World War II

Aktion Rheinland

On 16 April 2014, I attended a Düsseldorf police sponsored memorial ceremony at the exact location, where five men of an anti-Nazi resistance group were executed. Below is self-explanatory, un-corrected text of a new bi-lingual plaque dedicated by the Düsseldorf Police to the memory of these five men:

Memorial in memory of the “Aktion Rheinland”

This commemorative place reminds of the dramatic liberation of Düsseldorf from National Socialism and the executions from 16th and 17th April 1945.

A group of courageous Düsseldorf citizens resisted to the very end the national socialist order to defend the already closed in city against the American troops. On 16th April parts of the resistance group arrested the police commander, who belonged to the NSDAP in order to negotiate with the American troops a peaceful surrender of the city.

The lawyer Dr. Karl August Wiedenhofen and the architect Aloys Odenthal were able at the risk of their own life to get through to the American lines and convince the allies of a peaceful invasion. It was on 17th April that the city was actually freed without any combat actions. Since 2011 the so-called “Weg der Befreiung” reminds of this dramatic event, which the former protagonists called “Aktion Rheinland”. However the other members of the resistance group were betrayed. The lieutenant colonel of the Düsseldorf Schutzpolizei Franz Jurgens, the builder Theodor Andresen, the master painter Karl Kleppe, the engineer Josef Knab and the college student Hermann Weill were put in front of a drumhead court martial and shot at the very place the same night. The corpses of the five murdered were exhumed shortly after and buried in graves of honour.

Only as recently as in 1999 the unjustified judgments were annulled. Today streets and courts are named after those men to remind us of their courageous acting for the rescue of Düsseldorf. This commemorative place was set up in 1957 and restored in 1965 and 2004.

I will go into details of “Aktion Rheinland” in future articles.

Richard H Cummings
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Richard H Cummings

Richard H Cummings is the former Director of Security for Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty and the author of "Cold War Radio: The Dangerous History of American Broadcasting in Europe, 1950-1989" (2009) and "Radio Free Europe's 'Crusade for Freedom': Rallying Americans Behind Cold War Broadcasting, 1950-1960" (2010).