After a fierce battle for Otterlo near the entrance to the park, the museum is liberated by Canadian soldiers on 15 April 1945. Sam van Deventer is suspended due to his ties with the occupying forces. Willy Auping is appointed curator and acting director of the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller.
Liberation by Canadian soldiers
In the afternoon of 15 April 1945, a Canadian armoured column reaches the museum from the direction of the Deelen airfield. The troops decide to continue onwards to liberate Otterlo. But at the entrance to the park, a fierce battle ensues with the German soldiers stationed there. When night falls, the Canadian troops retreat to the museum. Snipers are positioned on the roof and there are tanks around the museum, even one on top of the bomb shelter. After heavy fighting with many casualties, Otterlo is liberated by the Canadians.
Nurses from the emergency hospital in the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, cheer to the first arriving Canadian troops, 15 April 1945
The troops, led by Lieutenant Colonel Gerald Levenston, remain at the museum for several days awaiting the outcome of the capitulation negotiations, which are taking place at Hotel de Wereld in Wageningen. Levenston is apparently a real art lover and Auping and he become friends.
Canadian troops stationed at the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller.
Suspension of Van Deventer
Shortly afterwards, on 18 April, Sam van Deventer is arrested by the Military Command on suspicion of conspiring with the German administration and the removal of 3 paintings from the National collection. The role of Van Deventer on the Veluwe is thereby played out. He is relieved of all his administrative duties and detained, together with his wife Mary Lehnkering, her daughter and their 5-year-old son, in separate camps near Ede. An investigation is launched into his actions and the museum policy during the war years. On 17 May 1945, Willy Auping is appointed curator, ‘responsible as acting director’ of the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller and as secretary of De Hoge Veluwe National Park Foundation.
Patients move to Arnhem
After the liberation of the Netherlands on 5 May, the patients and staff of the Red Cross want to move back to Arnhem as soon as possible. There, a new emergency hospital is set up, where patients from Otterlo are accommodated. The museum is evacuated on 1 June. Van der Voort Maarschalk writes to Auping: ‘Together we experienced the sharpest contrasts in and around our Red Cross work in a time when everything seemed to crumble, but you always reminded me – in spite of everything – of that which endures: art and the artist. For me, this is the result of “Otterlo” for which I shall always be grateful to you’.