Netherlands

Full Name Kingdom of the Netherlands
Alliance Allies - Minor Member Nation or Possession
Entry into WW2 10 May 1940
Population in 1939 8,729,000
Military Deaths in WW2 7,900
Civilian Deaths in WW2 198,000
 - Civ Deaths from Holocaust 106,000

Contributor: C. Peter Chen

During WW1, the Netherlands maintained a neutral status. In 1936, when Germany began a rearmament policy, the Netherlands also began building its defenses while continuing to maintain neutrality. As Germany annexed Austria and Czechoslovakia and invaded Poland, and as Japan became more of a threat in Asia against the Dutch holdings in the Pacific Ocean, the Netherlands government progressively increased its military budget in preparation for a potential war. These increases in military budget, however, would soon prove to be too late especially in light of so many years of military cutbacks during the inter-war years. On 10 May 1940, German forces crossed the border despite Dutch neutrality as part of a strategy to tie down Allied forces in the Low Countries while another force crossed through the Ardennes region on the Belgian-German border. With the mere 19 ill-equipped battalions unable to stop the German invasion, surrender came on 15 May; Queen Wilhelmina and the Dutch government fled to London, England, United Kingdom to establish a government-in-exile (along with, eventually, 2,000 Dutch), while Princess Juliana fled to Ottawa, Canada. Among the chief reasons of the decision to surrender was the devastation observed at Rotterdam, Netherlands, which saw the death of over 900 civilians, and that the Germans had threatened to repeat such devastation against other Dutch cities. The German invasion resulted in 2,300 military and 3,000 civilian deaths; the Germans suffered 2,200 deaths and 1,300 captured.

From Britain, many Dutch worked toward the Allied cause. In the air, Dutch pilots formed the No. 320, No. 321, and No. 322 Squadrons with the RAF; in 1943, the Royal Netherlands Military Flying School was re-established at Hawkins Field, Jackson, Mississippi, United States to train more Dutch pilots for the war effort. At sea, Dutch sailors and ships sailed with Allied convoys while a small Dutch naval presence continued to exist in the Pacific Ocean. On the ground, the Princess Irene Brigade was formed in Britain to train for, and would participate, the invasion of Western Europe.

From airfields in the Netherlands, German Luftwaffe operated both fighter and bomber airfields, participating in attacks on the United Kingdom as well as in the defense against Allied bombers. On the ground, the Dutch coastline was a part of the extensive German coastal defense line that stretched from France in the south to Norway in the north.

Arthur Seyss-Inquart, a German civilian, was placed as the governor of occupied Netherlands. By the end of 1940, the occupation administration had outlawed all socialist and communist political parties. In 1941, all political parties except for the Dutch Nazi Party (Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging or NSB for short) were banned. While Nazi philosophy viewed the Dutch Christians as one of the Aryan races, and thus eligible to be Germanized, the Dutch Jews were subjected to the same persecution as Jews in other Nazi-occupied nations. The first deportation took place in Feb 1941 when a small group of Jews were sent to Mauthausen Concentration Camp in Austria. In response to this, Dutch workers staged a nation-wide protest. In May 1942, realizing that the Dutch people as a whole resisted Nazi German philosophies, the occupation administration's treatment toward the Dutch became harsher. In the same year, the Westerbork camp was established as a transit camp for holding Jews awaiting transport to concentration camps to the east. Of the 140,000 Dutch Jews, only 30,000 would survive the German occupation and the war; the most well known victim was arguably Anne Frank. Many Dutch Christians, particularly men, were drafted into forced labor service.

Some Dutch participated in active resistance. Unique to the Dutch resistance movement, the activities that the resistance groups engaged in were overwhelmingly non-violent, though attacks did infrequently take place. Much of the resistance efforts centered around forging ration cards, counterfeiting money, and hiding Jews, forced labor candidates, and downed Allied airmen. Some of the more visible acts of resistance included the strike of Feb 1941, doctors' strike of 1942, and the general strike of 1943. Many workers who were drafted into German labor service engaged in passive resistance by working slowly or intentionally making mistakes. The four largest resistance organizations were the LO ("Landelijke Organisatie voor hulp aan onderduikers" or National Organization for Help to People in Hiding), the KP ("Knokploeg" or Assault Group), the RVV ("Raad van Verzet" or Council of Resistance), and the OD ("Orde Dienst" or Order of Service); they generally operated independently from each other. Like in other occupied nations, the German occupation administration responded brutally against the resistance groups, especially those that were militant. After the successful Feb 1943 assassination of collaborator Lieutenant General Hendrik Seyffardt by resistance group CS-6, for example, 50 Dutch were killed. In another incident, Dutch resistance fighters killed a number of German troops near the village of Putten on 1 and 2 Oct 1944; the Germans responded by killing 7 of Putten's inhabitants and deporting most of the remainder of the Putten population to concentration camps (most of whom would not survive the camps).

There were Dutch who supported the German occupation. Largely registered members of the NSB, which was about 3% of the adult Dutch population at the start of the war but grew during the occupation, they held many civilian posts in the occupation government, searched for Jews for bounty, and several thousand joined the German military. In regards to the latter, between 20,000 and 25,000 Dutch served in the German Army and the Waffen-SS, most of whom were assigned to the 4th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Brigade Nederland which saw action against the Soviet Union and the SS Volunteer Grenadier Brigade Landstorm Nederland which fought in the Low Countries.

The harsh winter of 1944 to 1945, combined with German rationing of food for Dutch civilians, caused the Hongerwinter famine that killed about many thousands. As Allied troops approached, Dutch railway workers staged a strike, and the Germans responded by cutting off all food and fuel shipments into the Netherlands. The combination of the two, through starvation, disease, and the cold, led to the death of 30,000. Relief came as Allied troops arrived from the east in May 1945, spearheaded by Canadians.

The German occupation surrendered on 5 May 1945 after the death of 205,901 Dutch in Europe and about 30,000 in the Dutch East Indies. The NSB was outlawed on 6 May 1945. Its leader, Anton Mussert, was arrested on the following day and would eventually be found guilty and sentenced to death. Many other collaborators were likely killed, either through proper legal proceedings or at the hands of vigilantes. The Dutch government initially pursued a campaign to annex German territory to effectively double the size the country, but ultimately it would only gain two small villages. In the few years after the war, most German passport holders in the Netherlands were deported back to Germany.

People

Gerbrandy, PieterMussert, AntonWilhelmina
Helfrich, ConradPoorten, Hein ter

Events Taken Place in Netherlands

Invasion of France and the Low Countries10 May 1940 - 22 Jun 1940
Bombing of France and the Low Countries1 Jul 1940 - 7 May 1945
Discovery of Concentration Camps and the Holocaust24 Jul 1944 - 29 Apr 1945
Operation Market Garden17 Sep 1944 - 25 Sep 1944
Battle of the Scheldt Estuary2 Oct 1944 - 8 Nov 1944
Advance to the Rhine20 Jan 1945 - 25 Mar 1945

Aircraft

D.XXIG.I

Territories, Possessions, and Nations Under the Influence of Netherlands

Dutch East IndiesDutch West Indies

Facilities

Westerbork Concentration CampPrison Camp

Photographs

Japanese delegration member Koki Hirota at the second Hague Conference, the Netherlands, Jan 1930Do X aircraft in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Nov 1930Do X aircraft in flight in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Nov 1930Do X aircraft taxiing on water at Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Nov 1930
See all 99 photographs of Netherlands in World War II





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Visitor Submitted Comments

  1. VHJM van Neerven says:
    17 Apr 2012 05:03:23 PM

    Dear Mr. Chen,

    I noted a small error in your text above: "the OD (Orde Dienst or Order of Service)" should read: "the OD ( Orde Dienst or Service of Order)." In Dutch, the last term of a combination always is the determining term.
    There is also a matter of fact: after the Putten attack, only the males were deported, leaving widows and orphans behind for long years, after the war. On a related matter, you might want to mention that armed resistance was practically impossible in the most densely populated country of the world.

    I noted that you follow the traditional story about the Winter of Hunger 1944-1945. The verdict is still out on this winter; religious and ethnic divides in the Netherlands have tended to stress the history of the West over those of the South, East and North. It is well worth mentioning that the South was already liberated by that time (Operations Market / Garden) and that only the western cities suffered, and not much worse than in any other bad winter. Many now hold the inclement weather of the 1930-1960 period and poor administration from the London government responsible. Rationing was a Dutch affair completely; the Germans were kept far apart from it. Your statement: "As Allied troops approached, Dutch railway workers staged a strike, and the Germans responded by cutting off all food and fuel shipments into the Netherlands." is simply not correct. The London government had all coal traffic from the South to the West stopped by calling a general railroad strike. No food or fuel came from abroad in those years, so there was nothing for the Germans to cut off.

    Another hotly debated point is the fact that, of all occupied countries, the Netherlands lost the greatest percentage of its Jewish population. Once again, orders from the London government, for all civil servants to remain loyally on their post, played a large part. As a result, nowhere else was it easier to find Jews than in the Netherlands. However, once again mythology (Anne Frank!) has taken over from reality and this sobering fact is often hidden in shame and outright negation.



    Hoping to have helped you improve your excellent site,

    Dhr. Drs VHJM van Neerven MSW MA
    editor-in-chief  & senior counselor
    VNC communication counsel
    Amsterdam
    http://on.fb.me/vnccc
  2. Anonymous says:
    11 Oct 2012 09:50:49 AM

    I am trying to find my fathers service number he was in WW2 and from the Netherlands would you be able to help
  3. Mrs M C Mason says:
    20 Dec 2012 05:02:58 AM

    My late father as born Hendrik Wilhelmus Metzger and served with the Princess irene Brigade during ww2. His army service number was 18.12.26.041 I am trying to find information about his time based in Wolverhampton (found a site, but it was obviously in Dutch, which I don't understand a word of, sorry)My brothr has been able to obtain service records from the dutch defence ministry. But as Henry met my mother here would be nice to have the extra information. thank you for any assistance on this matter.
  4. Marie Hutman says:
    4 May 2013 02:58:24 AM

    Hi,Im trying to find out my Fathers service number he was in the Dutch army during WW2
  5. Michael Lenderink says:
    7 Jul 2013 06:05:00 AM

    I am trying to find about my uncle Benjamin Lenderink, my dad Jacobous Lenderink moved to Australia straight after the war and passed away and know little about his brother could anyone help.
    Regards
    Michael Lenderink
  6. Lisa Londregan says:
    23 Apr 2014 10:39:54 PM

    Hi,
    I am trying to find out how I would get the details of my grandfathers service details. He served in the Dutch army during WW2 and was last stationed in Indonesia before moving to Australia.
  7. Imogen says:
    24 Apr 2014 10:29:07 PM


    Hi,

    I am trying to find out more about my grandfather and his service details. He was in the Dutch Intelligence and served on a submarine, possibly the K-XIV, K-XV or K-XVI. Any help information you could give me would very much be appreciated.
  8. Michael Lenderink says:
    22 Jun 2014 06:08:47 AM

    I wrote 12 months ago trying to find out how I could get information on my uncle Benjamin Lenderink he served in the Dutch underground, we are coming over and would like to see where he is buried and any places of interest in regards to his short life.
    Regards
    Michael Lenderink

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Japanese delegration member Koki Hirota at the second Hague Conference, the Netherlands, Jan 1930
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