History of the Netherlands (1939–1945)

The Netherlands, which are neutral at the beginning of 1940 are still invaded by the Germans in May 1940. The Queen and the government went into exile in London while the Nazis installed a Reichskommissar to lead the country. There introduce including forced labor in Germany which will be submitted workers and organizing the deportation of more than Jews to extermination camps. The total liberation of the Netherlands does not occur until May 1945.

The circumstances

Prelude (1914-1939)

During World War I, the Netherlands remained neutral. Since the Second Boer War, the sympathies of the Dutch are more on the side of the Germans to the British. Belgian solidarity with their neighbors, they have hosted hundreds of thousands of refugees at the time of the invasion of Belgium by German troops, but in the Netherlands that Kaiser Wilhelm II was granted asylum after 1918, and He still resides there in 1940. Anthony Fokker, the famous designer of German fighters of the First World War, is Dutch. German soldiers had also managed to escape and return home with a “suspicious ease,” according to the Belgians. Consequence of neutrality, the Netherlands have not been involved in the Treaty of Versailles. Thereafter, the Dutch economy has suffered financial consequences of repairs that Germany was forced to pay, and many German, Austrian, Hungarian and even children were placed in foster families Netherlands.

Between the wars, the Netherlands suffer like the rest of the world by the Great Depression after the Crash of 1929. Premier Hendrikus Colijn then conducted a policy of strong guilder, thus escaping the hyperinflation that hit Germany at the same time, but in return causing unemployment and widespread poverty that the Great Depression only amplified. This contributes to a rise of Nazism. Anton Mussert founded a Dutch Nazi party, the Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging (National Socialist Movement or NSB) that gets 8% of the vote in elections and to be the only party allowed during the occupation

Consequence of the economic downturn, but also a powerful anti-war movement, the military budget is low and the country remains outside the arms race.

The German invasion (May 1940)

When France and Britain declared war on Germany in 1939, the Netherlands declared themselves neutral, once again, but to bypass the Maginot Line, the line of defense that the French had placed on their border East, and to prevent possible British landing, Germany invaded the Netherlands May 10, 1940. This is the Battle of the Netherlands or Holland Battle of which only lasts a week. Despite the disproportion of forces, the Dutch army has a high resistance to Afsluitdijk Grebbeberg and Dordrecht. An airborne commandos landed in The Hague with the objective of capturing the royal family, but it managed to escape to England with the government.

On May 14, the Germans launched an ultimatum demanding the surrender of the port of Rotterdam otherwise the city would be bombed. Shortly after the end of the ultimatum, surrender is announced, but the bombers already on mission are not recalled, and the city suffered a savage bombing which killed 800 and homeless. This burr is attributed to a communication problem. It was after the bombing of Rotterdam the Dutch army surrenders, but fighting continues few days Zealand until bombardment of Middelburg.

The Dutch then strongly hope that the French and the British will soon liberate the country, but they lose all hope at the end of May during the Dunkirk evacuation which saw the British army embark with difficulty to escape the encirclement. A few weeks later, France disarms when the Armistice of 22 June 1940. Dutch Prime Minister Dirk Jan de Geer, following the French example, attempts to negotiate separately from London with Germans invited him to return to his country peace, but Queen Wilhelmina dissuades him to accept the invitation.

The Dutch and the oil reserves of the Dutch East Indies fleet, now Indonesia, are of great importance for the British military. After Japan was forced France to assign the rights to use the base of Haiphong and several airfields’ transit, Wilhelmina returns Dirk Jan de Geer to prevent a similar situation from happening again in the Dutch East Indies and called in its place a new Prime Minister Pieter Gerbrandy who wants to continue to fight alongside the British.

The German occupation

– generalities

During the occupation, the Netherlands are under the authority of Arthur Seyss-Inquart, who takes the title of Reichskommissar. On the one hand, it seeks the good administration of the country as a prize of war should be exploited to the benefit of Germany at war. On the other hand, he tries to spread Nazi ideology. Some Dutch workers are forcibly sent to Germany, as a kind of forced labor. NSB (National Socialist Alliance), is the only party authorized and supported by the occupants and at the same time Seyss-Inquart promotes the creation of all kinds of organizations National Socialist. From 1941, the Germans organize the hunt for Jews that led to the deportation and death of most of the Jewish population of the Netherlands.

Only a minority of the population agrees to National Socialism. The failure of the policy Sess-Inquart is marked by three strikes of protest:

•The strike of February 1941 in Amsterdam, against the deportation of Jews;

•Strikes of April-May 1943 against the German project to return captive Dutch soldiers;

•The railway strike in September 1944 to support the advance of the British army.

Seyss-Inquart and the policy of “Gleichschaltung”

Gleichschaltung (equal to) is the name of the policy that the Germans lead in the occupied Netherlands, with two objectives: first, to end the pillarisation (verzuiling in Dutch), that is to say, a communitarian vision of society (Catholics on one side, Protestants on the other side of a working class, bourgeoisie on the other), and then dissolve the Dutch nation in the people of lords, Herrenvolk, German and Aryan. On that basis, the German occupation authorities undertake to gradually change society so as not to frighten the population. This does not prevent the Catholic Church and some socialists oppose from the beginning to the Gleichschaltung. In 1941, all Catholic bishops receive their setpoint leave nazifiées associations.

Finally, this policy has completely failed, mainly because of setbacks by the Germans in the military, and because of the economic recession. Nazi ideology could not penetrate the intricacies of Dutch ideologies. All had in common to give a good place to humanism, and Nazi atrocities only amplify the hostility of the population vis-à-vis the occupation regime. Before 1943, the dominance of Germany in Europe is bright enough for the majority of the population took refuge in indifference or silence, but the Batavian nationalism becomes alive when the Germans began to suffer military setbacks. The Germans then lose control of the company that is in an informal front against the Germans and Dutch employees.

The Nazis are also divided on how to consider the Dutch: is it a conquered people or brother people “Aryan”? At the top of the Nazi hierarchy, especially in Hitler and in the Reichskommissar Arthur Seyss-Inquart, we have tended to accept in the highest category, but only a small part of Dutch undertake alongside the Germans at the same time allies can count on the sympathy and support of the people as expressed, for example in the railway strike in September 1944 during Operation Market Garden. The general attitude of the Dutch, which can be described as “passive resistance”, then upset Seyss-Inquart to the point that blocks the transfer of agricultural products of the country’s eastern regions to the major port cities, producing what has been called the Hongerwinter, that is to say the Hunger Winter, from November 1944 to February 1945. It was also at this time that the Nazi repression is the hardest against all “traitors”, shot on the spot due to terrorism.

The persecution of the Jews

Pretty soon after the invasion of the Netherlands by the Germans began a policy of persecution of the Jews. The first anti-Jewish measures date back to June 1940 with the exclusion of Jews from the civil air defense services [8] . Then there is a series of measures of exclusion up to the professional ban in public in November 1940. The exclusion of universities causes student protests in Leiden and elsewhere.

After installing the government under the authority of Seyss-Inquart, they establish a Jewish Bureau whose official purpose is to identify Jews. A number of notables from the business circles of diamonds are suitable to play the Germans suggest that the Jews would not have their stories as long as they hold their own census. Those who refuse to register then are a minority, but it must be understood that at this time all of the Dutch population is not at all in a position of resistance against the occupier. Later, the Germans had no qualms course not keep their promises and to take advantage of the information contained in the files and set up to make more effective the roundup of Jews in 1942.

At the same time the Germans enact official measures, the Dutch Nazi party NSB and its armed wing, the WA (Weerbaarheidsafdeling) engaged in a series of provocations in Jewish neighborhoods of Amsterdam. February 11, 1941, in a real street fight between WA and Jewish self-defense groups in the old Jewish quarter of Waterlooplein, a member of WA, Hendrik Koot is mortally wounded. The next day, German soldiers, assisted by Dutch police with barbed wire isolate the Jewish Quarter of the rest of the city. On February 19, members of the German police, the Grüne Polizei ransacked a shop, and during the ensuing fight, the German police were injured, resulting in retaliation the following day, and finally a raid in which 425 Jews, men aged 20 to 35 are taken hostage and then sent to the concentration camps of Buchenwald and Mauthausen where most of them perished in the year.

At the same time develops a growing sense of anxiety among workers and especially the Amsterdam dockworkers who fear being sent to Germany as part of compulsory labor. Hostility forced Germany and protest against the raid Waterlooplein work are the reasons for the strike broke out on February 24 and may extend to Zaanstad Kennemerland and Utrecht before being stifled by the German police.

The mass deportation of Dutch Jews is following the decision taken by the Nazi Wannsee Conference. In 1942, a transit camp was built near Westerbork, on the site of a former internment camp for immigrants. At the same time the German concentration camps were built in Vught and Amersfoort. At the end of the war, on Jews living in the Netherlands at the beginning of the war, there were only survivors. Among the victims, Anne Frank and Etty Hillesum became famous when they found the newspaper wrote during the years of oppression.

Non-Dutch Jews reacted to the persecution of Jews. In February 1941 (see above), a strike is a blow to Seyss-Inquart who imagined succeed both in deporting Jews to win the Dutch Nazi cause. In July 1942, the Catholic and Protestant leaders to send a telegram Reich Commissioner protest against the exceptions measures against Jews and deportations. The text of the telegram was read in the churches and temples July 26, 1942. In retaliation, the Nazis are arrested converted Jews and from that time the Nazis harden their attitude vis-à-vis Dutch: Socialist leaders were arrested and as Titus Brandsma Catholic priests were deported to camps concentration.

Most Dutch Jews were arrested by Dutch police and not directly by the German police. As of August 6, 1942, a battalion of the Dutch police were deployed to stop the Jews. The security of transit camps where Jews were concentrated before deportation is carried out by a group of volunteers, a security battalion Dutch SS. At the end of 1942, the Dutch police is again contributing to the stalks of spring and summer of 1943. During the week of May 19 to 26, 1943, fonts Amsterdam Tilburg and The Hague are leveraged to raking in Amsterdam.

The Netherlands under German rule

A “labor service” (Arbeitseinsatz) is imposed in the Netherlands, forcing all men 18 to 45 years to work in German factories that were regularly bombed by Allied aircraft. Those who refuse are encouraged to delve into hiding. Rationing was put in place to deal with a shortage resulting from the fact that much of the food produced in the Netherlands share to Germany. Rationing will also be used to control the population and to flush refractory to forced labor. All Dutch that violates German laws by hiding or hiding someone else is not entitled to ration. Worse, hiding Jews is punishable by death. One third of the people who hid Jews did not survive the war.

The Atlantic Wall, a huge line of defense built by the Germans throughout the European Atlantic coast from the Bay of Biscay to Norway also through the Netherlands. Cities like Scheveningen must be removed. In The Hague, houses are demolished and dismantled. The “Arbeitseinsatz” may also require Dutch workers to participate in the construction of the wall. Those who are thus incorporated are obviously a modicum of zeal.

Radio and newspapers can broadcast only information provided by the German censorship. Listening to Radio Oranje (Radio Orange), issued from London Dutch is prohibited.

Measures of repression and oppression are likely to stimulate the emergence of various forms of resistance:

•Underground press, which broadcasts the news of Radio Oranje.

•Flight ration cards to feed illegal.

In February 1943 the resistance cell CS-6 based in Amsterdam running the retired General Hendrik A. Seyffardt, emblematic of the Legion of SS volunteers fighting on the Russian front alongside the Wehrmacht and notorious collaborator linked to NSB. After an assault on a German officer near Putten, the entire male population of the city is deported without trial.

In general, it does not consist in the Netherlands armed resistance, with a few highlights as the attack against the head of the SS and the German Hanns Albin Rauter police. Small groups redistribute ration to refractory or who engage in intelligence missions, useful when the British army reconquered the country in 1945, are decentralized.

Dutch volunteers in the German army

Dutch Nazi party, Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging (NSB) has actively collaborated with the German occupiers. In 1941, when it seems likely that Germany wins the war, about 3% of the adult male population is a member of the party. Dutch also volunteer to engage in the Wehrmacht and the Waffen-SS, and participating in the “crusade against Bolshevism.” In April 1945, the units are still fighting against the British in Groningen.

Dutch serve in the Wehrmacht and the Waffen-SS. The best-known formations are the 23rd Panzer SS volunteers Nederland and the 34th SS Volunteer Grenadier Division Nederland Landstorm. Aside from the action cited in Groningen in 1945, these units fought on the front and against the Soviet army.

Brigade Nederland (23 Panzer) stands during the Battle of Narva in 1944. Several troops receive the Iron Cross.

The terrible winter of 1944-45 and release

After landing in Normandy in June 1944, the Allied troops (Anglo-Canadian troops commanded by Montgomery) return rapidly to the north, towards the Dutch border. Tuesday, September 5 is known as the Dolle dinsdag (Tuesday crazy): The Dutch began to party, believing that the release is near, but the Allied attempt to take the bridge over the Rhine in Arnhem, known as name Operation Market Garden failed.

A vast region encompassing Nijmegen, south of the Netherlands, is released, but the rest of the country must wait several months, until March 1945. Even in the south, coastal regions, to Antwerp are not yet released in October 1944. Hitler gave the order to keep the Netherlands at all costs. It will take hard fighting to liberate the country and the Dutch know a terrible winter of 1944-45. People die of hunger, cold and disease. This winter will be remembered as the Hongerwinter (Hunger Winter). The famine situation is compounded by a general strike of railway ordered by the government in exile which has a collapse of Germany at the end of 1944.

After taking the bridge at Remagen on the Rhine, Canadians entering the country from the east and release the provinces east and north, but the western provinces should expect the surrender of German forces in the Netherlands Netherlands, negotiated on May 5, just three days before the general surrender. Previously, the Swedish Red Cross was allowed to drop food in certain areas using Allied bombers.

Upon release, there has been a takeover by informal groups chasing employees or supposed and moffenmeiden (“girls Boche”) suspected of having relations with the Germans, who are shaved and painted orange.

The Dutch East Indies and the fight against Japan

On 10 January 1942, the Japanese invaded the Dutch East Indies (which became Indonesia). The ships of the Dutch fleet, present in the area then fit into the American-British-Dutch-Australian (ABDA) Command, a command structure ally in the Pacific. The Dutch fleet under Admiral Karel Doorman is actually the main force of the ABDA. Doorman was ordered to launch an offensive against the Japanese fleet that meets during the Battle of the Java Sea at the end of which the ABDA fleet is destroyed.

In Java, the Dutch surrendered on 1 in March 1942. The Dutch soldiers were interned in labor camps. Later, civilians will also be sent to camps. Some were deported to Japan or sent to the site of the railway from Burma to Thailand, the Bridge on the River Kwai.

Dutch submarines were able to escape and end the war on the Allied side. They are involved in the hunt for Japanese oil and transport of troops and weapons that the Japanese send the various theaters of operation. Soldiers of the Army and Air Force also managed to escape. Airmen can form squadrons fighting alongside the Australians, for the defense of Australia first, with the aim to participate in the conquest of the Dutch East Indies.

Japanese politics in Southeast Asia is known as the Co-Prosperity Sphere of the Greater East Asia, a sort of collaboration proposal they offer to people out of a colonial dependency. In Java, the nationalist leaders Sukarno and Hatta agreed to cooperate with the Japanese to prepare for independence. The reconquest of the Dutch East Indies begins in July 1945, with the landing of the Australians in Borneo. The Japanese go August 15, 1945. Two days later, Sukarno and Hatta proclaimed the independence of Indonesia.

The post-war

In the weeks following the release develops a period of savage treatment in which certain persons suspected of having collaborated with the Germans were lynched or punished without any legal form. Others are pursued by the Ministry of Justice. Some who can prove their innocence, are released, sometimes after a long period of detention.

Plans are drawn to annex a part of Germany, with or without its people. In the first case, it is expected that the Germans were “néerlandisée.” The Netherlands have doubled surface. But the Allies did not accept this plan was abandoned. But another level, the one called the Black Tulip has been partially implemented. The original plan called for all Germans living in the Netherlands would be hunted. Finally, only people, representing 15% of the German population to leave the Netherlands.

The end of the war will also mean for the Netherlands loss of control of the Dutch East Indies after the surrender of the Japanese, Indonesian nationalists engage in a struggle for independence, they get four years more later.


The article is a translation from the English WP, which unfortunately does not indicate its source.


•”The Japanese rush: The conquest of the Dutch East Indies, Part 1: The Japanese take Borneo, Sulawesi and Sumatra,” by Michel Ledet, review Aerial Battles no.42, 2007.

•”The Japanese rush: The conquest of the Dutch East Indies, Part 2: Japanese to attack Java” by Michel Ledet, review Aerial Battles no.43, 2008.

Films and documentaries

•The Road to Paradise (French version: Paradise Road), by Bruce Beresford, etc., Century Fox, 2002.

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