07 Aug Eersel, Sint Jacobus Gesticht (Koloniehuis)
Address: De Dijk, Eersel
The monastery was built in 1902, the “gezondsheidskolonie” for children in 1926. After being torn down in 1990, the new city hall was built here.
The first refugee children arrived here in the spring of 1939. J. van Mackelenbergh, director of the Catholic committee in ‘s Hertogenbosch, was very involved with the refugee children and tried to help where he could. Despite these efforts some of the children living in Eersel were deported to the concentration camps.
George Levy writes:
“St. Jacobus was in all respects a remarkable place. Physically, St. Jacobus was an elaborate series of large, brick buildings, two and three stories, with plenty of windows to allow for excellent light and ventilation. Girls’ and boys’ facilities were completely separate including playgrounds. The buildings were surrounded by beautiful grounds with large trees and hazelnut bushes. So, you can imagine, if you are facing St. Jacobus, on the right a two story, roomy house that served as the rectory for, during the time I was there, Father Leo Weyers. To the left of the rectory was a large, three story convent with a statue of St. Jacobus placed above the main entrance and set off with a gable in the middle of the roof-line. The nuns, led by Mother Renildus, lived in the convent. Between the convent and the large facilities for the children was a two story staff house.
St. Jacobus was self-sufficient and state of the art regarding things like kitchen facilities. The St. Jacobus farm had cows and chickens and pigs, and fruit trees – apples, plums, cherries, pears, all this delicious fruit that I could help myself to. We grew our own strawberries. The convent baker, a man named Thijs, turned home-made flour into wonderful baked goods. Then, in the kitchen, the dishes were actually washed by a huge, industrial sized dishwasher, which seemed just as modern as one you’d find in a restaurant or hotel today. Clothes were dried in automatic dryers in the convent laundry. Racks pulled out from the dryer upon which clothes would be hung. Then the racks would be inserted again inside the dryer and the clothes automatically dried. Everything was extremely modern. No expense seemed spared to create an excellent environment for the children of this koloniehuis. […]
No matter how modern the surroundings or how favored we were in this setting, it was still an institutional life. Picture meals with two hundred boys lined up closely with one another at long tables with equally long benches to sit upon. The food was delicious, the room light and airy, but nonetheless, eating dinner with two hundred boys is not a homelike setting. Neither were the barracks-like sleeping arrangements.” (33)
33. George Levy Mueller: Lucie’s Hope, 27, 28