This is the sixth post in a series about American high school students’ impressions on a presentation about the Netherlands in World War Two. Click here for the introduction to said presentation.
“The resistance” was anyone who thwarted the German occupation and the German war effort in any way.
They could be teenagers, like high school boys and their teachers who organized into gangs, or men spying and communicating by illegal radio with the government in exile and with the allied forces.
The resistance was involved in hiding Jews, providing the allied forces with information, the Underground Railroad, underground press, forgeries, food stamp raids, strikes and sabotage.
In my post about the persecution of Jews in the Netherlands, I also discuss resistance involved with hiding Jews.
The resistance helped the allied armed forces. They helped by providing strategic information via radio to London, and they also helped allied pilots.
RAF pilots, on their bombing missions to Germany, were sometimes shot down over the Netherlands. The resistance would try to find them before the Germans did, and take them into hiding. Then they would give the pilots false papers and civilian clothes and help them get back to England and back onto a bomber. Helping pilots to get from one safe house to the next, and then back to England, was called the Underground Railroad.
According to the official press, Germany was winning on all fronts. The resistance printed illegal newspapers and flyers with real news and morale-boosting articles. These illegal newspapers were distributed by women and teenagers on bikes.
The RAF also dropped packets of a Dutch newspaper printed in London, called The Flying Dutchman, over Holland on their way to bomb Germany.
The Germans were sticklers for identification, and so the resistance needed good false papers. For pilots who needed to travel across the country to get back to England, for Jews passing for Gentiles, and for extra food rations.
Some people who hid Jews had contacts with resistance people who could help them get the extra food rations. Resistance groups regularly raided food stamp distribution offices, often with help from the inside. The food stamps they stole were handed out to people who were hiding Jews.
The most impactful strike was the railway strike of September 1944. D-Day took place in June, and in September the Allies were moving on to get control of the main bridges across the big rivers, including the Rhine. This move was called Operation Market Garden. The railroad workers were ordered to strike by the government in exile in London, to thwart German troop and supplies movement. I will write more on the results of this strike in my post about the hunger winter.
In addition to sabotaging information, the resistance sabotaged transportation of German troops and logistical support by blowing up bridges and derailing trains.
Any member of the resistance who was caught was interrogated/tortured first to get names of other resistance members, and then shot. Sometimes in the dunes on the coast, sometimes in the street, as a deterrent. Some resistance fighters carried a cyanide pill on their body, to take if they were caught, to prevent spilling other names. Of course, the Germans caught on pretty soon, so they were often able to catch someone and prevent them from taking the pill.
If any German or collaborator was killed, Dutch prisoners or a number of random people picked off the street would be shot in public. This kept killing the occupiers to a minimum.
Following are some comments by students about this presentation.
“It would have took some really amazing courage to risk your life to try and help people you know and especially people you don’t know. Its crazy that people would do so much to survive. I cant understand how much it took to do what they did. For example the kids; kids delivered messages secretly to others, like delivering the resistance newspaper. I mean if these kids were caught doing this they would be shot. Killed. So incredible that people did this. Everyone should have so much respect for these people.”
“Although I only read notes on the presentation, I can definitely say that the part that made the strongest impression on me was when she mentioned “the Resistance.” It’s amazing, really – a group of people who had enough will and enough courage to go up against the Nazis, who could’ve been called the most feared political group of their time. I also thought it fascinating that there were uncensored, unbiased newspapers being printed and delivered in secret to “keep [up the] Dutch morale.” Even delivering a single issue was a dangerous and life-threatening task, and I’m surprised that students would go out and risk their lives for the sake of putting information out there.”
“The greatest impression that was left on me was the Underground Railroad. I was impressed by them because they would risk their lives to get shot down Allied pilots and Jews to safety, as well as create newspapers that told the truth to defy the Nazi-controlled media. They would give these newspapers to pilots so they would drop them over the Netherlands. Students would also give the newspapers to friends and neighbors who weren’t collaborators. The students would be shot by the Nazis if they were caught in the act, so they were taking a huge risk. In all, I’m amazed and grateful for what the Underground Railroad did for the Jews and how they defied media censorship. To the brave members of the Underground Railroad that are not alive today and/or were shot after being caught in the act, I say, thank you for your sacrifice. May nobody forget your work.”
More on the resistance in the next post.