Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Netherlands in World War II
Prelude to the War
In World War I the Netherlands succeeded in remaining neutral, although the sympathies were clearly more on the German side than on the British. Relations with Germany had traditionally been better and the memory of the Boer War was fresh. After the end of the war the Kaiser asked and was given asylum, much to the anger of both Britain and France. A further consequence of the neutrality was that the country had no involvement in the Versailles peace treaty. In fact, its economy suffered from the financial consequences of the reparation that Germany was made to pay. There was a large influx of children from Germany, Austria even Hungary who came to stay with Dutch fosterparents as conditions in the hinterland worsened.
Prime minister Hendrikus Colijn pursued the policy of a strong guilder. This led to a strong currency, avoiding the hyperinflation which arose in Germany, but also caused much poverty according to some economists. The Vereniging Nederlands Fabrikaat (Dutch Product Association) tried to reverse the economic downfall with a campaign Koopt Nederlandsche waar, dan helpen wij elkaar (Buy Dutch goods, so we help each other).
Under the influence of the economic depression and the Broken Guns movement, budgetary priorities were not established at the former Ministry of War (now: Ministry of Defense).
The outbreak of the war
At the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, the Netherlands declared itself neutral once again as it had been in World War I. However, on May 10, 1940 Germany invaded the Netherlands and Belgium. Given the historically good relations with its big neighbor to the east, this came for most as a very big surprise.
The poorly equipped Dutch army was quickly defeated by the Germans. At the Afsluitdijk, the Grebbeberg and the Moerdijkbrug the Dutch Army offered resistance. A German airborne landing at The Hague, intended to imprison the Dutch royal family and the government, failed.
On May 14 the Germans demanded the surrendering of the city of Rotterdam. Soon after that the city surrendered. However, it was heavily bombed, resulting in approximately 800 deaths and 78,000 homeless. This was supposedly caused by a communications difficulty. After this bombardment the Dutch army surrendered, but the battle continued in Zeeland for a few days, until the bombardment of Middelburg forced Zeeland to surrender as well. The royal family had fled to Britain already.
People were hoping to be liberated quickly by the French and English, but after the evacuation from Dunkerque, where the Allies's armies barely escaped being surrounded, France surrendered. The new regime in Vichy started cooperating with the Germans (collaboration). The government of Prime Minister Dirk Jan de Geer was invited to return as well. He wanted to accept this invitation but Queen Wilhelmina did not approve it.
The Dutch navy, merchant navy and the Dutch East Indies (oil) were of great importance to the British. Germany forced France to hand over Indochina to Japan and Queen Wilhelmina was afraid the same thing would happen to the East Indies. She, herself, dismissed her Prime Minister and assigned another (Pieter Gerbrandy ), who did want to continue fighting.
Persecution of Jews
Shortly after the invasion the Persecution of Jews began. The Germans established a government with the Austrian Arthur Seyss-Inquart as leader. They also established a "Jewish Board". Mainly this was a way of organizing the identification and deportation of Jews more efficiently. A substantial number of people from the diamond business used to organize this 'Board' and the Jews were told they were safe, as long as they all came to register themself.
Only a few disagreed, mainly because it 'would jeopardize the Jewish community'. The Dutch people did not offer much resistance at that time either and a possible Allied victory seemed far away. When the Germans had gathered enough information they broke all promises and started deporting the Jews. In 1942 a transit camp was built near Westerbork; at Vught and Amersfoort German concentration camps were built as well. At the end of the war only 30,000 of the 140,000 Dutch Jews survived. One of the victims is Anne Frank, who became famous years later because of her diary, written while she was hiding.
The Dutch people reacted with a strike (the February Strike) as a protest against the deportations. Although the strike did not accomplish much, it was a major setback for Seyss-Inquart, because he had planned to both deport the Jews and to win the Dutch for the Nazi cause. As of this moment the Nazis started treating the Dutch more strictly.
Oppression and resistance
An 'Arbeitseinsatz' was imposed, which obliged every man between 18 and 45 to work in the German factories (which were bombed every night). The men who did not want this, were forced to go underground. As food and many other goods were taken out of the Netherlands, rationing (the ration card) became a way of controlling the people. Somebody who did something wrong, like hiding, automatically lost his food because of this. Having Jews as persons in hiding was even more dangerous, it was punishable by death. One third of the people who tried that, did not survive the war.
The Atlantic Wall, a gigantic coastal defense line built by the Germans along the entire European coast from South France to Denmark and Norway, was built in the Netherlands too. Some towns, like Scheveningen, were cleared because of this. In the Hague 3200 houses were demolished and 2594 were dismantled. 20,000 houses were cleared, and 65,000 people were forced to move.
Due to the censorship, the radio and newspapers were only allowed to deliver the news approved by the Germans. Obviously this only reported the positive results of the Germans. These news messages were not able to hide the unfavourable completely, after all the German 'victories' in Russia keep coming closer to Germany. Listening to Radio Oranje (Radio Orange), Dutch-speaking broadcasts from London, was prohibited.
These measures of oppression stimulated the resistance. Illegal newspapers with the news from Radio Oranje were spread. Some people committed hold ups to obtain ration cards, to feed people in hiding.
After an assault on a German officer near Putten the entire male population of this town were executed without trial.
Not all Dutch offered active or passive resistance against the German occupation. The above-mentioned N.S.B. collaborated actively with the German occupants. There also were Dutch who voluntary reported themselves for participation in the German army and for the SS.
Members of the underground resistence in the Netherlands included: Hannie Schaft.
The last year
After the Allied landing in Normandy in June 1944, they rapidly advanced in the direction of the Dutch border. In September they tried to conquer the bridges over the main rivers (Operation Market Garden) but they failed in Arnhem. Tuesday September 5 is known as Dolle dinsdag (Mad Tuesday): the Dutch, believing they were close to liberation, started celebrating. But the northern part of the country (above the main rivers) had to wait until the next year.
However a part of the south of the Netherlands were not liberated either: The Germans still ruled over Walcheren. From here they controlled the approach to the port of Antwerp. And the Allies needed a large supply port: the ports in Normandy were too limited and far away. On October 24 the Canadian 2nd Division took the Kreekkrakdam after some fierce fighting. The next day they were able to liberate the town of Rilland Bath . The Scottish 52nd Lowland Division landed on the south coast of Zuid-Beveland. On October 30 Zuid-Beveland was completely liberated. To set free the approach to the port of Antwerp they also needed Walcheren. But the strong German defense made a landing very difficult. Therefore the dikes of Walcheren at Westkapelle were bombed. Walcheren was flooded. In spite of warning the people with pamphlets, 180 inhabitants of Westkappelle died. The dikes at Vlissingen and Veere were bombed too.
The Dutch government did not want to use the old water line in 1940. It was still possible to create an island out of Holland, but this island contained the main cities. There were too many people to keep alive. However, Hitler ordered to keep Festung Holland at any price. Besides, the winter of 1944-1945 was very severe, and this lead to hunger journeys and people who starved to death, exhaustion, cold or disease. This winter is known as the Hongerwinter (Hungerwinter). The food situation was aggravated by a general railway strike ordered by the Dutch government in exile in expectation of a general German collapse near the end of 1944.
On the island Texel 800 Georgians, part of the German army, rebelled on April 5 1945. Their rebellion was crushed by the German army after two weeks of battle. 565 Georgians, 120 inhabitants of Texel and 800 Germans died. The 228 surviving Georgians were forcibly repatriated after the war.
After the capture of the Rhine bridge at Remagen, Canadian forces entered the Netherlands from the east, liberating the eastern and northern provinces. The western provinces, where the situation was worst, however, had to wait until a capitulation of German forces in the Netherlands was negotiated on the eve of May 5 1945 (three days before the general capitulation of Germany), in hotel De Wereld (The World) in Wageningen. Previously the Swedish Red Cross had been allowed to provide relief efforts, the most memorable ones employing Allied bombers dropping food over the German-occupied territories in Operation Manna .
Dutch East Indies
On January 10 1942 the Japanese invaded the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). Dutch navy ships in the Dutch East Indies joined the ABDA fleet (American-British-Dutch-Australian fleet) commanded by Dutch admiral Karel Doorman. On February 27 and 28 1942, Admiral Doorman was ordered to take the offensive against the Japanese. The ABDA fleet encountered the Japanese at the Battle of the Java Sea, Doorman gave his famous order "Ik val aan, volg mij!" (I am attacking, follow me!) but the ABDA fleet was destroyed in the ensuing battle.
After Japanese troops had landed on Java, the Dutch surrendered on March 1 of the same year. Dutch soldiers were imprisoned in labour camps. Later all Dutch were captured and sent to camps. Some of them were set to work on the Thai-Burma Railway.
Dutch submarines escaped and resumed the fight on with the Allies. As a part of the Allied forces they were on the hunt for Japanese oil transports to Japan and troop and weapon transports from Japan headed for the other battlefields (including New Guinea).
Several Dutch army and navy pilots also escaped, and with Dutch aircraft purchased from the United States formed Royal Australian Air Force No. 18 Squadron (B-25 Mitchells) and No. 120 Squadron (P-40 Kittyhawks). These squadrons helped defend Australia from the Japanese and participated in the eventual liberation of the Netherlands East Indies. 
After the war
After the war some people who were thought to have collaborated with the Germans were murdered or punished without trial. Others were sentenced by the Ministry of Justice. Some proved to have been arrested unjustly, and were cleared of charges, sometimes after being into custody for a long periods of time.
The bank credits of killed Jewish Dutch are still subjects of trials more than half a century later.
World War II has left many trails on the Dutch society. On May 4 the Dutch remember the people who died during the war. But also among the living there are many, who still have emotional problems due to the war, the first generation as well as the second. In the year 2000 the government still grants 24,000 people a yearly payment (among them are victims from later wars too, for example the war in Korea).
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