The Netherlands in WWII : The Occupation


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

Technically the war only lasted five days for the Netherlands. After the capitulation the Germans took over our government, and the Netherlands was occupied. Arthur Seyss Inquart ran the government and answered directly to

Hitler.

The picture on the right shows the Germans in the courtyard of our parliamentary buildings.

The NSB was the Dutch version of the German NSDAP, the German national-socialist party. Arthur Seyss Inquart put them in control of most government functions. Some others also sympathized with the Germans. They helped the German cause and the successful occupation of the Netherlands. We call them collaborators.

The occupation measures were largely the following: Restrictions for Jews, curfews and blackouts, confiscations, forced labor, food rationing, and censorship. These measures came gradually, and each became gradually worse. Click here for more information on the restrictions on and deportation of Jews. I will discuss forced labor and censorship in later posts.

Curfews. The Germans restricted movement of the general populace by placing a curfew on the population. No one was allowed outside after dark.

Blackouts. The British Royal Airforce (RAF) flew across the English Channel and over the Netherlands on their way to bomb targets in Germany. There was no GPS. Pilots navigated by looking down. If no lights were on in towns and cities, it made it harder for the RAF to orientate themselves and find their targets.

So there were blackout rules. All windows had to be completely covered at night. Outside lights had to be covered, people were told not to open their doors or windows at night to see what was going on outside, and no matches or flashlights were allowed outside. People were encouraged to report neighbors who didn’t stick to these rules.

Confiscations. The Germans confiscated anything they could use in their war effort. Gasoline became scarce almost right away. Above shows an ingenious way of still providing a taxi service at the beginning of the war. Later people had to hand over the tires from their bicycles because the Germans could use the rubber.

These types of confiscations had the effect of making travel harder, so it made keeping control of the population easier for the occupiers.

Confiscations took place on all levels, leaving the population with no control over their posessions and property.

On the left an announcement in the town of Bloemendaal, telling people in a certain neighborhood to leave their homes within three days, because they will be taken over by the Germans. They are told to leave their belongings behind; they will be taken care of. Sure!

The home of my grandparents on my mother’s side was huge and had six bedrooms. The family consisted of my grandparents, a 5-year-old and a toddler at the beginning of the war. So they had plenty of room and the Germans assigned soldiers to be quartered with the family.

Food rationing. Life was coming to a standstill, and there were food shortages. Each family got food stamps according to the number of people and their ages. This also kept the population under control, because it was harder to hide Jews if you could only get food for your immediate family.

 The following are comments that students wrote about this information.

“One thing  that really strikes me is that not only did the Germans occupy the Netherlands, sometimes they even occupied the homes of Dutch people! I cannot imagine having to share my house with soldiers who had invaded my country, killed many of my people, and essentially torn my life apart. The horrible thing about it is that then families wouldn’t even be able to talk amongst themselves without fear of a soldier overhearing them. They could never speak out against the war, because there was always the potential that the soldiers in their house would hear it and kill them! And I’m sure most of the soldiers weren’t particularly polite to the people they were staying with. That would be such a nightmare! I am just so glad that (hopefully) I’ll never have to experience that in my lifetime.”

“The biggest impression made on me in the presentation occurred when she discussed the confiscation of goods that happened to the people of her country. I have learned some about the holocaust in my years of schooling, but I had never heard about the stealing of items from people who were not Jews or being sent to concentration camps. This was a shock to me. It honestly saddened me to think of the people getting kicked out of their homes or having necessary items stolen for the German people. This was especially sad to me because I thought a lot about the children getting their bikes and other items taken away from them.  I imagine it must have been very hard to go through daily life knowing anything in your possession or even your home could be taken away from you at any minute.”

The next post in this series is about Dutch forced labor in the German weapons factories.

7 responses to “The Netherlands in WWII : The Occupation

  1. I hope you told them about the ‘Hongerwinter’ too! It’s what influenced our life as kids and still does, you eat all on your plate and be satisfied with what you get, (“In the war we didn’t have…didn’t get, had to be thankful for what we got”)

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  2. I WAS 7 AND A HALF WHEN THE OCCUPATION ENDED, I WAS LIVING IN THE NORTH OF HOLLAND, PRIMARILY AN AGRICULTURAL DISTRICT, SO WE ALWAYS HAD ENOUGH TO EAT. BUT THE PSYCHOLOGICAL PRESSURE WAS ENORMOUS AND TOOK ITS TOLL ON EVERYONE, MY GRANDMA LIVED IN THE NORTH OF THE COUNTRY, OPPOSITE HER SMALL HOUSE/SHOP WAS A GERMAN COAST-GUARD DETACHMENT. THE OBERLEUTNANT IN CHARGE TOLD US TO GO TO THE KITCHEN IN THEIR CAMP, WHERE WE ENJOYED THICK SLICES OF RYEBREAD COVERED WITH GOOSE FAT THAT CAME OUT OF LARGE GREEN TINS. ACCORDING TO MY DAD THE WORST PEOPLE WERE THE DUTCH NAZIS (TRAITORS AND LOSERS OF THE FIRST ORDER!)THEY WERE FANATIC PROPONENTS OF HITLER’S ‘NEW ORDER’. MY GRANDMA HAD A SMALL GROCERY SHOP, CIGARETTES, SUGAR, ALL SORTS OF STUFF
    OFTEN THE SOLDIERS CAME INTO THE SHOP AND CHATTED UP THE LOCAL GIRLS…….THEIR BEHAVIOUR WAS ALWAYS CORRECT , GUESS THEY WERE WELL TAUGHT HOW TO CONDUCT THEMSELVES CORRECTLY WITH THE LOCAL POPULATION.
    IT WAS IMPORTANT FOR THE NAZIS TO GIVE A ”GOOD IMPRESSION” ESPECIALLY TO THE DUTCH, WHO WERE SEEN AS A ”BRUDERVOLK” AKIN TO THEMSELVES IN MANY WAYS. HOWEVER WE ALL WERE MIGHTILY PLEASED WHEN THE OCCUPATION WAS OVER AND THEY ALL WENT BACK TO THEIR IMPOVERISHED AND ”BOMBED OUT” HEIMAT.

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    • Barbara Backer-Gray

      Thanks for your story. My grandmother told me that the soldiers stationed in their house were also very friendly. As long as you weren’t Jewish.

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  3. I still remember the second world war, even though, I was only two feet high.
    My mother and father raised seven children in a small penthouse.My youngest brother , was born during the hunger winter. Both lives were at stake. due to lack of food. Both made it. But how can we forget that horrible winter of 1944. Presently I’m writing a book on the subject. AS to how my parents struggled to survive. Heaven forbid , that anything like that war will ever happen again.

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  4. Pingback: The Next Chapter 2015: Dina A. - JFCS Holocaust Center of SF

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