Photographer:Fotograaf: Simone Golob
Did you know that the Wilhelminasingel was renamed Wyckersingel during the German occupation? The Nazis wanted no vivid reminders of the royal family.
In September, it will be 70 years since Maastricht was liberated from the Nazis. This was the reason why Stefan Vrancken from Maastricht – junior notary in real life – decided to set up a Facebook group Maastricht 70 jaar bevrijd where he can expose his knowledge and his photographs. We see pictures of German columns waiting at the slip road of the Wilhelmina Bridge, of people from Maastricht cheering their liberators, and German prisoners of war being marched away. This is “purely a hobby” for Vrancken. The same applies to his Historia Traiectum ad Mosam – a Facebook group with more than five thousand likes – about the history of the city of Maastricht. “It started as a project for friends and family.”
Because of his enormous collection of books and his fondness for the past, he shares photographs or titbits with his followers four to five times a week. Always in Dutch. “I would like to do it in English, but it would have to be perfect English. That would take too much time at the moment, in particular because I post several small pieces each week.” Students are an interesting target group, Vrancken thinks. “Sometimes fraternities or associations ask me if I can give a guided tour of the city.”
Even though foreigners probably won’t understand all of the Dutch explanation, they will recognise terms such as ‘Wyck’ or ‘Grote Staat’ and be able to place the photograph. Vrancken owns a lot of photographs but he also receives many from his followers. “Sometimes I put out an appeal, for example for old communion or carnival photographs.”
For Vrancken, one of the most fascinating eras in Maastricht history is the French period. “From 1794 it became a French city. We entered a new period. Developments after 1870 are also very clear, when Maastricht expanded considerably and the walls of the city are demolished. That is when the Villapark area was built, meant for the wealthy who no longer wanted to live in the smelly city.”
He refers to the arrival of Maastricht University as “a salvation. Otherwise we would still be an underdeveloped village. The university colours the city.