Speech of Mr Smolders, (former) director of the Airborne Museum Hartenstein.

1. “2006 Year of homage to the Arnhem-veterans of Poland”

Today we celebrate the presentation of the 10.000th bottle of Airborne Beer to a Polish friend, an Arnhem veteran, Mr. Antoni Fedorowicz.
A milestone, not only for Mr. Staal, the initiator of this special beer, but also for the Lest we forget-Foundation and for the Arnhem veterans as well.
This year, 2006, will be remembered as the year of the rehabilitation of the Poles, who fought bravely in Arnhem, in September 1944.
After the onset of Operation Market Garden on 17th September 1944 the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade was brought into action at the Battle of Arnhem at the 21st, much later than planned initially. The commander was Major General Stanislaw Sosabowski, as we all know.
Its allotted task implemented the reinforcement of the surrounded 1st British Airborne Division at Oosterbeek. A considerable part of the Polish brigade landed near Driel village, south of the river Rhine. Only few of the troops were able to get through to the British at the north side of the river, due to a dire lack of boats. The remaining units secured an open road for the retreating British.
It became increasingly evident that the Allied Forces were not able to lay their hands on the Arnhem bridge, in that instance. The Battle for Arnhem drew to a close an thus failed pitifully. The better part of this failure was pinned on Sosabowski in particular. Consequently he was not only deprived of his command, yet also demobilized in disgrace. In spite of this all, many people held firm believe in the outstanding audacity of the general and his officers and men.

Rehabilitation by the State of the Netherlands was long in coming. On 31st May 2006 Queen Beatrix awarded Sosabowski posthumously the ‘Bronze Lion’ decoration. The ‘Militay Williams-order’ decoration was added to the regimental colours of his Parachute Brigade.

2. The ‘Bronze Lion’ is lent to the Airborne Museum ‘Hartenstein’.

Therefore the museum dedicated a special exhibition to General Sosabowski and his Brigade. You can learn about the training methods, the dedication of the colours, the individual remembrances of the battle at Driel.
From the very beginning in 1949, this museum attracted an incredible number of visitors. Why do they come? Many come to honour the soldiers and civilians, whose lives lay in the balance. Frequently, visitors will bring up memories and want to commemorate the past at this historic site, where they are eye in eye with the material remains of the battle. We are glad that the museum can offer the Polish people a possibility to honour the men who stood strong for the liberation of Poland, and who’s plans were thwarted by the Operation Market Garden.

3. The homage by our Queen gave the local council cause to name a place in the region after this warrior: The General Sosabowski Foreland, at the Oosterbeek bank of the river, with a view of Driel village. The name-board will be unveiled tomorrow afternoon.

4. The unveiling of a Sosabowski portrait in Driel on Saturday afternoon, during the memorial service at the Poland square. This plaque is a gift from the British Arnhem veterans to honour their Polish brothers-in-arms.

5. Last but not least: The Airborne Beer, dedicated to you, Polish Arnhem-veterans.
This year’s beer bottle has a special label in Polish language, which depicts the dropping of paratroopers in 1944. By buying this Airborne Beer the Lest we forget-Foundation is supported with money, 50 cents per bottle. But let’s talk about drinking the beer. Beer is the most popular drink of all nations. And as the museum wants to play a part in reconciliation of nations, in a brotherhood of man, the museum will give opportunity to Gerrit Staal to organize this beer drinking party.
There are some who claim that a museum, such as Hartenstein, will have lost its significance, more than 60 years after the war. Not true. We witness from day to day a growing interest among a far broader group, because it is being considered important to be reminded of the misery of war. Memorials are essential, particularly for the younger generation, as a warning not to let history repeat itself. Not only to remember people, but to understand the process that can lead to war and the emotional and material damage that war causes for many generations onwards.