Saturday, April 23, 2011
The Dutch in Wartime
A few weeks ago I was given a newspaper-style magazine called The Dutch in Wartime. It is a publication designed to teach the horrors of the Second World War to grandchildren (and great-grandchildren) of North America's Dutch immigrants. I happen to fall into this category of individuals.
I think, as many of us were children growing up in the second half of the twentieth century, we have all heard stories of World War II. Our connections to the war vary depending on our family members' ages, locations, and personal attributes.
There are plenty of academic texts on the history of the Second World War for countries such as the United States, England, Italy, and Germany (and many others, too!).
In the past I have had a hard time finding academic sources on Holland during the World War. Sadly, there is very little published material on Holland during the war. In fact, there is such a lack of information on Holland and World War II that I have been unable to write university papers on the subject.
The Dutch in Wartime attempts to fill this void of information on Holland from 1939 to 1945. The publication provides readers with countless first-hand accounts of the war. Tales of heroism, hiding, starvation, death, and liberation are told within its pages.
This publication is powerful. It reminds readers that everyone, civilian and solider, are effected by war. That one cannot 'get over' a war - it stays with you forever. It is intentional hatred. It is intentional acts of murder. Victims of war should not be silent, but continue to speak out against past atrocities. As it was so adeptly written, "to remember means to be alert" for the future (page 4).
History and first hand accounts of atrocity are hard to review. I cannot even fathom performing this activity when the stories I read are so close to my own background. Instead, I have created a short summary of information on World War II and Holland.
- Holland intended to be neutral during the Second World War - they were ill-equipped for war when the Germans invaded on May 10, 1940. Holland's warfare equipment was created prior to 1914 (page 4).
- Children were often confused by the war. At school children were told Germans were their enemies, while at home some were forced to socialize with the foreign soldiers. German soldiers, who missed their own children, would play with Dutch children and told stories of their families in Germany (page 5).
- The German Army believed Hollanders shared Germanic blood. This meant that German rule was much more lenient until the Dutch protested against German activities (page 6).
- Dutch schoolchildren had to sign a Declaration of Loyalty to Germany. Those who did not sign the declaration were to be sent to German prisons or labour camps. Many Dutch children were forced into hiding due to this (page 6).
- On November 11, 1944 Germans raided houses in Rotterdam for all men and boys fit for work. 50,000 out of the 70,000 eligible males in the city were deported to Germany for work. This occurrence is known as the Rotterdam Roundup (page 11).
- Before the war Holland contained 140,000 Jewish individuals - 102, 000 had perished come 1945 (page 16).
- The winter of 1944-1945 is know as the Hunger Winter. It was the coldest winter on record. The Dutch had literally no food, electricity, or water due to German occupation. People resorted to creating fires in small coffee tins and eating tulip bulbs, rats, and other animals found on the street. Many individuals collapsed on the streets due to starvation and the cold. Unfortunately, Hollanders had so little energy that those who perished on the streets were left on the side of the road (page 20).
- Holland was liberated in May 1945 by Canadian and British forces (page 4).
- Holland celebrates Remembrance Day on May 4th and Liberation Day (full of celebrations and parties) on May 5th (page 3).
Bijvoet, Tom. De Krant: The Dutch in Wartime, Special English Language Edition of Maandblad De Krant to Mark the 65th Anniversary of Liberation. Pentiction, British Columbia: Mokeham Publishing, Inc., 2010.