This is part one of a series about a presentation I gave to a high school class in Austin, Texas, about the Netherlands in World War Two. Click here for the introduction to said presentation.
Let me give you your bearings. The Netherlands is a small country, with the English Channel between it and England in the west, and bordering in the east on Germany. To the south it borders on Belgium.
In 1939, the Netherlands had a population of less than 9 million.
Germany began it’s expansion in 1938, but it became a European matter when Germany attacked Poland in 1939,
because Churchill had promised to help defend Poland in the case of a German attack. By the end of 1940 Germany had invaded most of Europe.
The Netherlands had hoped to remain neutral, as it had done during World War One. However, Germany attacked us on May 10, 1940.
Since the Netherlands was neutral during WWI, our army had not been updated much since the nineteenth century. Our soldiers were on bikes, armed with guns with bayonets.
The Germans had tanks and an air force.
After fighting for three days, the Germans bombed Rotterdam on May 14. It lasted less than 15 minutes and obliterated the city center.
78,000 people were homeless.
It was clear there was no point prolonging the inevitable, and the Netherlands capitulated.
The government and Queen Wilhelmina went in exile in London. The government coordinated the resistance from there. Queen Wilhelmina spoke regularly on the illegal Radio Orange, to keep up morale at home.
The next post is about the Dutch army.