A YOUNG MAN FROM UDEN SHOWS THE WAY
Piusplein, 5402EA, Uden
‘Operation Market Garden’ was the Allied attempt to defeat the Germans as quickly as possible and put an end to the war. In the autumn of 1944, thousands of paratroopers landed deep in enemy territory. They had to take and defend all the great river bridges until they received help from the Allied army that was advancing from the south. This long-awaited operation inspired some ordinary Dutchmen to join the international force.
Hans Schoon (Uden, 1921) had moved to Nijmegen with his family before the war. His father was the director of the municipal abattoir. Hans went to secondary school at the Canisiuscollege and played at Union, a local field hockey club. He got his grammar school diploma just before the war and started studying at the Roman Catholic Handelshoogeschool, now known as Tilburg University.
When war broke out, Hans and his fellow students were given a declaration of loyalty to sign. The declaration, which had been in force since the beginning of 1943, presented every student with a difficult choice. Those who signed had to refrain from any action against the German Reich. Those who do not sign were no longer allowed to attend lectures. Hans had a month to think about it, but he didn’t need it; he refused to sign the declaration. And he knew the consequences, so he went into hiding in the immediate vicinity of Uden, the region he knew so well. He just managed to complete his first year of study successfully from his hiding place.
Operation Market Garden started in the autumn of 1944, and on 19 September Uden was liberated. Hans Schoon could leave the hiding place where he had spent a year of his life. When he heard that the Allies would be reaching Nijmegen the next day, he got really excited. He rushed to his friend Bob Tiemstra. “Bob, I lived there! We have to do something, man. Just help, join in! Will you go with me?” Together they signed up for the American 82nd Airborne Division. With their knowledge of the region and their best English they showed the Allies the way. As guides and interpreters, but without any fighting experience, they joined patrols to the most dangerous places.
After Operation Market Garden was terminated on 26 September, Hans and Bob remained active, and 6 October was no different. On that day, the friends took part in a patrol in Elst. Suddenly gunfire sounded from the side. Then a hard bang. After that there were only flames. Their car was on fire. Bob managed to get out of the wreckage and was immediately captured by the Germans. Hans didn’t stand a chance. He perished in the flames.
Shortly thereafter Hans’ parents were told that their son was missing. That’s all the Americans could say. Hans’ father started looking for his son’s grave. Unfortunately this search was in vain. Father Schoon placed a death announcement in De Gelderlander newspaper: ‘We have obtained certainty that our eldest son and brother Hans Schoon died in the Betuwe on 6 October 1944 for the liberation of his homeland, at the age of 22.’
The name of Hans Schoon is mentioned on the Canisiuscollege war memorial and on the monument for fallen students at Tilburg University. But also on the Honorary List of the Fallen 1940-1945 and the memorial stone at Union, his hockey club in Nijmegen. After the war, his friend Bob Tiemstra helped establish the Liberation Museum in Groesbeek. In 1983 Bob was appointed Officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau.
This story was based on the Monument for Freedom entry about Hans Schoon. The Monument for Freedom is a digital monument founded by the Tilburg Cobbenhagen Center and Tilburg University.