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Nobody deserves to be forgotten

Both 2019 and 2020 were remarkable years. During these years, people from all over the world commemorated and celebrated the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. The end of the war in the Netherlands came closer when U.S. soldiers crossed the border near the town of Mesch on September 12, 1944, which became the first town to be liberated. However, it would take until May 5, 1945 before the country was fully liberated. And that liberation came at a heavy price for those who fought for it. That is why we say thank you to our American liberators who have been buried in the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial in the town of Margraten. We pay tribute to them by decorating their graves and names on the Walls of the Missing with their personal photos. Join us in our quest for the missing faces and help to remember to those who sacrificed their all for our freedom.


Memorial Day speech Arthur Chotin

Arthur Chotin is the son of S/Sgt Max Chotin, one of the many soldiers buried in Margraten. During the 2015 Memorial Day ceremony, Chotin shared with those in attendance the impact of the loss of his father on himself and the rest of his family. Chotin also expressed his gratitude for the Dutch who continue to adopt the graves in Margraten. His moving speech can be read below.

 DSC9315 b"Major General Van der Louw, Prime Minister Rutte, Commissioner Bovens, General Breedlove, Ambassador Broas, Congresswoman Morella, members of the American WWII Orphans Network (AWON), Ladies and Gentlemen, Dames en Heren.

In 1962 President John F. Kennedy, in response to a question from a reporter about the inequities of military service, famously told Americans "life isn't fair." But my family, and the families of the 10,022 men and women buried or remembered here, already knew. For my mother, that harsh statement became personal on November 3, 1945, months after the war in Europe had ended, when my father, delivering the paperwork that would begin the process of sending men in his unit, including him, back home, was killed when the jeep he was in collided with a truck.

Life isn't fair. And as my 60 new brothers and sisters from AWON who are here today know all too well, the effects of that unfairness impacts those of us left behind for our entire lives.

I never knew my father. He was sent overseas when I was ten weeks old and killed a month before my first birthday. For my entire life, my mother couldn't talk about him without crying. I didn't want to make her cry, so I didn't ask. But, even though I didn't know him I think of him almost every day; what he missed and what my mother and I missed. So here I am, 70 years old, more than twice the age of the father I never played catch with, never argued with, never even hugged, and the single thought in my mind today is that I hope he would be proud of me. Oh the power these dead have over those they left behind.

But for my family, and the families of the other soldiers buried and remembered here, there was a comfort because we learned about the incredible efforts made by the people of the Netherlands to adopt these graves. First the BurgerComité Margraten and more recently the Stichting Adoptie Graven, The Foundation for Adopting Graves.

CHOTIN Max MAR-A-7-8 02What would cause a nation recovering from losses and trauma of their own to adopt the sons and daughters of another nation? And what would keep that commitment alive for all of these years, when the memory of that war has begun to fade? It speaks to the character of the Netherlands and its people that every single grave in this cemetery and virtually every single name on that wall has been adopted. It is a unique occurrence in the history of civilization. And it is deserving of recognition, and of thanks.

Yet I imagine that for many of the adopters, there is the question of why more families of these dead never visited the graves of their sons, their brothers, their husbands, their fathers. Traveling to Europe from the United States was very expensive in those days. Surviving widows suddenly found themselves single-parents, raising their fatherless children in many cases with the main bread winner no longer alive. Parents were getting older and didn't travel and sisters and brothers were too young to come here on their own. But for my mother, although she never told me this directly, somewhere deep inside she held out the hope that one day there would be a knock at the door and she would learn that ... it had all been a big mistake. Coming here and seeing my father's grave would make it real and would destroy that dream.

She never came. She never remarried. She mourned him until the day she died. But in her sadness she always had a special place in her heart for the people of the Netherlands and for those who had adopted graves. She would have been so honored to meet members of the Adoption Committee, and Petra, Boy and Pim Naaijkens who have adopted five graves here, including my fathers'. When she met Dutch people traveling in the United States she made a point of speaking with them and thanking them. And when I traveled here for the first time in 1974 she devoured the letters I wrote and the pictures I took.

So where does this lead? It leads to the fact that I, and the hundreds of thousands of natural born descendants of these 10,022 want you, their adopted descendants, to know how appreciated you are and how grateful we are to each and every one of you. You have made a positive difference in the lives of those these dead have left behind.

And so, namens mijn vader, on behalf of my father, S/Sgt Max Chotin, United States Army, serial number 32193094; namens zijn vrouw, on behalf of his wife, my mother, Sylvia Chotin, who if any part of life is fair is with my father today looking down on all of us; namens zijn dochter in wet, on behalf of his daughter-in-law, my wife, Betsy, who has joined me in mourning and missing my father since the day of our marriage; namens zijn oudste kleinzoon, on behalf of his eldest grandson, Matthew, who is named for my father; namens Matthew's vrouw, on behalf of Matthew's wife Sharon who this fall will give birth to his great grandchild; namens zijn jongste kleinzoon, on behalf of his youngest grandson, David, who, when he visited here for the first time, left a letter he had written to his grandfather telling him how thankful he was for his sacrifice and the sacrifice of the others buried here so that David and his generation could be free; namens de leden van AWON, on behalf of the members of AWON, many of whom, the Margraten Kids, have parents buried here; on all of their behalf I stand here today:

Door het maken van deze dode deel van uw famile, by making these dead part of your family, you have become part of our family. You have created a bond between us that will never be broken. So, from this day forward, from now until the end of time, hartelijk bedank, a heartfelt thank you. May the kindness and compassion you have shown them, and us, be returned to you many times over. We thank you, we salute you, we are forever grateful. Bedankt."

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Photos by the Municipality of Eijsden-Margraten/Sluysmans Photography


Would you like to contribute to keeping the memory alive? By donating just 12.50 dollars, you will enable us to give a face to one soldier. You can directly donate 12.50 dollars via your credit card or PayPal by clicking the button below. Click here if you want to read more or donate another amount. Thank you for your support!