Toespraak Gouverneur Bovens

Gepubliceerd: dinsdag 02 december 2014

Een toespraak van tijdens de boekpresentatie ontbrak nog, en dat was die van Gouverneur Theo Bovens van de Provincie Limburg. De toespraak is nu te lezen op de website.

Your Excellency, Mister Ambassador Timothy Broas,
Mayor of the City of Aachen, Mrs. Hilde Scheidt,
Mrs. Janice Wiggins (wife of Mr. Jefferson Wiggins),
daughter Felicia and grandson Malcom Wiggins,
Ms. Mieke Kirkels,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great honour for me to welcome you here in 'het Gouvernement' in Maastricht. The Liberation Flame is, as you maybe noticed, burning outside, as a symbol of our special bond with the American people, and the servicemen who liberated our province.

Our gathering here today is fully in keeping with the series of events taking place throughout the Province of Limburg to commemorate and celebrate our liberation seventy years ago. Recently in the village of Mesch we commemorated the fact that the liberation of the Netherlands began on September twelfth, nineteen-forty-four, at 10 o'clock in the morning. It was there that the men of the Thirtieth US Infantry's Old Hickory Division crossed the Dutch-Belgian border for the first time.

The coming months are a fitting time to reflect more deeply on different situations involving occupation, oppression, human rights violations, war and violence, anywhere in the world. And also to reflect on such situations in the past. Many of my countrymen experienced these horrors first-hand during World War Two. Our contemporary perspective, coupled with recent world events, serve as a firm call for us to learn from our history.

Every year on Memorial Day at the American War Cemetery in Margraten we commemorate the tremendous sacrifices that our American friends, and indeed the whole nation, made to ensure our freedom. We remain eternally grateful to them. There is a very good reason why we have been caring for the graves of the fallen American soldiers for the past seventy years. Because this ensures that personal experiences of fellow countrymen are enhanced.

On November 10th this year, it will be seventy years ago that the first American casualty was buried in Margraten. With more than eight-thousand graves, Margraten was destined to become one of the largest American military cemeteries in Europe. The fact that the cemetery was laid out and built by black soldiers has been nearly forgotten.

Initially, black soldiers were restricted from engaging in combat operations, and were assigned to the support troops. But on D-Day, black and white waded together through a sea turned red with blood. Jefferson Wiggins was one of them. As a nineteen-year-old in nineteen-forty-four, he was one of the gravediggers in Margraten, and he was African American. As a young soldier, he was in charge of his group. He and his men had to dig the graves with picks and shovels, countless graves, an endless task.

More and more has come to light in recent decades about the undeniably vital role that over nine-hundred-thousand African Americans played in the liberation of Europe. The story of Jefferson Wiggins and his comrades is the very heart of a newly published history of the American War Cemetery.

Mieke Kirkels' book entitled From Alabama to Margraten – Memories of Gravedigger Jefferson Wiggins tells the moving story of African-American soldiers during World War Two. In the book, Wiggins tells how he was conscripted, and he looks back on his service as a soldier in the racially segregated US Army of that time. And he also talks about what awaited him upon his return to his homeland. But that did not keep Jeff Wiggins from creating his own American dream: from gravedigger in Margraten, to teacher and honorary doctor. With heart and soul, he applied himself throughout his life to achieving equality for black Americans. To quote Doctor Jefferson Wiggins himself: "Each of us has a place in history. And we must let future generations know what history has done to us."

At the American War Cemetery in Margraten, black and white soldiers now lie buried side by side. No distinction has been made. Death knows no color here, neither in the past, nor in the present. We are eternally indebted to the boys of Margraten, each and every one.

Thank you for your kind attention.

Bestel het boek!

U kunt het boek Van Alabama naar Margraten bestellen via de website. U betaalt € 19,95 per boek (exclusief verzendkosten van € 4,00, ongeacht het aantal boeken). Klik hier om het boek te bestellen. U kunt het boek ook aanschaffen bij een van deze verkooppunten.



Van Alabama naar Margraten
Postbus 22
6269 ZG Margraten

Anderen over het boek

"Het is fascinerend om te lezen hoe Jeff Wiggins door de oorlog zich steeds meer bewust werd van de grote verschillen tussen blank en zwart. En met hem mee te leven op de stranden van Normandië en later als grafdelver op het oorlogskerkhof in Margraten."

- Jacques Vriens