On Friday, 20 October 1944, the Germans ordered the evacuation of Bennekom. The next day, a huge exodus began. People used all kinds of transport to take their important possessions with them. One woman noted in her diary: “All along the road it’s just one big house-moving event. And the German soldiers chugging in their vehicles between the people. It’s heartbreaking to see.” The evacuees headed for Ede, and people who were in hiding went along with them, undiscovered.
The resistance made good use of these confused days. During the fighting at Arnhem and Oosterbeek, many British airborne troops lost contact with their own units. The resistance helped them to go into hiding, and ultimately several hundred British soldiers were being hidden in and around Ede. The aim was to get them to the other side of the Rhine all at once, during the night.
And so, protected by the stream of refugees, a large number of British airborne troops were brought undiscovered to their assembly point at Hotel Nol in ’t Bosch (Hartenseweg). Operation Pegasus I was a success: in the night of 22 to 23 October, 138 men safely reached the liberated far bank of the Rhine.
On 17 April 1945, Ede and Bennekom were liberated by British and Canadian troops: on 5 May, this was followed by the general German capitulation in the Netherlands. From 12 May 1945, the residents of Bennekom were permitted to return to their village. But the suffering of the evacuees wasn’t over. Hardly a house had been left undamaged and much of the property they left behind had been stolen. More than once it transpired that their own neighbours had taken part in the plundering.
Next to Keijenbergseweg the bodies were discovered of the resistance members and brothers Elbertus and Martijn van Steenbergen from Ede, who had been casually shot four days before the liberation of Ede. In the Binnenveld meadows lay the remains of two Bennekom husbands and fathers: while visiting their home area during the evacuation, they had been summarily executed and buried on the spot.
The evacuation of Bennekom lasted more than 6 months. Bennekom was the only village in Ede Municipality that was evacuated for such a long period of time.
Do you want to experience this story on its original location? Visit the information panel at the intersection Selterkampweg-Prins Hendrikweg in Bennekom.