Schlichen and a tank unit had been billeted to the foresterís house in Schlich, where they set up a repair shop.

September 27, 1944    Again artillery fire at Merode. The shells hit the meadow near the house of farmer Ignatz Hourtz. A wooden shack is destroyed and a window has burst.

September 28, 1944    The first civilians die. Six boys, age between 15 and 16 form Merode and Schlich die in a camp in Nörvenich where they had been sent to do earth-works. They are buried at the Díhorn Cemetery under the roaring noise of low altitude planes.

October 6, 1944    The military situation comes to a head. Weary troops reach their supposed resting quarters in Schlich from the Hürtgen Forest. At Schwarzenbroich and in the curaterís house in Schlich aid stations have been set up.

November 16, 1944    Operation “Queen,” the American assault on the ground and in the air begins with the heavy bombardment of the villages in the county. Farmers, busy harvesting beets, are caught by surprise as is the rest of the civilian population. Bombs and artillery fire kill 52 civilians in Merode, Schlich, and Díhorn. Large parts of Schlich and Merode have been destroyed or severely damaged. The church in Díhorn has also been hit, as has the one in Schlich. People try to bury the dead in a mass grave at Díhorn Cemetery. Fighter-bombers and artillery fire call for speed. Only a part of the dead can be buried in the grave that had been dug up after the return from the evacuation. A number of the dead had to be left unburied in the destroyed church in Díhorn. Nobody knows what happened to them later. After these events most of the civilians flee to the more central parts of Germany via the train station in Buir. Only a few want to hold out until the front has overrun the area.

11/17/1944    Tanks in Merode. Canadian fighter-bombers that attack them are being targeted by AAA and infantry guns. A German officer of a AAA unit downs two of the attacking planes with his MG 42. One of the planes crashes into the barn of the Schieren family at the Hahndorn; the barn burns down. The second plane crashes into Merode Forest, left of the Karlsweg in the direction of Schlichener Heide. The pilots are taken prisoner by the Wehrmacht. Other planes bombard Merode Castle. The tower and the chapel below are destroyed. The dead of the preceding day that had been put on the bier in there are buried under rubble.
                         Heavy artillery fire. Electricity and water supply are cut. The GrenReg of 47th VolksGrenDiv is engaged in fighting in the woods.
                         Gun nests are in the gardens at the western city limits of Merode. Regimental command post is the curaterís house and the Schmitz-Schunken house is the new aid station.

November 19,1944     Heavy air raids at Merode and Schlich in the morning. A German artillery spotter, in the big tower of the Laufenburg, destroys two American tanks with a grenade launcher. Subsequently, the tower is targeted by artillery and set afire. The Americans think they have silenced the enemy. At night, however, the soldier manages to escape in a spectacular action. He reaches German lines near the Erbsweg at dawn. There were still civilians in the Laufenburg.
                         Artillery fire at Merode and Schlich.

November 21, 1944     Engagements in the forest. It is impossible to prepare hot meals because the smoke gives away oneís location and leads to immediate artillery fire. Constant artillery fire.

November 22, 1944     Again artillery fire. Severe damages in Merode.

November 24, 1944     3rd ParaDiv, coming form Holland and actually penciled in for the Ardennes offensive, is led down the Inden-Gey line to relieve 47th VolksGrenDiv.

November 27, 1944     Langerwehe has been taken by the Americans. Jüngersdorf falls the same day.

November 28, 1944 III.     Battalion, 5th ParaReg unsuccessfully tries to recover Jüngersdorf. Heavy casualties among the paratroopers. This evening the Americans also reach the edge of the forest near Merode. A forward artillery spotter of the Americans is already in house Gouwkens. The main-combat line now leads through Merode. The tank barrier at house Johnen has been taken. There are still civilians in the village.

November 29, 1944     Shortly after noon, two American companies of 26th InfReg, 1st
US Division, attack Merode. The advance stops, however, when a tank that leads the assault falls over in the Hohlweg and blocks the route for the troops behind. Heavy casualties among the attacking force that had reached parts of the tracks.
The units that penetrate Merode find civilians in the houses Lürken and Vitzer. A counterattack cuts off the Americans from their own lines. The paratroopers, supported by one tank, launch their counterattack in the evening. The houses held by the Americans are completely destroyed. More than 200 dead are counted. More than 120 are captured including 10 officers. The civilians are being ordered to evacuate now.

November 30, 1944     Continuation of the attack of the paratroopers in order to recover all of Merode.

December 1, 1944     Merode cleared. The attacking forces are pushed back behind the Tannenkopf.

December 2 through     Every day attacks and counterattacks, combat for Merode and in December 5, 1944  the woods and  Meadows behind it. On December 5, 1st US Inf Div is replaced by 9th Division.

December 10, 1944     Obergeich, Geich, Echtz, and Díhorn fall to the Americans. Tank advance troops overrun Rothaus Farm and advance to the Palmshof.

December 11, 1944     39th US Regiment conquers Merode with support from tanks and air force. The fight is fierce, especially for Merode Castle. Only after bitter close-range combat the attacking force manages to occupy the castle.
                         The paratroopers to the west of Merode in the woods retreat to Derichsweiler/Gürzenich and regroup at Monzenborn arm. Schlich also falls to the Americans that day.

December 13, 1944     Derichsweiler and Mariaweiler can no longer be defended. The day before there had been hard-fought combat at the Palmshof.

December 14, 1944      Americans take Gürzenich and Birgel. Combat in Düren.

December 15, 1944     47th VolksGrenDiv relieves 3rd ParaDiv in this sector.

December 16, 1944     Ardennes offensive begins. The Rur Plains are in American possession.

December 1944     The 104th US Division and 8th US Division are stationed in the
until February 1945 Düren area as occupation forces. The Ardennes offensive is now the most important battle scenario on the western front.

February 23, 1945     Operation “Alligator.” The allied attack at Cologne, across the Rur. Several bridgeheads between Linnich and Düren. Arnoldsweiler and Merzenich are lost.

March 6, 1945      The Americans reach Cologne and the city falls the same day.

March 7, 1945      The Americans cross the Rhine at Remagen.

Early April 1945     The first evacuated civilians return to the county.

May 8, 1945      The war in Europe is over.

August 15, 1945     The population of Merode begins to bury the bodies of the soldiers who have died in the woods and meadows at the Marienbildchen.

Page 2 (rest missing)

The following night I spent alone in the basement on the Casino restaurant in Schevenhütte. My family and the other civilians had been transported to Vicht near Stolberg. By way of various military and civilian hospitals I later caught up with my parents in Vicht.

On November 20, 1944, on the transport by the Americans back through the gorge, there were many dead German and American soldiers in the creek by the French Cross. There must have been a hard-fought battle.

I remember a lieutenant and some of his men who had brought wounded soldiers to Merode earlier. The soldiers wore Red Cross coats. In my mind that must have been the same soldiers who attacked the tank. The lieutenant limped slightly.

From March 20, 1945 on, we were back on the Laufenburg. To the right of the gate in the wooded hill and on the surrounding meadows still lay dead soldiers whom did the Americans now recover. My father helped with this task.

While cleaning the rainwater cistern in the yard, in front of the big tower, we found the skeleton of a German soldier, it was 1945 or 1946. This discovery was reported to the officials in Langerwehe. The skeleton showed that it was a German soldier.

Shortly afterwards, in the summer of either 1945 or 1946, a woman arrived at the castle from Graz/Austria. She was trying to find her dead son. She said her son had been a captain. Then my father told her that a severely wounded captain had been lying in the basement below the restaurant and he must have died. The basement had been completely torched by the time we returned and hadnít been cleaned out since.

After the womanís story my father could remember the exact spot where the wounded captain had been lying. While clearing out the debris we found the torched remainders of a body. The woman took it home in a small carcass that had been custom made in Langerwehe.

I donít recall her name. We havenít heard from her again. In reply to the question if her name was Hein I must say that name sounds familiar.

The families that had been seeking shelter in the Laufenburg in 1944 were family Hupperz, teachers, and a family Dr. Kind from Essen who had many children.