At the start of the German occupation, little seemed to change for the Dutch population. But gradually, stricter measures were introduced. In April 1941, for instance, the personal identity card was introduced for all Dutch citizens aged 15 and above, and everyone had to present this on demand.
It was 19 February 1942 – the time 09.25 am.
Marinus van As of the public works department made an emergency call to fire chief Van Egmond: ‘Chimney fire in the town hall on Grootestraat!’ (now: Notaris Fischerstraat).
Van Egmond tried to call the Civil Air-Raid Protection Department to ask them to summon the fire brigade members, but the line was busy, and so he asked his wife to keep trying. He himself hurried to the fire station on the corner of Telefoonweg and Waterloweg.
The Spijker fire tender with powered pump was now ready to go – and thick clouds of smoke rising above the town hall showed how urgent the situation was. But now, everything seemed to go wrong...
On the market square opposite the town hall, two citizens rolled out fire hoses, but the fire-fighting well was covered with snow and ice. So two firemen tried to connect the hoses to the fire-fighting well in front of the town hall. But this didn’t work either, because the straw intended to protect the hydrant from frost was itself frozen stiff.
By now, flames were shooting from the roof of the town hall. In the end, it turned out there was a serviceable hydrant behind the town hall on Boschpoortstraat (now: Grotestraat). At 9.40 am, the powered pump started producing water, and water also came from a hydrant further along Bospoortstraat. By this time, they had finally managed to open the hydrant in front of the town hall, too.
By around half-past ten, the roof and attic of the town hall had burned out so much that the surrounding buildings were no longer in danger. The town hall building itself was devastated, and all the fire brigade could do was damp down the wreckage. This continued until half-past five in the afternoon.
The charred ruins included thousands of paper documents: the Ede population register. A fateful accident? Van Edmond and police chief Kraus drew up a report. The NSB (Dutch Nazi Party) Mayor Van Dierendonck accepted their interpretation of events: an accidental fire caused by an overheating stovepipe, combined with poor fire-extinguishing circumstances.
The fire benefited the Dutch resistance. Destruction of the population register deprived the German occupiers of an important control resource, making it easier to forge personal identity documents.
The town hall stood on the site that is now occupied by the apartment building.
Do you want to experience this story on its original location? Visit the information panel at the Notaris Fischerstraat.