The Hartenstein Hotel in Oosterbeek, on the western outskirts of Arnhem is one of the most iconic features of the Battle of Arnhem. The 1st Airborne Divisional HQ commandeered the building to orchestrate the capture of bridge at Arnhem. During the battle, it became a Divisional stronghold within the Oosterbeek Perimeter. In more recent times the Hartenstein Hotel has become the home of the Airborne Museum Hartenstein, the main Airborne Museum in the area to the Battle of Arnhem.
The site of the Hartenstein began life as a country residence. The building was reconstructed as a country house in 1865. Before the Second World War, the house was converted to become a nursing home after the original owners died, and only became known as the Hartenstein Hotel following its purchase by the Renkum/Oosterbeek council in around 1942.
1st Airborne Divisional HQ during the Battle of Arnhem
Prior to Market Garden, the Hotel had become the Headquarters of Heeresgruppe West, under Field-Marshall Walter Model. However, when troops of 1st British Airborne Division landed a few miles away on 17 September 1944, the Field-Marshall quickly evacuated.
As the Division began their advance towards Arnhem, Gen Urquhart, the Divisional Commander saw the site as the perfect place for his Headquarters. The Hartenstein soon the Divisional HQ, a medical station, communication point, makeshift Prisoner of War camp (in the tennis court complex behind) and a key defensive position all at once.
As the Battle progressed, the embattled Allied forces created the defensive 'Oosterbeek Perimeter' around their strongest positions, including the Hartenstein. The Hotel itself witnessed increasingly heavy fighting and was partially destroyed by the end of the Battle.
As the Allied position became increasingly difficult, ammunition, food, water and basic medical supplies at the Hartenstein ran perilously low. Many of the Airborne soldiers who were wounded and died there were given field burials in the hotel grounds. In many cases, it was only after the war that their remains could be reburied at the nearby Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery.
Airborne Museum Hartenstein
A Museum dedicated to the Battle of Arnhem was first opened at Doorweth Castle, Gelderland, in 1949.
When the Hartenstein (restored after the war as a Hotel) came on the market in 1978, it was purchased and transformed into the place 'where time stopped in 1944'.
The Hartenstein Hotel opened its doors as the Airborne Museum in May 1978 with the presence of a special guest, Gen. Urquhart.
Today the Museum is a important place of pilgrimage for veterans and their families, including many tourists who visit to learn about the history of the Battle. The Museum is a focal point of special commemorative events and parades to remember the bravery and sacrifice of all who took part in the Battle of Arnhem. The Museum has an impressive collection of weaponry, documents, films and photographs collected following their donation by veterans, their families and local people over the years.
After many successful years, the Museum was officially reopened following a multi-million Euro construction project in September 2009, during the commemorative weekend to mark the Arnhem 65 Commemorations. The Museum and grounds played host to the British Ambassador’s reception and was attended by British Defence Minister the Rt Hon Bob Ainsworth MP, special guests included serving Parachute Regiment officers and Arnhem veterans, including Dutch civilians.
The construction project, overseen by Director Dick Schlüter was undertaken, principally, to open out the hotel cellars for an expansive diorama encouraging visitors to experience conditions during the battle in September 1944, and increase accessibility to visitors.
The entire building has undergone extensive renovation. New displays, using new audio visual content, have been carefully attuned to attract younger visitors whilst a new lift shaft ensures all floors of the building are accessible to all visitors. All this has been achieved with the innate charm of the original building undiminished.
More information about the Museum and opening hours can be found here: Airborne Museum 'Hartenstein' website
With thanks to Margaret Szczepek
Other sourcesAirborne Museum Hartenstein Wikipedia article Paul Reed's Battlefields of World War 2 website