As part of this major plan, the bridges over the Rhine at Arnhem needed to be captured by airborne units. But the Battle of Arnhem ended in defeat and the Allies progressed no further than the Betuwe region.
Now, the Rhine became the front line in the area between Arnhem and Rhenen. To the south of the river were the Allies, and on the north bank the Germans. During the fighting and also during the following period, the Germans ordered the civilian population to evacuate ever larger areas along the Rhine. Ultimately, the entire southern Veluwezoom region had to be evacuated.
This resulted in a large stream of evacuees from Arnhem and Oosterbeek. Many chose to take the road through Deelen and on towards Apeldoorn. A significant second stream headed for Otterlo. The village wasn’t expecting or prepared to accommodate thousands of evacuees, but the villagers did all they could to help the people. The primary school was transformed into a children’s hospital. The rectory on the other side of the road became the headquarters of the medical staff, while the church became another centre for providing aid. Due to the numerous Red Cross symbols painted on the roofs, the village was soon dubbed ‘Red Cross Village’. In most cases the evacuees were fed and then sent further on into the Veluwe region the same day as they arrived.
In April 1945, the liberation was accompanied by fierce fighting in and around Otterlo. During the fighting, the spire of the church tower was knocked off by a direct hit, killing a number of Germans who were standing beneath the tower. As a result, Otterlo church was the most heavily damaged of the four historic churches in Ede Municipality.
Do you want to experience this story on its original location? Visit the information panel at the monument found near the junction Harskamperweg and Pothovenlaan.