World War II, 1940-1945 1949-1969

Netherlands after World War II, 1945-1949

Domestic Policy : Parts of the Netherland were occupied until the days of German surrender (May 1945). The royal family and the exile government returned and took over the administration of the country. A provisorical government was established under W. Drees and W. Schermerhorn; the latter's attempt to overcome the Pillarization of Dutch society, however, failed. The parliament of 1940 was reassembled; elements who had collaborated with the German force of occupation, particularly members of the NSB, were excluded.
Queen Wilhelmina abdicated in 1948, succeeded by her daughter Juliana. In 1946, the PvdA (Labour Party) was founded, by a merger of the SDAP and several smaller parties.

The Economy : The first task was to secure the supply of the population with food, fuel, clothing, appropriate housing. The Wieringermeerpolder, drained in 1929 and flooded by the Germans in April 1945, was again drained by the end of 1945. By the end of 1946, food production had increased remarkably; daily food rations were raised to 2.500 calories per day. Most damaged houses had been turned into habitable status, and temporary shelters were built. In 1947 the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg formed a Customs Union called BeNeLux. Between 1948 and 1954, the Netherlands received a total of 1,127,000,000 US $ in Marshall Plan Aid, i.e. $ 109 per capita - a rate second only to Iceland.

Foreign Policy : In the months immediately after the German surrender, in the Netherlands plans of territorial expansion at the expense of Germany were discussed. Minor German border territories (Selfkant, Elten) were placed under Dutch administration in 1949, returned to Germany in 1963.
The Netherlands was a founding member of BeNeLux in 1947, joined the OEEC in 1949. The country gave up her traditional policy of neutrality, signed a treaty on military cooperation with Belgium in 1948 and joined NATO in 1949.
In August 1945 the Japanese handed over the administration of the Dutch East Indies to M. Hatta and A. Sukarno, who proclaimed the independence of the Republic of Indonesia. The Netherlands' government, however, refused to give up what she regarded her rightful property; troops were sent in, which established control over much of Java and parts of the outer islands. A total of 120,000 Dutchmen served in the campaign; 4,751 fell. On December 27th 1949 the Netherlands recognized the indepencence of Indonesia (without Netherlands' New Guinea, which remained under Dutch administration until 1963).

Society : Liberation brought with it a number of problems for the new provisional administration - the restoration of a functioning infrastructure, guaranteeing the most basic supplies, and how to deal with collaborators and war profiteers. Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Reichskommissar in the Netherlands 1940-1945, was among the war criminals tried in the Nuremberg Trials, where he was sentenced to death and executed in 1946. NSB founder and leader Anton Mussert was executed in Den Haag in 1946; NSB politician Rost van Tonningen, arrested on German soil and extradited to Dutch authorities, died in a Dutch prison. Overall, c. 30 persons were executed in the Netherlands for war crimes. After that, the death penalty was no longer applied, and formally (re-)abolished in 1982. Ordinary Dutchmen and -women who were known to have collaborated with or sided with the German occupation were ostracized by society; the Dutch girlfriends of German soldiers found their heads shaven bald. Queen Wilhelmina (who had stayed outside of the country, in England respectively Canada, during the occupation), was criticized for her interference in the measures of the exile government, particularly an attempt to bring resistance leaders over from occupied Holland to England, which was betrayed and resulted in significant losses. She abdicated in 1948 in favour of her daughter. The government attempted to deal with war profiteers by the means of taxation.
The allied soldiers, mostly Canadians, who had liberated the Netherlands were there to stay. In 1945-1946, Dutchmen found it extremely difficult to make a living; the Canadian soldiers living among them had comparatively little to worry about. If a Dutch girl had a Canadian boyfriend, he could supply her (and her family) with food and cigarettes, an opportunity a number of Dutch girls (and Canadian soldiers) took advantage of. This phenomenon was accepted by some Dutchmen as the price for liberation and survival, and regarded as hurting their dignity by others.
In the late 1940es the Netherlands offered few job oportunities to the generation of Dutch graduating from middle and high schools. Many of these graduates emigrated, to Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand or the U.S.

A Concise History of the Netherlands, from Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken, available in English, French, German, Spanish and Dutch
Biography W. Schermerhorn, from Museum voor Vaderlandsche Geschiedenis, in Dutch
Biography W. Drees, from Museum voor Vaderlandse Geschiedenis, in Dutch
Periode 1945-1959 - Rooms-Rode Kabinetten (Period 1945-1959, Roman-Red Cabinets), from Parlement en Politiek, in Dutch, official site on the history of the Netherlands' Parliament
Tijdens de Tweede Politionele Actie in Nederlands-Indie nemen Nederlandse Soldaten de Stad Djocja in, Dec 20 1948, (During the Second Political Action, Dutch Soldiers occupied the city of Jogyakarta), from anonymously posted website, in Dutch
De 1e politionele actie 20 juli - 5 augustus 1947, (First Political Action, July 20th to August 5th 1947), from De historie van het Landmachtonderdeel Aan en AfvoerTroepen, in Dutch
Article Wieringermeer, from Wikipedia
Abolition History in the Netherlands (regarding the death penalty, posted anonymously)
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
List of Queens, Prime Ministers, Portfolio Ministers, Party Leaders etc. since 1945, from ZPC
Cabinet Lists : Kabinet Schermerhorn/Drees (1945-1946), Kabinet Beel I (1946-1948), Drees/van Schaik (1948-1951), from Wikipedia Dutch edition
De Trilogie (website on Dutch forces in Indonesia in the late 1940es), in Dutch
Exchange of Messages With the Queen of the Netherlands. April 26, 1948, from Public Papers of the Presidents : Harry S. Truman
Archive Inventory : Duitsland : Capitulatie en Bezetting, from : Nationaalarchief
Archive inventory : Duitsland : Annexatie, Grondgebied, from : Nationaalarchief
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. Call Sign 949.3 B653h
Mark T. Hooker, The History of Holland, Westport : Greenwood, 1999, KMLA Lib. Call Sign 949.2 H783h
Article : Netherlands, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1946 pp.518-519, 1947 p.539, 1948 pp.520-521, 1949 pp.461-463 [G]
Article : Netherlands, in : Americana Annual 1947 pp.492-494 (on events of 1946) [G]
Article : Netherlands, in : Funk & Wagnall's New Standard Encyclopedia Year Book 1946 pp.300-301 [G]
Michel van der Plas, Mooie Vrede (Nice Peace); a documentation of the Netherlands in the years 1945-1950, Utrecht : Amboboeken 1966, in Dutch [G]
Jaap Hoek, Herstel en Vernieuwing. De Nederlandse Politiek in de Jaren 1945-1955 (Restitution and Rejuvenation. Dutch policy in 1945-1955), Alphen : A.W. Sijthoff 1979, in Dutch [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on March 20th 2007

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