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Limburg coal miners speak

Mijnen. Limburgse koolputters spreken‎

Diverse auteurs

EPO, 1981

Interviews with miners for the TV documentary “Limburg coal miners speak” by Erik Pertz (BRTN – 1983)


The Provincial Museum for Industrial Heritage (Hasselt) gives attention to miners a.o. with the travelling suitcase exhibitions “Coal in Limburg” (1983 – updated and renewed in 1987), with the cooperation in Dré Peremans’ radio documentaries on “Het Zwarte Goud” (BRT 1 – 1986) and with the historical input for Erik Pertz’ television documentary “Limburgse koolputters spreken” (BRTN – 1983), broadcasts in which the working group Mijnwerkersgeschiedenis also played a fundamental role.

See also the book: Mijnen. Limburgse koolputters spreken (uitg. Projektgroep Mijnwerkersgeschiedenis). 1981.


Bantoe vissers

Congo gained independence from Belgium on 30 June 1960. David van Reybrouck examined Congo’s tumultuous one-and-a-half century of history. A mixture of more than 100 oral history interviews and the usual historiography based on written sources.


Featured here are the people and events that influenced Congo’s development – from the slave trade to the ivory and rubber boom; from the arrival of Henry Morton Stanley to the tragic reign of King Leopold II; from global outrage to Belgian colonialism; from the independence struggle to Mobutu’s brutal rule; and from the world-famous Rumble in the Jungle to the civil war over natural resources that began in 1996 and is still raging today.


Van Reybrouck interweaves his own family’s history with the voices of a wide variety of individuals – charismatic dictators, warlords fighting, child soldiers, the elderly, female merchant smugglers and many in the African diaspora in Europe and China – to offer a very human approach to political history, focusing on the Congolese perspective and giving a country’s history back to its people.

Forgotten heroes

Vergeten helden : tien portretten van vrouwen over migratie
Sema Yildiz

Heusden-Zolder: RIMO Limburg, 2012 

ISBN: 9789081899406

Much has been written about migration. Very often it was then about men who worked in coal mines, among other things, as part of labour migration. Rarely were women discussed.


The Steenveld neighbourhood association in Beringen therefore launched a heritage project focusing on the life stories of women from the neighbourhood. The result of numerous interviews and the collection of private documents and photos is a publication with the women’s stories. While their husbands were able to develop social contacts through their work in the coal mines, the women went through a very different journey. Their stories are little known.


Ten women from the Steenveld district in Beringen shed the veil of their souls in this book. Each of them tells strong life stories that offer a surprising insight into their world of experience. Travel stories with in one hand a suitcase full of memories and in the other one full of hope for a better future, stories about having to say goodbye, gnawing homesickness, fear of the unknown, and the unconditional love for the children that makes every sacrifice acceptable. Flemish women are also featured, as migration was a profound event for both migrants and natives.


The non-profit organisation Rimo Limburg conceived the plan to record life stories of older women to gauge their existential experience of migration. ‘I focused on the experience of women because they occupied a totally different position from the men,’ says Sema Yildiz. ‘While the men had many contacts through work in the mine, the women had fewer opportunities for integration.’

The women interviewed are all from the Steenveld district in Koersel. Sema Yildiz worked there as a community worker and has a trusting relationship with them. Steenveld was a small mining district four kilometres from the Beringen mine. In the 1970s, the neighbourhood was taken over by the Cantonal Construction Company. It expanded the neighbourhood with social housing, which was mainly occupied by residents of Turkish origin, some 75 per cent. In the old neighbourhood, mainly Belgians, East and South European migrants live there. But in recent years there has been an influx of Turks here too. The neighbourhood had 260 families in 2012 . Yildiz interviewed 10 women: three Turkish, one Spanish, one German, one French, two Belgian, one Italian, one Dominican and a local kindergarten teacher. ‘First-generation migrant women speak little Dutch. That is why the stories are printed in two languages each time: Dutch and a summary in their own language.

Soldiers’ boots and chewing gum

Soepbedeling door Winterhulp tijdens WOII - © Heemkring van Achel

The project deals with the globalisation heritage of World War II in the Limburg Kempen region. This heritage was created during and after World War II by foreign influences on the local, conservative and rather closed society in northern Limburg.


One of the aims is to collect and map intangible heritage -the stories of the last witnesses- and movable heritage; with a special focus on globalisation heritage.

The five themes were:

  • Flee or stay behind? the start of the war, May 1940
  • Playing and learning between the bombs: children’s daily lives and leisure activities
  • On the ticket? Livelihoods and material culture
  • Strangers in my village: a hodgepodge of nationalities
  • Liberated at last? September 1944

A total of 45 interviews were conducted by both individual volunteers and local history circles. By collecting stories, and taking stock of photos, letters, the aim is to gain insight into what impact this had on the local, fairly closed and rural community. The focus is not on the feats of arms but on people’s experiences.


Ten North Limburg municipalities united in the project association Erfgoed Limburgse Kempen, namely Bocholt, Bree, Hamont-Achel, Hechtel-Eksel, Leopoldsburg, Lommel, Meeuwen-Gruitrode, Neerpelt, Overpelt and Peer.

Born to

The conditions for giving birth have changed rapidly over the past century. The City Archives looks back at the evolution of pregnancies, births and the maternity period over time. The exhibition takes you back to the old Ypres maternity home in Lange Torhoutstraat where thousands of babies from Ypres and the surrounding area were born.

Using photos, objects and archive documents from the museum’s own archive collection and private collections, you can imagine yourself back in the Bieke, Bartje or Roosje department. Stories of mothers and midwives and a unique collection of medical instruments bring history to life.


Thus, the Ypres City Archives has supplemented its collection with a pack of new material in the form of life stories and testimonies. The archive team conducted interviews and, with sound files and videos, collected an aural and visual record for future generations. Above all, this method of working was heartwarming. The collaboration with so many enthusiastic people makes this exhibition a project of many. A comprehensive catalogue accompanies this expo. In it, individual themes such as ‘midwifery in Ypres’, ‘the history of the maternity home’ or ‘from delivery table to maternity bed’ are explored in depth and widely illustrated with archive documents, dozens of photos and personal documents.


Altogether, these are testimonies from some 25 people about giving birth in the Westhoek.

The interviews could be heard in edited form at the exhibition ‘In de Wieg Gelegd- bevallen door de eeuwen heen’, which ran in CC Het Perron in November/December 2021.

The last witnesses

De laatste getuigen. Vlamingen over hun Tweede Wereldoorlog.

Jens Franssen

Publisher: WPG Uitgevers BE, 2005
ISBN: 9789022319086




In 2004, Jens Franssen achieved success with his radio series The Last Witnesses, featuring 30 interviews of ordinary Flemings about the occupation, later published as : The Last Witnesses. Flemings about their Second World War.


In De laatste getuigen, Flemings tell about their unique experiences during the Second World War: Belgian soldiers who were overrun by the Eighteen-Day Campaign in May 1940, men and women who chose collaboration or resistance out of conviction, Jews who were deported to extermination camps, political prisoners who were imprisoned in German concentration camps, civilians who were bombed, compatriots who helped with the Normandy landings and the liberation of Belgium in 1944, country traitors who were presented with the bill during the repression. ..Before the war, they were ordinary people.


De verzetsmensen 1940-1945. Cegesoma


Episode 1: ​ Silence is gold

In the first episode, victims recount how the abuse began and the years of physical and mental consequences. Often the abuse was preceded by a major event in their lives, such as the death of a parent. The witnesses describe how clergy exploited the weak and vulnerable position they were in to dominate them, and later abuse them.

They tell of the shame, of not daring to tell, of the sadism and mental and physical abuse, which sometimes lasted for years. Those humiliations were often so painful that they still carry the consequences decades later.


Episode 2: ​ In the name of the father

The second episode focuses not on the victims, but on their parents and relatives. What signals did they pick up? How did they deal with the knowledge that their child was abused by someone they trusted? They talk about guilt, shame and misunderstood signals.

Some of them showed the courage to fight the church hierarchy, from which they often did not emerge without further damage. At the same time, a social evolution is taking place that is irreversible.


Episode 3: Operation Kelk

June 24, 2010. Detectives conduct searches at the Archdiocesan Palace as part of an investigation into possible cover-up of child abuse by priests and fathers. Since a camera crew happens to be nearby, everything is put on film.

The footage goes around the world, in Belgium the bomb bursts. Shortly before, the nephew of a high-ranking Belgian bishop had recorded a conversation with his uncle, who had abused him as a child for 13 years, and Cardinal Danneels. The so-called Danneels tapes proved to be a stick to push the church into swift action.


Episode 4: Forever and ever

Operation Kelk ends with a hiss; a legal consequence in Belgium seems unlikely. In an ultimate effort, some Belgian victims are pinning their hopes on a charge they previously brought against the Pope in Rome.

Despite the legal setbacks, many victims remain combative. It is their fight as the legacy of abuse weighs heavily. As long as perpetrators roam free and risk creating new victims, survivors cannot fully come to terms with their past.

At the home of …

Joos Florquin

Ten huize van … is a Flemish talk show that first appeared on TV1 (Eén) in 1957.

Each episode, presenter Joos Florquin visited a Famous Fleming or Famous Dutchman and interviewed him in his own home. For three days, he installed himself in the home of the person in question, while his camera crew shot footage. Most interviewees were from the political or cultural world. The first guest was Gerard Walschap. More than 250 followed.

Over the decades, Florquin interviewed an impressive number of people. The interviews were written down afterwards, compiled and published in a series of books. When Florquin died in 1978, the programme was also stopped for a long time.


Only in the 1990s new episodes appeared around “At home of”, this time with Edward De Maesschalck as interviewer (34 episodes). From 2003, Frieda Van Wijck took over the presentation.



Naam Uitzending Boekdeel
Aafjes Bertus 1969 7
Alfrink Bernardus J. 1971 9
Aubroeck Karel 1958 2
Avermaete Roger 1962  
Baekelmans Lode † 1963 3
Baie Eugène † 1961 10
Baksteen Dirk † 1963 3
Baksteen Gerard † 1963 3
Baur Frank † 1960 16
Boon Constant 1977 17
Boon Louis-Paul (2) † 1971 8
Bosmans Phil 1978 15
Bovy Vina 1977 18
Brachin Pierre 1967 8
Broekx P. † 1965 16
Brugmans Henk 1962 18
Brulez Raymond † 1959 1
Burssens Amaat 1962  
Cardijn Jozef † 1962 3
Carmiggelt Simon (2) 1972 9
Caspeele Hendrik 1973  
Claes Ernest † 1958 1
Collaer Paul 1961  
Collin Fernand 1964 3
Contrijn Jef 1974  
Cool August 1968 7
Coppé Albert (2) 1973 10
Cornelis Hendrik 1971  
Cox Jan † 1976 17
Craeybeckx Lode † 1966 4
Daan Lea 1969  
Daisne Johan † 1972 10
Darciel Elsa 1975  
De Bock Eugène † 1962 16
De Boeck Felix 1958  
De Boeck Felix 1967 1
De Clerck Oscar † 1960  
Declerck Richard 1977 17
De Coen Jeanne † 1961  
De Cuyper Floris † 1959  
De Hartog Jan 1965 4
De Jong Marinus 1959 18
De Keyser Paul † 1961  
De Leebeeck Maria 1977  
Delwaide Leo † 1969 8
De Man Yvonne † 1965 4
De Mayer Aloïs † 1963  
Demedts André 1968 6
De Meester Johan 1965  
De Meester Louis 1969 16
De Meyer Willem 1964 14
De Muynck Gust 1965 4
Den Doolaard A. (2) 1971 9
Denys Willem (2) 1978 15
De Pillecyn Filip † 1959 1
De Raeymaeker Louis † 1966 17
De Ridder André † 1961 1
De Schryver August 1968 7
De Smedt Emiel J. 1977 15
De Smet Léon † 1961 2
De Spot Jan † 1977 16
De Sutter Ignace 1977 14
De Sutter Jules † 1967 15
De Troyer Prosper † 1958 1
De Vocht Lodewijk † 1958 13
De Vree Paul 1972 13
De Waele Fernand J.M. † 1966  
De Wit Gaspar † 1961  
Diels Herman 1968  
Diels Joris 1968 6
Dille Denijs (2) 1975 13
Dumon André † 1963  
Elaut Leon † 1965 4
Elsing Johan-Mark 1977 15
Elström Harry 1960  
Eyskens Gaston (2) 1974 11
Fayat Hendrik 1976 15
Gerlo Aloïs 1973 13
Gevers Marie † 1963 17
Geyl Pieter † 1961 2
Gheyselinck Roger † 1970  
Gijsen Marnix 1959 1
Gijsen Marnix 1974 12
Gilliams Maurice 1968 5
Goris René 1975 12
Grammens Flor 1972 9
Gronon Rose † 1969 6
Gunzburg Nico 1967 9
Haanstra Bert 1976 13
Haasse Hella (2) 1975 12
Haesaerts Paul † 1966 17
Hagedoorn Georgette (2) 1975 13
Helman Albert 1976 14
Herberigs Robert † 1960  
Herckenrath Antoon † 1974 12
Herreman Raymond † 1960 2
Heymans Corneel † 1963 3
Hoste Marcel A.J. † 1974 18
Hullebroeck Emiel † 1958 1
Indestege Luc † 1965 5
Jacquemyns Pol † 1967 16
Janssens Magda † 1971 10
Jespers Floris † 1959 5
Jespers Oscar † 1958 5
Jonckheere Karel 1968 5
Kimpe Reimond † 1964 3
Knuvelder Gerard 1974 14
Kuypers Julien † 1962 5
Lamberty Max † 1960 5
Lampo Hubert (2) 1973 10
Langui Emile † 1969 6
Lauwereys Modest † 1962  
Leemans Victor † 1967 7
Leys Fanny 1960 5
Liebaers Herman 1973  
Luns J.M.A.H. 1968 6
Maes Jef 1975 18
Magits Leo 1966 8
Malfait Hubert † 1968 16
Manteau Angèle 1967 5
Marceau Félicien 1976  
Major Louis 1967 7
Martens Adriaan † 1963 3
Martens Gaston † 1958 2
Masereel Frans † 1961 1
Minnaert Marcel † 1970 7
Minne Joris 1958  
Minne Joris 1967 1
Minne Richard † 1962 1
Moens Wies 1975 12
Mussche Achiel † 1961 2
Naessens Maurits 1961 6
Nees Staf † 1959 2
Opsomer Isidoor † 1957  
Paerels Willem † 1959  
Peeters Flor 1958 1
Peeters Karel C. † 1970 11
Pelemans Willem 1962 18
Philips Luc 1971 9
Picard Leo † 1963 17
Pieck Anton 1973 11
Poels Albert 1959 1
Pols André M. † 1964  
Poot Marcel 1972 17
Preud’homme Arm. 1970 8
Renard Raf 1977  
Rens Jef 1969 6
Roelants Maurice † 1959 2
Romein-Verschoor Annie † 1974 11
Ruyslinck Ward (2) 1975 12
Ryelandt Joseph † 1959 10
Sabbe Etienne † 1968  
Saverys Albert † 1958 1
Schillebeeckx Edward (2) 1976 13
Schmidt Annie M.G. (2) 1974 11
Schmook Ger 1963 18
Segers Paul W. 1966 17
Servaes Albert † 1966 3
Servranckx Victor † 1961 5
Seuphor Michel 1965 4
Slabbinck Rik 1971 10
Stynen Léon 1972 18
Stracke E.P. Desiderius † 1966 4
Struye Paul † 1971 8
Stuiveling Garmt (2) 1970 8
Suenens Leo 1970 8
Termote Albert † 1970  
Terruwe Anna A.A. 1972 10
Thiel Urbain † 1967  
Thuysbaert Prosper † 1962  
Tinbergen Jan 1976 13
Torfs Jos 1978  
Vaerten Jan † 1974 12
Van Acker Achiel † 1964 3
Van Aken Piet (2) 1978 15
Vanaudenhove Omer 1977 14
Vanbeselaere Walth. 1970 18
Van Cauwelaert Emiel 1976 17
Van Cauwelaert Frans † 1960 2
Vandekerckhove Michiel 1973 18
Van den Abeele Hugo † 1967  
Vandendriessche Ern. 1969  
Vandeputte Robert 1971 16
Van der Essen Leo † 1960  
(Van der Goes Hugo) 1968  
Vanderlick Armand 1969 7
Van der Meer Frits 1973 11
Van der Meer de Walcheren Pieter † 1966 4
Vandermeulen Lambertus † 1974 12
Van der Mueren Floris † 1960  
Van der Plaetse Antoon † 1968  
Vanderpoorten Herman 1978 15
Vandersteen Willy 1976 13
Van de Velde Anton 1964  
Van de Voorde Urbain † 1964 7
Van Duinkerken Anton † 1960 1
Van Eynde Jos 1975 14
Van Hemeldonck Em. † 1958 1
Van Hool Bernard † 1970  
Van Hulse Camil 1967  
Van Isacker Karel 1977 14
Van Istendael August 1975 16
Van Oorschot Geert (2) 1977  
Van Overstraeten Jozef 1966 5
Van Overstraeten War 1960 10
Van Oye Paul † 1965  
Van Reeth Flor † 1959 14
Vansina Dirk † 1965 4
Van Straaten Werenfried 1972 12
Van Vlaenderen Michel † 1964 3
Van Waeyenbergh Honoré † 1961 2
Van Werveke Hans † 1969 6
Van Wilderode Anton 1976 14
Vercammen Jan 1973 11
Veremans Renaat † 1959 2
(Verlooy Jan Baptist) 1973  
Victor René 1964 17
Vinck Joseph † 1970 18
Vranckx Alfons † 1973 16
Walschap Gerard 1957 1
Wasserman Ida † 1968 6
Westerlinck Albert 15
Wijnants Ernest † 1960  
Wildiers Max 1969 7
Yoors Eugène † 1959 1

Every day anxiety

Hundreds of testimonials

18,000 dead. That’s how many casualties the thousands of V1s and V2s launched by the Germans on Belgium and England claimed. More than 8,000 died in our country. On top of that came the more than 20,000 prisoners who perished in the underground concentration camp Dora, where the V weapons were manufactured. Elke dag angst, their story and that of the witnesses who did survive.


Several years ago, Pieter Serrien’s search for testimonies about the V terror on Belgium began. He listened to hundreds of haunting stories about a life in constant fear. During the writing process, dozens more witnesses were added: Dora’s camp prisoners who found the courage to write down their experiences after the war, the allied soldiers who remember the difficult time in faraway Belgium and the German perpetrators who broke the taboo and also shared their stories. The latter were especially important to Pieter Serrien: to also give the word to those who launched the V1s and V2s. Only in this way could he paint the fullest possible picture of the V terror.


Antwerp and Liege

In total, an estimated 9,000 Vs fell on Belgium. Most were aimed at Antwerp or Liege, the two cities that were the biggest victims of the terror. Both cities get a prominent place in the book. Other affected municipalities also get their place. For instance, witnesses recount the dozens of accidents involving downed V1s caused by the anti-aircraft belt around Antwerp.

This is what our war was like

Zo was onze oorlog
Getuigenissen over de Tweede Wereldoorlog in Belgie
Pieter Serrien
ISBN: 9789022330937
Manteau, 2014



Almost 800 witnesses recount their personal experiences during World War II. This book is the result of a unique school project, which sent a thousand young people out to interview their grandparents’ generation about the war in their youth, seventy years ago. These penetrating and intimate stories of ordinary people in particularly unusual circumstances leave no one unmoved. Pieter Serrien masterfully weaves hundreds of stories into a haunting history of the Second World War, letting the witnesses themselves speak as much as possible.


Since 2010 Pieters youth project Zo was onze oorlog gives young students the opportunity to interview witnesses of WWII. Five years later almost 1500 students participated. This gigantic archive of more than 1000 witness stories was the inspiration for Pieters thirds book Zo was onze oorlog (That was our war, Manteau, 2014) about the daily life under occupation from 1939-1945.