Vanished memorial plaque ‘Hague pale noses’ back in Westerbork

A replica of the memorial plaque that was presented in 1946 by parents of children from The Hague to the people of Drenthe will be unveiled in Westerbork this afternoon. This was done as a thank you for sheltering hundreds of children during the hunger winter of 1944/45.

The parents from The Hague sent their children to our province in desperation because there was still enough food here. The memorial plaque will be placed at the monument of De Vlag at the Stephen’s Church.

The original memorial plaque was stored in the town hall of Midden-Drenthe. It disappeared in 2022 during internal renovations and moves and was never found again. The municipality put on the sackcloth and offered to have a replica made.

By the way, it was not the first time that the plaque was lost. The plaque also disappeared in 2015 after being loaned to the Hague Historical Museum, but the memorial plaque was eventually found in a storage room at the town hall.

Albert Kuper of the Westerbork Historical Association was quite angry in 2022 when the plaque turned out to be missing. But he is satisfied with how the subsequent collaboration with the municipality went to have a replica made. “The municipality arranged and paid for everything,” he says.

“It is made of bronze, the same material as the original,” says Kuper. “Made by a company in IJsselstein. The preparation took a while, but it looks beautiful, just like the original.” Kuper is not afraid that the plaque will disappear again. “It’s well secured, secured, and you basically have to demolish everything to take it.”

Ben Boers will unveil the plaque together with the then responsible councilor Schipper. Boers is one of the ‘Hague pale noses’ who ended up in Drenthe at the age of 12.

He was placed as a city boy with a farmer. Boers had never seen a farm before. Yet he immediately felt at home. “The farmer was a friendly man, the first thing he showed me was a Belgian, such a big workhorse. And then I was allowed to look at the cows in the stable. I had a good time.”

But there was also concern. “About my parents, you didn’t know how they were, whether they were still alive, you had no contact and I still had a hard time with that.” When he was taken back to his parental home in The Hague after his stay in Drenthe, his father opened the door. His mother wasn’t there. It turned out that she had hitchhiked to Drenthe to pick him up. Boers saw her again a few days later.

Boers thinks it is important that a replica of the plaque has been made. “It’s wonderful that the plaque is coming back,” he says. “After the war, parents saved quarters and dimes to be able to thank Drenthe in this way. That says something about the emotional value it had for them.”