The exhibition ‘Jongeren in de Vuurlinie’ (‘Young People in the Firing Line’) is based on the research of historian Joost Rosendaal, who has collected almost a hundred diaries from this period. In the course of his research he has analysed the personal stories of ordinary people who kept these records themselves. What was life like in the city for the residents of Nijmegen between September 1944 and May 1945, when the city found itself on the front lines following the failure of Operation Market Garden?
Experience wartime Nijmegen
The Stevenskerk was badly damaged during the war. Its tower was destroyed when the Americans bombed it 79 years ago. Now, in the church’s ambulatory, Nijmegen’s time as a front-line city is being brought to life through augmented reality, based on twelve stories from the diaries. Using a smartphone or tablet, visitors can scan a place or object to start a short narration on their screen.
They will come across the diary of Trees Schretlen, for example, a seventeen-year-old schoolgirl who wrote down what she experienced every day in her school diary, adorning the pages with a chewing gum wrapper from the liberators. There is also the story of the young family of Fine Oostendorp-Eppink, who lived in a cellar and went for days without seeing daylight.
Original materials are also on display, including diaries, surviving footage and objects that allude to this time and place. As visitors follow the route through the church to take in these exhibits, it is as if they are walking through the Nijmegen of that period, recreating an almost first-hand experience of what happened at specific places and on specific days.
Academics will assess visitors’ own objects
It will be possible to visit the exhibition during and after the opening programme on 1 October and there will be an opportunity for visitors to show a team of experts objects, letters and other items from the Second World War that they have in their possession. The experts will examine the items and talk to their owners about their historical value. Attendees will also have the chance to read and help transcribe a recently discovered war diary.
More to see and hear
The exhibition also features a clip from the podcast ‘Het Bombardement op Nijmegen’ (The Bombing of Nijmegen), in which eyewitness Ria Roosendaal-Martens recounts how she saw the Stevenskerk’s tower fall on 22 February 1944. A link is also made to the present day: consideration is given to the young people of Ukraine, who share their experiences of war with the world in their own way.
Another exhibition, ‘Albert en Theo’ (‘Albert and Theo’), is also presented in the church’s choir. This exhibition tells the story of a special friendship between 21-year-old Albert Tarbell, an American paratrooper of Mohawk descent, and 15-year-old Theo Smolders from Nijmegen
Practical information and access
The exhibition runs from 1 to 23 October 2023 and can be visited free of charge in the Stevenskerk. Visitors who do not have a smartphone with them can borrow a tablet from the desk in the church for the AR experience (limited availability).
The opening will take place on Sunday 1 October from 1.30 p.m. to 5.00 p.m. and will feature contributions from various researchers. There will also be an opportunity to help transcribe a war diary and to bring in your own objects or letters for a team of experts to examine. For further information, please visit the events page of this programme.
‘Jongeren in de Vuurlinie’ forms part of the ‘Sleutel van de Stevenskerk’ (Key to the Stevenskerk) initiative and the Programma Vrijheid Rijk van Nijmegen (Freedom in the Rijk van Nijmegen programme), which has ‘Jong in oorlogstijd’ (Young People in Wartime) as its theme. The exhibition has been made possible with the support of: Freedom Museum, Programma Vrijheid Rijk van Nijmegen, Stevenskerk, Regionaal Archief Nijmegen, Het Goed, Stichting Nijmegen Blijft in Beeld, Podcast Het Bombardement op Nijmegen, Khrystyna Khranovska and Port of Culture, Cine Chefs.