Lüttich Zitadelle – The Liège Citadel

This is an episode in “the quest for Jan van Boeckel: From Holland to Bavaria”.

Enclos des Fusillés - enclosure of those shot by firing squad, Liége
Enclos des Fusillés – enclosure of those shot by firing squad, Liége

Jan van Boeckel spent two and a half months at the Citadelle de Liège in the summer of 1944. He was transferred there from the Saint-Léonard prison on D-Day, the 6th of June 1944. Situated high on a hill, overlooking the Meuse river, this fortification was first built in 1255 but got its pentagonal shape in 1650. During the Nazi era it served as army Barracks , and one part of it as a Kriegswehrmachtgefängnis – a Wehrmacht war prison – then known to the occupiers as the Lüttich Zitadelle. A portion of the Citadel walls now still stand. But the Citadel itself was demolished in the seventies, a hospital taking its place.

If you look hard enough you will discover a well kept memorial. An oasis between busy roads and parking spaces for hospital patients, employees and visitors. A memorial in remembrance of the many victims of the Nazi’s who were incarcerated and ofttimes executed here at the Citadel. The door and part of the wall of ‘Blok 24’ – where the political prisoners were kept – has been kept intact, as has the tunnel leading to the execution grounds, just around the corner. The prisoners were kept in the tiny cells of Blok 24, not knowing if, and when they would be killed. When the sounds of the executioner’s guns reached their ears, they knew that once again one or more of their fellow resistance members had been killed by the Nazis.

Enclos des Fusillés - enclosure of those shot by firing squad, Citadel de Liége. Blok 24
Enclos des Fusillés – enclosure of those shot by firing squad, Citadelle de Liége. Blok 24

Enclos des Fusillés – enclosure of those shot by firing squad – is the name of the memorial. A small valley shaped space gently slopes down to the former execution range and Blok 24. I believe  Jan van Boeckel was jailed in one of the cells of Blok 24, waiting for his sentence and undergoing interrogations. He was there together with at least four of his fellow maquis: Milou, André, Dédé and Ferdinand.

Today, the slopes of the Enclos des Fusillés are covered with crosses naming the dead. Among them are the names of Vincent Longton and Raymond François marked on white crosses. Vincent and Raymond were members of the Maquis D’Engreux, who were arrested on the 15th of March 1944 when the maquis were hiding at the Moulin de Spitanche. They were both condemned to death on the 18th of July 1944 and shot in a Nazi execution frenzy on the second of September 1944, just before the Allies took over the city. Jan was arrested on the 30th of May 1944 and deported to the Reich on the 18th of August 1944. I am sure that during his imprisonment at Liège he met, and probably communicated, with these two maquis members who had belonged to his group.

The news of D-Day must have spread like wildfire amongst the inhabitants of the Citadel, the spirits of the jailed resistance fighters flying high, knowing they would soon be freed and that their deprivations and losses had not been in vain. Not realising what shadows loomed around the corner ………   


 For those of you still following my progress on the story of Jan van Boeckel’s journey into the unknown: The writing is continuing, and the book is slowly taking shape. I have a wonderful editor in Fiji who is worth 10 times her weight in gold. Jaap – a sociologist who has also searched for traces of Jan in the past – is reading along with some of the chapters. I count myself very lucky that he is involved. Once I have polished parts of the book to an adequate standard, Ineke – the family history custodian – has promised to read and comment. I will then ask test readers who have offered to read along in the past to join in. As you have noticed I am so busy with the writing of the book, archival work and research, that I have limited time for my blogs. Next month I am off to delve into the Brussels archives.

This is an episode in “the quest for Jan van Boeckel: From Holland to Bavaria”.

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