In the night of the 3rd June 1942 the sirens went off, warning the citizens of Kevelaer that British bombers were approaching their place of pilgrimage at the Niederrhein.
Maria Ziemons ran out into the road heading for the Twistedener Straße to reach a safe place in a cellar: „...when the bombs were dropped.“ In Wember Straße Maria Überschär was running along carrying her bedding under her arms: „ I reached the cellar stairs when the first bomb exploded. Bits of broken glas were flying around my head and I fell down the stairs into the dark cellar.“
A house in Wasserstraße, house number 28, was obviously hit by a bomb. The house belonged to Hermann and Maria Toonen, parents to eight children. At the time two of their children, their son Wilhelm aged 27 and their daughter Elisabeth aged 23 were with them in the house. The neighbour Franziska Schrievers recalls the tragic scene:
„ Elisabeth Toonen was catapulted out of her bedroom window on the first floor, still covered by her bedding. I can still visualise her on the garden ground, arms spread wide, wearing a colourful nightdress and her hair as red as ever. Hermann, his wife and their son Wilhelm were covered with debris of the house...we could hear them crying. They were rescued from the rubble, but Maria sadly died within minutes. Her husband followed her a few months later due to his injuries. Wilhelm had a lucky escape only having minor injuries and returned to the front.“
Local NSDAP officials condemn the RAF Bomber raid ( It all seems to have been forgotten in Kevealer today, no one seems to know anything about this incident)
Maria and her daughter Elisabeth in front of their house
Elisabeth´s corpse had shrunken 2/3 of her size because of the heat, a horrific sight.
Within no time the mayor Aloys Eickelberg arrived at the scene accompanied by the Ortsgruppenleiter Theodor Brocks. Eickelberg shouted at Franziska Schrievers´ father that he was supposed to report the damage to him before rescueing the victims.Then the mayor climbed up onto the debris and proclaimed:
„ Heil Hitler! These people gave their lives to Volk and Vaterland and to their Führer!“
Franziska recalls that all the neighbours were terribly shocked and angry. The owner of the mill, Herr Ellendorf, dragged the mayor off the rubble of the house.
The funeral on 8th June was a large procession, a huge amount of citizens turned up to pay their respects. „ It was a large funeral procession, because all the brothers were members of the local football club,“ Grete Toonen says. „ My father-in-law lived for another six months with his brother-in-law...then he followed his wife Maria.“
Maria (on the left) and her neighbours
The memoriam notice of the family simply stated that an accident had caused this tragedy. The local newspaper was not allowed to write about an air raid. The report on 11th June 1942 simply stated:
„ The Volksgenossen who had died because of a tragic incident were escorted by a big number of citizens on their last journey. The feeling of togetherness is more than understandable on mourning the dead, said Kreisschulungsleiter Schumann in a speech at their graves.....“
The report contained no names of the victims, nor did it mention under which tragic circumstances they had died. With the political prominence present at the funeral (Kreisschulungsleiter Schumann, Kreisleiter Quella, Regierungsrat Hoberg and NSDAP formations) everyone was aware of the importance of this incident, but the story seems to have never left the town of Kevelaer and this June of 1942.
The house of the Moore family, as it is today
Pictures and story kindly donated by Terry Moore, husband to Anne Moore née Toonen.