The Netherlands in WWII : Soldiers on Bikes


This is the second post in a series about American high school students’ impressions of a presentation about the Netherlands in World War Two. Click here for the introduction to said presentation.

I started my presentation with a map of Europe, showing where the Netherlands is, and all the countries under German control.

The Netherlands was neutral during WWI, so our army had not been updated much since the nineteenth century. It took the Germans only five days to defeat us. We were on bikes, they had tanks and an airforce. The photos in this post are some of the pictures I showed in my presentation. Following are impressions written by two students about the Dutch soldiers.

“I thought it was crazy that the Netherlands had people on bikes as their army!  Imagine how brave and loyal to your country you would have to be to go to war fighting tanks and machine guns on a bike!  That’s like when America was being colonized and the Native Americans were fighting with spears and bows against guns and cannons.  I was impressed with their bravery and I was proud of the Netherlands.” 

I was a little taken aback by the comparison of the Dutch army fighting the Germans with Native Americans fighting the colonists, but it’s not all that crazy when you come to think of it. These kids have a much more objective look than we do; for them World War Two is mostly ancient history, almost in the same sense that the Native Americans fighting the white intruders is, and so it’s easier for them to make these kinds of comparisons.

“I actually found a lot of little things to have an impression on me, nothing really too big. Although, I would have to say that the biggest impression that was made on me was the death toll that was 800,000 soldiers killed in the first four days of war. I would like to learn more about that if I can because it sounds really interesting.”

I suppose that the next time I should emphasize more how small the Netherlands is, as well as showing where it is. I did tell them that the Netherlands had a population of about 10 million at the time, but this was toward the end of the presentation, and they had a lot of information thrown at them.

I showed some statistics, which included that almost 8,000 Dutch soldiers died. I pointed out that it might not seem a lot, but to keep in mind that they probably all died during the first four of five days, before the capitulation.

These American kids live in a country of 300 million people, and if they did think they remembered me saying 8,000, they  probably thought they must have remembered incorrectly; surely it must have been 800,000!

The next post in this series is about the persecution of the Jewish population in the Netherlands.

5 responses to “The Netherlands in WWII : Soldiers on Bikes

  1. Bikes! I had no idea.

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  2. Beste Barbara mijn “echte” opa Overbeeke was een van deze wielrijders zoals ze genoemd werden.Wist je overigens dat allen Nederlandse soldaten die na de capitulatie krijgsgevangen waren ,door de Duitsers zijn vrijgelaten…..dit in tegenstelling tot bv. Russische krijgsgevangenen…..

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  3. Beste Barbara,
    Nee,ik heb geen enkele foto van deze Opa (mede doordat ik hem nooit heb gekend:hij wilde geen contact)…Ja,Russische krijgsgevangenen werden bij terugkeer ook weer door Stalin gevangen gezet:….en dit omdat zij zich hadden overgegeven.

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