Liberation of Brussels
September 3, 1944
“The Boche shouted that they would kill the children too and lined them up on the wall outside, but the children cried so loudly in terror that the Boche did not kill them. They only burned my wife and her friend.”
– Quoted in The Times-Picayune on September 4, 1944
In the summer of 1944, Jeannine Burk was 4 years old and had been a “hidden child” in Brussels for more than two years. The Western Allies were on the way to liberate her. Landing at Normandy on June 7, 1944, they fought their way across France and entered Belgium late that summer. The German army wasn’t comparable to the well-oiled machine that conquered the Low Countries and France in 1940, but it remained tough, skillful, and ruthless.
The Times-Picayune, September 3, 1944 – AMERICANS SURGING AHEAD IN BELGIUM; FINNS QUITTING WAR; GERMANS TO LEAVE, German Radio Says American Units Inside Reich Borders, p. 1 (entire page)
– The Times-Picayune, September 3, 1944 – AMERICANS SURGING AHEAD IN BELGIUM; FINNS QUITTING WAR; GERMANS TO LEAVE, German Radio Says American Units Inside Reich Borders, (AP) p. 1 (headline)
The Times-Picayune, September 4, 1944 – FIGHT FOR GERMANY BEGINS; BELGIUM FAST BEING FREED, Nazi Border Crossed, Town Seized, Neutrals Say; Allies Silent, (AP) p. 1 (entire page)
– The Times-Picayune, September 4, 1944 – FIGHT FOR REICH, p. 2
– The Times-Picayune, September 4, 1944 – Nazis Slay Tavaux Residents, Burn Homes in Mad Frenzy, Children and Old Among Attack Victims
The September 4th issue of the Picayune gave a vivid account of an atrocity that occurred when the SS brought its methods of warfare, long practiced in Russia, to the town of Tavaux, near Montcornet, France. In retribution for the shooting of an SS man by resistance fighters, the town was burned down and 22 residents slaughtered: “They were shot to death, bayoneted or turned into human pyres of blazing gasoline by young troopers of the Adolf Hitler 1st SS Panzer division.” The SS killers burned two women alive, one being the mother of five children who were forced to watch.
– The Times-Picayune, September 4, 1944 – Political cartoon, ‘Ach No Vonder They Celebrate Labor Day!’ American Workers’ Great Materiel Contribution
September 3, 1944
The British 2nd Army liberated Brussels on September 3, 1944. Jeannine was twelve days shy of her 5th birthday. On the day of liberation her mother Sara rushed over and retrieved her from the Christian woman who had rescued Jeannine from both the Nazi beast and (even more amazingly) from the nosy neighbor.
On September 5, 1944, The Times-Picayune published an account of the liberation of Brussels on the front page.
The Times-Picayune, September 5, 1944 – ALLIES DRIVE INTO NETHERLANDS; BRUSSELS, ANTWERP LIBERATED, Swift Advances Traps Germans Left in Rocket Coast Area, (AP) p. 1 (front page)
The war continued for another seven months. Once the Germans surrendered in May, Jeannine and family began the anxious wait for her father to return from the camps. They hadn’t heard from him since he was deported to the “east” in 1942, but they had heard the terrifying rumors.