Visiting Grensstraat, Vaals, The Netherlands: remembering some post-WW2 Dutch annexation of German territory
A border dispute eventually resolved peacefully
The title of this short article will immediately strike some readers as odd: wasn't it Germany that invaded The Netherlands? rather than it being a case that The Netherlands took over some German territory?
Well, actually, both these aspects are true. These lines are insufficient to do justice to the terrible history of the suffering of the Dutch people in World War Two, with the Blitzkrieg and the devastation of Rotterdam in 1940, the deportation of many Dutch Jews to their deaths, and many other cruel events.
One of the areas along the Dutch-German border, where The Netherlands took over German territory after World War Two was adjoining Grensstraat (1), Vaals, in the province of Limburg (2). I have supplied a number of photos of the intersection of Grensstraat and Maastrichterlaan , at which the Dutch-German border occurs. The main photo, above, shows the corner property at the intersection of Grensstraat , to the right, and Maastrichterlaan , to the left; this photo was taken in approximately 1910. The second photo, right, shows Maastrichterlaan as it extends to the junction with Grensstraat ; this was taken in 1975. The third photo shows the Dutch-German border, with Germany at Aachen's suburb of Vaalserquartier in the background, and with the end properties on either side of Maastrichterlaan , including the property which is at the junction of that road with Grensstraat ; this photo is a near-contemporary one.
Interestingly, until 1948, part of Grensstraat was in The Netherlands, and part of it was in Germany. But in 1948 The Netherlands annexed the hitherto German part of Grensstraat / Grenzstrasse. Not until a 1960 treaty with the German Federal Republic (which in 1948 had yet to come into existence), ratified in 1963, was the annexed portion of Grensstraat — together with other, border territories — given back to Germany, in the interests of good neighbourliness and stability in Europe.
The border changes at Vaals's Grensstraat thus form one of a number of little-known episodes in post-World War Two history which involved — in the event, temporary — border disagreements between The Netherlands and Germany, and which, to the great credit of both countries, were resolved amicably.
February 9, 2013
(1) Literally, 'Border Street'.
(2) Please note that there is also a province named Limburg in Belgium which is also Dutch-speaking.
Also worth seeing
In Vaals itself, the Drielandenpunt (i.e., 'Three Country Point') between The Netherlands, Germany and Belgium occurs at the wooded Vaalserberg, which, at 322.7 metres, is also the highest point in The Netherlands.
Lemiers (distance: 3 kilometers) is a photogenic village near Vaals, with interesting architecture, including an old chapel and a castle on the Dutch-German border.
Aachen , Germany (distance: 5 kilometres); among the many visitor attractions to this spa city are its ancient Cathedral associated with Charlemagne and an impressive, historic City Hall.
How to get there: The nearest large city to Vaals is Aachen, Germany. Lufthansa flies from New York Newark to Duesseldorf, where car rental is available. A46/A61/A44 lead to Aachen. The German railroad company Deutsche Bahn (DB) links Duesseldorf to Aachen (distance: 93 kilometres). You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
Other of my hubpages may also be of interest
- Visiting the former Post Office building at Maastrichterlaan, Vaals, The Netherlands: complex border
- Visiting Vaals, The Netherlands and its former Akenerstraat customs post: memories of a formerly ten
- Visiting Mamelis, The Netherlands: untypical hill country, and border complexities, too
- Visiting Vaalserquartier and Dreilaendereck at Aachen, Germany: three countries meet
- Visiting the City Hall, Aachen, Germany: focal point of symbolism far beyond municipal affairs