German “Beobachtungsbuch” (observation book)

After the Carillon Venray Foundation decided to take over the layout of the Grote Kerk van Venray, after the redevelopment of the first and second turret rooms, the “Werkgroep Inrichting Toren” (Workgroup Building Tower) started to furnish the third tower room of the Sint Petrus Banden Church in Venray. For the third tower room a German “Beobachtungsbuch” (observation book) would be shown as a special sight. It concerns an observation book of a German unit that during the Battle of Overloon and the liberation of Venray had set up a observatory in the tower of the above-mentioned church.

The observation booklet is special because it is from minute to minute, by means of short notes, describes what the German observers had observed from their vantage point during the period from 6 to 13 October 1944, observations that were mainly of interest to German artillery units that could attack the Allies in a targeted manner.

Soon the church tower of Venray became an important target for the allied land and air forces and should, in any case, be eliminated. Although the church tower was bombed from the air and the land, it was eventually the retreating Germans who blew up the church tower on 16 October 1944, in order to prevent the Allies from using the church tower again as a lookout.

The observation booklet, with the notes of, for example, combat observations, as well as the names of the observers and their duty roster, was saved not much later from under the rubble of the blown-up tower of the Saint Peter’s Church. The original booklet, which was in private possession, was made available by the owner to the “Working Structure Tower” of the Carillon Venray Foundation to make an exhibition in the third tower room of the Sint Petrus Banden Church possible. In January of this year, Harrie Eijssen (member of the “Working Group Equipment Tower”) contacted me if I would like to support this working group to find out the German unit, preferably the observers of this unit, during the Battle of Overloon. and the liberation of Venray had arranged a lookout post in the church tower and had kept the observation booklet. Of course I was happy to accept that assignment.

On the first page of the observation book, strangely enough, a so-called field mail number was noted. A field mail number today can be compared to a zip code, an encrypted number for transferring mail to a specific unit. After I deciphered the field mail number it became clear that something was wrong, because this number belonged to a German service unit of an Infantry Regiment that was stationed at the time of the observation book from Venray in Latvia. In fact, the conscious field mail number had been used for the last time in October of 1943 by this unit.

As the fierce fighting in and around Venray, however, it would be quite possible that one or more German soldiers, mentioned in the observation book, were killed or buried in the Netherlands. But again, unfortunately, I did not get any further as there were no victims among the fallen and the German soldiers who were reburied in the Netherlands, which corresponded to the names in the book, whether or not in combination with their rank or rank. There was, however, one exception, a non-commissioned officer whose name (with corresponding rank) also appeared in the booklet, this non-commissioned officer died on November 19, 1944 in Prummern (Geilenkirchen) and was buried by American soldiers in Margraten from where the remains were finally reburied in Ysselsteyn . This non-commissioned officer was born in Altkarbe, at the time the Prussian province of Brandenburg, but since 1945 when this area was occupied by the Red Army, the Germans were there by deportation expelled and the place name renamed in Stare Kurowo (Poland). Unfortunately, no further information about this non-commissioned officer was found in Stare Kurowo; I have now continued the investigation into this non-commissioned officer for security in Berlin.

After that I continued my search by consulting the lists of missing German soldiers, unfortunately these lists were not sorted by place but by unit so that this search was an extensive investigation as there are already more than 2,500 German soldiers in anonymous graves in the Netherlands alone. Unfortunately, however, in this search, I was completely stuck, so I went to consult the names of the soldiers who died in Germany, even here there was ‘only’ one name that also i.c.m. his rank corresponded to a name / rank from the book. This concerned a German soldier, son of an innkeeper, who was killed on a train on Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945, and was buried in a mass grave with the other victims of this shelling. Meanwhile, there is contact with the municipality of his place of residence, but here too the information remains brief and I have also continued this research in Berlin.

Since a reply from Berlin can wait for some time, I am also looking in the ‘Bundesarchiv’ in Freiburg, but here too, it is difficult to find specific information with little information available. In the near future, however, I hope to be able to share more background information about the booklet with the “Working Group Furnishing Tower” of the Carillon Venray Foundation.

Meanwhile, at the invitation and request of the Carillon Venray Foundation, I gave a word on Saturday 23 April 2016 during the opening and presentation of the ‘observation booklet’ in the third tower room of St. Peter’s Church in Venray. I would like to thank the board and members of the Carillon Venray Foundation for their confidence and pleasant cooperation.

The tower rooms of Sint Petrus Banden Church in Venray with its diversity of exhibitions can be visited on Saturdays from 2 pm to 4 pm to 29 October.

Presentation, Saturday, April 23, 2016

Tableau, enlargement of the ‘Beobachtungsbuch’.