Eyewitness WO2 is a new privately owned museum, which has only been open since 2013. I came across it while researching a new battlefield tour for Leger Holidays and this week had the chance to pay it a visit. It proved to be quite an experience!
The museum is located in a large former private house on the outskirts of the town of Beek in the Netherlands. Beek is close to the Maas river on the border with Belgium, not far from the Siegfried Line in Germany and close to the Roer area where there was heavy fighting at two ends of the war in 1940 and 1944.
On arriving at the museum outside was a M24 Chaffee tank in US markings along with a 57mm US anti-tank gun and a Pak40. Going inside we discovered the museum is on three main floors plus a basement and starts with a film which describes the fighting in the region from beginning to end of the war. The ground floor set the pattern that followed: exceptionally well presented mannequins with unique, specially created, faces (not the usual moulded grinning ones found in some WW2 museums) and absolutely amazing material on display. Some of the mannequins in the first room rotated so you could see the front and back of their equipment, which I thought was very clever. Going upstairs we found a variety of themed rooms which followed the chronology of the war: the Dutch Army under attack in the Blitzkrieg, the Dutch ‘home front’ and the Dutch SS volunteers who went to fight in Russia, then leading on to the campaign in North-West Europe in 1944-45. The Hurtgenwald display which ended this on the top floor was quite stunning and there was a very appropriate and moving Holocaust display too.
Going back downstairs and then down into the basement we found displays depicting the fighting in Berlin in 1945: from people taking shelter underground to a Berlin bunker to Soviets occupying a farmhouse. It ended a great tour of the museum having seen many rare items, with lots of supporting materials from photos to recruiting posters. There were also interactive screens and while the museum is Dutch owned, displays had English text throughout.
The Eyewitness WO 2 Museum is one of the most remarkable privately owned WW2 museums I have ever visited. The dedication of those who run it shines though in the quality of the displays and attention to detail, not in the least in the amazing faces on the mannequins. It will have wide appeal to those with a passion for the Second World War to the casual visitor interested in finding out about the war in Holland. I cannot recommend it enough and as it is not that far from Eindhoven, anyone heading up to Arnhem should do a little detour and check it out. You will not be disappointed!
Opening times, prices and lots of other information are on the museum website.