1929-1940 1945-1949

Netherlands in World War II, 1940-1945

The War against Germany . At the outbreak of World War II, the Dutch government declared neutrality. On May 10th, German forces invaded without previous declaration of war. On May 14th, the city of Rotterdam, after having surrendered, was bombarded by the German airforce (over 40 % of the city destroyed). Dutch forces surrendered on May 15th. The royal family and many leading politicians had fled to London, where they formed a Government-in-Exile.

The German Administration - Policies . From May 10th to May 29th the Netherlands (and Belgium) were placed under German Military Administration. From May 29th 1940 until May 5th 1945, Reichskommissar Arthur Seyss-Inquart (an Austrian Nazi) was in charge.
Once the Netherlands was occupied, the German Administration pursued the policy of trying to win Dutch politicians over; 5-time cabinet president Hendricus Colijn was perceived and initially called upon the Dutchmen to recognize German control of Europe as a fact (in a brochure; a few weeks later he would revoke this call). Dirk Jan de Geer, cabinet president at the time of the German invasion (until being relieved of his position in September 1940) in Feb. 1941 returned, from London, to the occupied Netherlands.
The German administration, in line with Nazi racial ideology, regarded the Dutchmen as fellow Aryans; German rule, by comparison, was less oppressive than in occupied Poland. The Germans propagated 'Aryan values' and recruited volunteers in the 'Struggle against Bolzhevism'. In their efforts, the German administration was supported by collaborators, most notably the NSB.
Only when the Dutch expressed their solidarity with the House of Orange (Anjerdag, June 29th 1940) and when German measures to arrest and deport the Dutch Jewish population triggered the February Strike (1941), the German administration took on a tougher course.
In Sept. 1944 the German authorities, responding to a strike (called for by the Dutch exile government in London) which brought the Dutch railroad system to a standstill, banned the import of food into Holland (Hunger Winter; the flooding of Holland (by blowing up the dykes) was considered; the Wieringermeerpolder actually was flooded (April 1945).

The Occupied Netherlands - Economy . The Dutch silver and copper coins were replaced by zinc coins (not only to collect valuable metal, but also in order to take metal portraits of Queen Wilhelmina out of circulation; many Dutchmen turned the old coins into necklaces etc., thus expressing their solidarity with the monarch).
Ration coupons were introduced; a black market emerged; many items became scarce or unavailable. In order to finance the occupation, the construction of bunkers along the coast (Atlantic Wall), the internment camps etc., the Bank of Nederland was charged. Assets of politicians who had left the country were confiscated.
C. 500,000 Dutchmen were deported into Germany to work in factories etc. The arrest and deportation of the Netherlands' Jews also had a major impact on the Dutch economy.
Being under German occupation meant that the Netherlands was cut off from imports from overseas; the lack of petrol and fertilizer, the requisition of cars and trucks by the German authorities meant that most Dutch had to use bicycles, public transportation or go on foot.

The Occupied Netherlands - Society . A minority of Dutchmen collaborated with the Germans. Some Dutchmen took on a defeatist position, realizing that the country was indefensible and the Germans too strong for the Dutch to overcome.
The German occupation was widely resented, although only a minority of Dutchmen would join active resistance.
The Dutch Jews were registered, later deported. A number of Dutchmen hid Jews at personal risk, among them Anne Frank. The camp at Westerbork served as a transit facility, next stations Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz. Still, the Jewish community of the Netherlands suffered considerably higher losses in the Holocaust compared to the Jewish communities of other countries in Nazi-occupied Western Europe (NL 75 %, B 40 %, F 25 %). Most Dutch resented the Anti-Semitic measures imposed by the German Administration; in February 1941 the CNP organized the February Strike in reaction to the arrest and deportation of Amsterdam Jews.
During the war, over 500,000 Dutchmen were deported to Germany and employed in the German economy as Forced Labour; c. 30,000 of them died before the end of the war.
Many measures by the German Administration, such as the closure of universities, the imposition of a curfew, censorship etc. affected social and cultural activities.

The Government in Exile . In May 1940, the royal couple and the Dutch cabinet fled to London. Cabinet president Dirk Jan de Geer became defeatist, and in September 1940 was replaced by P.S. Gerbrandy. Short of money and personnel, the Government-in-Exile was limited in her activities. Gerbrandy, in radio addresses to the Dutch (Radio Oranje) kept up the spirit. Much of the Dutch merchant marine, her navy recognized the London government. On sevral occasions, Queen Wilhelmina interfered in government policy; once she attempted to have the leaders of Dutch resistance brought over to London. The event ended in a disaster. For this action she was criticized, and in 1948 abdicated in favour of her daughter.

Resistance . As it was well-known that the Germans would brutally retaliate for any killing of a person wearing a German uniform, the Dutch resistance rather targetted collaborators, focussed on collecting information and forwarding it to the Allies, conduct acts of sabotage etc.

War against Japan . In December 1941 the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour and launched a massive invasion into South East Asia. Most of the Dutch East Indies was occupied; a few places (Hollandia) were liberated during the Island Hopping Campaign. By the time of the Japanese surrender (August 15th 1945) the Dutch were not yet ready to take over administration. Soekarno and Hatta proclaimed the Republic of Indonesia (not recognized by the Dutch government).

Liberation . In October 1944, Allied planes bombarded the dykes in Walcheren, Zeeland, causing considerable flooding, to prepare an amphibian landing.
Allied land forces, invading from Belgium, liberated the areas located to the south of the Rhine. The Allied attempt to take the Rhine bridge at Arnhem intact ( Operation Market Garden, 1944) failed; most of the Netherlands remained occupied until the end of the War. Hitler had demanded the dikes to be blown up. The Wieringermeerpolder actually was flooded (April 1945); a major disaster was prevented by the German military commander who exaggerated the amount of dynamite needed. During the last days of the war, a Georgian unit on Texel rebelled against the Germans. German forces surrendered to the Allies on May 5th; at that time most of the Netherlands was still under German occpation.

Aftermath . Reichsstatthalter Arthur Seyss-Inquart (Reich Commissioner) for the Netherlands, at the Nuremberg Tribunals (1946) was convicted of war crimes and sentenced to death; he was executed. NSB-leader and prominent collaborator A.A. Mussert was sentenced to death by a Dutch tribunal in 1945.
In the Dutch population, for decades to come, there was a strong anti-German sentiment, due to the memory of German brutality during the years of occupation.

A Concise History of the Netherlands, from Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken, available in English, French, German, Spanish and Dutch
Article Londense Kabinetten, Hendricus Colijn, Anton Mussert, Pieter Sjoerds Gerbrandy, Dirk Jan de Geer, NSB, Nederlands Verzet in de Tweede Wereldoorlog, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Februaristaking, Dolle Dinsdag, Collaborateur, Spoorwegenstaking van 1944, Hongerwinter, from Wikipedia Dutch edition
A Forgotten Chapter : Holland under the Third Reich, by Anthony Anderson, 1995
detailed college lecture, many chapters
Chronology of Dutch War-Time History, by Albert van der Heide
Westerbork, Portal to Auschwitz, by Hans Vanderwerff, Holocaust Ring; Westerbork, from To Save a Life
Air Battle over Holland, May 1940, by Dick van Faassen , World War II Web Ring
Het Bombardement van 14 Mei 1940, from Rotterdam in den Tweeden Wereldoorlog, in Dutch, many illustrations
Dutch Perspectives on World War II, from Dutch Heritage Site, several articles on war episodes
The Netherlands in the World Wars, from Five Major Eras in the Netherlands' History
Anne Frank House
The Occupation of the Netherlands , from Friends of Iwo Jima
Dakota Squadron ...Market Garden Story and Maps , from Dakota Squadron Info Page
Biography of P.S. Gerbrandy, from Museum voor Vaderlandse Geschiedenis in Dutch
Biography of D.J. de Geer, from Museum voor Vaderlandse Geschiedenis
NSB - Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging (National-Socialist Movement), from STIWOT, in Dutch; another article from Mei 1940, in Dutch
Februaristaking 1941 - de gebeurtenissen van dag tot dag (February Strike 1941 - events from day to day), from Gemeente Amsterdam, in Dutch
Netherlands Forced Labor
1939-1945 : Das Deutsche Besatzungsregime in den Niederlanden (The German Occupants' Administration in the Netherlands), from DHM, in German
Nederland demobiliseert, from 10-19 Mei 1940 (the Netherlands demobilizes; Dutch language site)
A Bridge too far (Operation Market Garden), Sept. 1944, by Andries Hoekstra; Battle of Arnhem Website; Battle of Arnhem Archive
Periode 1940-1945, Londense Cabinetten (Period 1940-1945, London Cabinets), from Parlement en Politiek, in Dutch, official site on the history of the Netherlands' Parliament
De Nederlandse militair in de mobilisatietijd. (The Netherlands' Military in the Mobilisation Period), from www.mei1940.nl, in Dutch
Nationaal Monument Kamp Amersfoort
1945 - On the Farm at Schagen, memoires of Nellie Siemons, illustrated; has images of inundated Wieringermeerpolder
Droogmaking Walcheren 1944-1945, from Zeeuws Archief, in Dutch
Survival and Resistance: The Netherlands Under Nazi Occupation, by Linda M. Woolf, posted by United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Wartime and Postwar Dutch Attitudes toward the Jews : Myth and Truth, by Jerusalem Center for Public ffairs (Manfred Gerstenfeld 1999)
Rotterdam toen en nu (Rotterdam now and then), in Dutch
Netherlands in World War II, from World War II Mulimedia Database
Koken in 1943, by Marieke 2008
DOCUMENTS Links to Documents on the History of the Netherlands in the 20th Century, posted by psm-data
Historical Population Statistics : the Netherlands, from Population Statistics at Univ. Utrecht
World Statesmen : the Netherlands, by Ben Cahoon; World Rulers : the Netherlands by Enno Schulz, illustrated, begins 1572; Kabinetten 1918-1994, from Centrum voor Parlamentaire Geschiedenis, in Dutch

Cabinet Lists : Kabinet de Geer II (1939-1940), Kabinet Gerbrandy I (1940-1941), Kabinet Gerbrandy II (1941-1945), Kabinet Gerbrandy III (1945), from Wikipedia Dutch edition
Photos of Rotterdam before/after the bombardment, courtesy Thomas van Hoey Smith, posted at this site
Illustrations from German-occupied Netherlands, from Five Major Eras in Netherlands' History
Netherlands' Institute for War Documentation, mostly dealing with WW II, site in Dutch and English
Images from Chronik 2000 Bilddatenbank : Seyss-Inquart, Hitler, Bormann, Heydrich, after the invasion of the Netherlands, May 1940; Invasion of the Netherlands, May 1940; Center of Rotterdam after bombardment by Luftwaffe, May 14th; Dornier "fliegender Bleistift" (flying pencil), plane type deployed in the bombardment of Rotterdam and in the Spanish Civil War; Arnhem Bridge
Banknotes issued 1940-1945, from Currency Museum and from Ron Wise's World Paper Money
Banknote for Westerbork labour camp, from Ron Wise's World Paper Money
The Trial of Arthur Seyss-Inquart, from Nizkor, The Trial of German Major War Criminals, Nürnberg 1946; scroll down for Seyss-Inquart
Instrument of Surrender of All German armed forces in Holland, in northwest Germany including all islands, and in Denmark, May 4th 1945, from Mei 1940
Netherlands Forced Laborers - WW II : A Letter to Susan, by Alexander van Gurp (1983), from Netherlands Forced Labor - WW II
Memoires of B. Borst, Dutch P.O.W., from 10-19 Mei 1940, in Dutch
Images featuring the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal (Seyss-Inquart), from Museum of Tolerance (Simon Wiesenthal Center) and from Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust
Judgement : The Invasion of Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxemburg, from Avalon Project
Streekarchief Hollands Midden, Gouda Voorlopige Inventaris - Collectie Oorlogsdocumentatie in Dutch, detailed archive inventory
Verzetsmuseum Amsterdam : Poster Exhibition
Remarks on the Presentation of a Submarine Chaser to Queen Wilhelmina for the Dutch Navy. August 6, 1942, from Public Papers of the Presidents : Franklin D. Roosevelt
Verzetsmunten (Resistance Coinage), from Muntcatalogus by R. Tholen; in Dutch, illustrated
Images NL World War II (coins, underground press, passports, resistance pamphlets etc.), posted by Aarth
Verführung und Verbrechen : Nederland (Seduction and Crime; the Netherlands), online exhibition Univ. Library Maastricht, on NS propaganda in the Netherlands; in Dutch
Propaganda slogans inside German WW II bunkers along the "Atlantik Wall", from Bunker Art; caution advised - NS propaganda; some from bunkers in NL
Brieven uit het verleden (letters from the past), family correspondence, mostly on 1937-1946, posted by Robert H. Peters, a person of German ancestry with Dutch nationality born in England; letters reflect German occupation of the Netherlands (inquiries concerning relatives in NL, via the Red Cross etc.)
Verhalen (Stories), from Tweede Wereldoorlog en het Verzet in Nederland (World War II and Resistance in the Netherlands)
Oorlogsdokumenten (War Documents, such as ration coupons), from Oorlogsmuseum Hank
Vertrouwen (Trust), War memoires by Lidia E. van Woerden, a Dutchwomen who provided lodging to Jews in hiding during WW II
1944 - Operation Marget Garden, images from World War II Database
Commented Images of the Occupied Netherlands from Kleioscoop, comment in Dutch
Inventory archival deposit J.Th. Furstner, Minister of the Navy 1940-1945 (exile govt. London), from Nationaal Archief, in Dutch
60 jaar bevrijding intercultureel (60 years liberation, interculturaly), provides witness reports of Surinamers, Moroccans, Turks, Moluccans etc. who experienced WW II and liberation in a Dutch historical context)
Brand, Watersnood, Epidemie in Nederland 1500-2000 (Fire, Inundation and Epidemics in the Netherlands 1500-2000), by NCC
VIDEOS WW II : Collaboratie, Dutch language short reels, posted online by geschiedenis.vpro.nl
Soldier of Orange, 1979, Dutch with English subtitles
A Bridge too Far, 1977 (focusses mainly on the failed military operation, with the Dutch environment providing the background)
Unfortunately, most Hollywood productions on Dutch WW II History, such as Anne Frank - The Whole Story (2001) do an extremely poor job in portraying a Dutch environment and therefore are not recommended
REFERENCE J.C.H. Blom, A Bourgeois and Pillarized Society (1918-1960), pp.423-443 in : J.C.H. Blom and E. Lamberts, History of the Low Countries, trsl. by James C. Kennedy, NY : Berghahn 1999, KMLA Lib.Sign. 949.3 B653h
Mark T. Hooker, The History of Holland, Westport : Greenwood, 1999, KMLA Lib.Sign. 949.2 H783h
Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl, NY : Anchor 1991, KMLA Lib.Sign.940.5318 F828d c.2
M.J. Adriani Engels, G.H. Wallagh, Nacht over Nederland. Joernalistieke Reportage van vijf Bezettingsjaren (Night over the Netherlands; Journalistic Report on 5 Years of Occupation), Ons Vrije Nederland 1945, in Dutch [G]
United States Holocaust Museum, Historical Atlas of the Holocaust, NY : MacMillan 1996 [G]; pp.116-126 on the Netherlands
Simon Kuper, Ajax, the Dutch and the War, London : Orion 2003, KMLA Lib.Sign. 796.334 K96a
Article : The Netherlands, in : Americana Annual 1943 pp.538-539, 1944 pp.516-517, 1945 p.528, 1946 pp.538-540 [G]
Article : The Netherlands, in : New International Year Book Events of 1941 pp.456-459, 1942 pp.485-489, 1943 pp.436-440, 1944 pp.436-438, 1945 pp.419-422 [G]
Article : The Netherlands, in : Funk & Wagnall's New Standard Encyclopedia Year Book 1941 pp.347-349, 1942 pp.313-315, 1943 pp.322-324, 1944 pp.230-232 [G]
Article : Netherlands, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1944 p.492, 1945 pp.487-489 (on events of 1944) [G]
Article : Netherlands, in : Statesman's Year Book 1943 pp.1104-1117 [G]
Llewellyn Woodward, British Foreign Policy in the Second World War, London : HMSO 1962 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on November 3rd 2008

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