World War II: The Netherlands--Aftermath and Recovery


Figure 1.--Here we see Dutch boys helping to rebuild Rotterdam, a city badky damaged by the Luftwaffe. . The photograph was taken November 5, 1945. You see similar photographs from Germany at this time, although mostly women wjo were paid to salvage and stack the bricks. Young children were not allowed to do it, in part to make sure that women supporting families received the wages. The caption here read, "Boys help rebuild Rotterdam: Piling bricks neatly, Dutch boys do their bit toward restoring Rotterdam, which was blasted by bombs in May. 1940 after the Dutch has surenderdc tio the Germans."

The Dutch were devestated by the War. Large numbers of people, especially children narrowly escaped starvation as a result of German actions. Some of the Dutch wanted reparations. The Bakker-Schut Plan was formulated to demand a sizeable monetary compensation for the damage Germant inflicted on the country and even annexing part of northwest Germany. The Government decided not to pursue it aggressively because of American objections. Many German citizens living in the country were declared 'hostile subjects' and arrested as part of Operation Black Tulip overseen by Dutch minister of Justice Kolfschoten. They were held in concentration camp. The Government eventually deported 3,691 Germans. Conditions in the Netherlands were so difficult that several hundred thousand Dutch people emmigrated, primarily to Australia, Canada, and the United States. The Dutch like other Europeans countries received Marshall Plan assistance from the United States (1947). They Dutch received about $1 billion in Marshall Plan aid which included an incentive for regional planning. The Dutch joined neoghboring countries in both economic and security pacts. The Netherlands formed Benelux with neighboring Belgium and Luxenburg. They joined the Council of Europe, the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Common Market. Recovery and expansion of trade and industry proceeded rapidly by 1950. Many Dutch people assumed that the loss of the Dutch East Indies would significantly impair the Dutch economy. This did not prove to be the case. Many economists credit the closer economic ties with neigboring countries as a major reason for the rapid Duch recovery. It mean that Dutch companies which before the War were limited by the small Duch msrket now had a much larger market available. As in Germany, the country had a reservoir of well educated people and an industrious population. he Dutch defying predictions, 10 years after the War had fully recovered. Industrial production was 60 percent above pre-War levels. Agricultural production was nearly 20 percent greater. The Dutch were able to sustain a continuous and fast economical growth making the country one of the most prosperous in the world.

World War II

There was a great deal of sympathy for the Germans in World War I. Dutch charities helped the Germans after the War. Thus despite general revulsion toward Hitler and the NAZIS, the Dutch were shocked when their neutrality was shatered by the German invasion (May 1940). Queen Wilhelmina escaped to Britain. The Dutch Government in exile joined Britain and the Allied Powers to resist the Germans. The Queen and Government in exile played an important role as the symbol of Dutch natuiinal resistance. The NAZI occupation was at first generally benign, except toward the Jews. The long-established Dutch Jewish community was destroyed in the Holocaust. The Dutch people had no option but to accede to the the German occupation. Some actively colaborated as the German occupation became increasingly coersive. Had the Germans won the War, the Netherlands would have been annexed to the Reich. The NAZIs saw the Dutch as valuable racial material. The Dutch were devestated by World War II. While there was relatively little physical damage during the German invasion, there was considerable damage associated with the liberation. The Allies reached the Netherland (September 1944). With the failure of Operation Market Garden (October 1944), the Germans retained possession of the area beyond the Rhine until the final months of the War. The Germans to punish the Dutch cut off food and other supplies to the cities. Large numbers of people, especially children narrowly escaped starvation as a result of German actions. Some actually starved to death or were stunted for life. The Allies finally reach the to complete the liberation (March 1945).

Collaborators and War Criminals

Extra-judicial actions in the immediate liberation period were taken against collaborators. Most were ostracized by their neigbors. The girlfriends of German soldiers were rouhghly trated and had their heads shaved. One of the issues faced by the Provisional Government after the War eas how to deal with collaborators, war criminals, and war profiteers. Reichskommissar Arthur Seyss-Inquart (1940-45) was arrested by the Allies and tried by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. His war crimes were not limited to the Netherlands. He was found guilty and executed (1946). Dutch authorities arrested Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging (NSB) founder and leader Anton Mussert. He was found guilty executed in Den Haag (1946). Rost van Tonningen. another NSB politician, was arrested in Germany and extradited to the Netherlands. He died in prison. Dutch authorities in the immediate post-War period executed about 30 persons for war crimes.

Reparations

Some of the Dutch wanted reparations friom the Germans for the exploitive policies and attricities during the occupation. The Bakker-Schut Plan was formulated to demand a sizeable monetary compensation for the damage Germant inflicted on the country and even annexing part of northwest Germany. The Government decided not to pursue it aggressively because of American objections. Small border territories (Selfkant and Elten) were placed under Dutch administration (1949). The Dutch returned both areas tgo Germany (1963). Many German citizens living in the country were declared 'hostile subjects' and arrested as part of Operation Black Tulip overseen by Dutch minister of Justice Kolfschoten. They were held in concentration camp. The Government eventually deported 3,691 Germans. Everything German was despised. A Dutch reader tells us, " The first strophe of the Dutch national anthem begins with "Wilhelmus van Nassouwe ben ick van Duitschen bloed" (William of Nassau I am of German blood) and it needed to be changed, but it actually never happened, because tradition and common sense won. The same goes for the St. Matthew's Passion by Bach that had been performed every Easter in the same church in the city of Naarden--in German. They tried it in Dutch and even all the German-haters did not like it. But it took many years before most Dutch started to warm up to Germany and the Germans. And I do not blame them." [Stueck]

Post-War Conditions

Food was in short supply and had to be rationed. The homes of substantial numbers of people were destroyed. Jobs were almost non-exuistent. Conditions in the Netherlands were so difficult after the War that several hundred thousand Dutch people emmigrated, primarily to Australia, Canada, and the United States. Our Dutch reader tells us, "Right after the liberation food was the most important item. Then clothes. The year 1945 was still very chaotic. My younger brother returned home after having spent the rest of the war at a farm in the province of Overijsel. He left home when he was 15 years old--"before I starve to death here" he said and just left. We did not know what happened to him until after the War. He walked many days before he found a farmer who could use him with the work. My brother kept in touch with that farm family because they treated him like a son. At first there was no work available but all that changed in 1946. All of a sudden there were more job openings than people to fill them. I started working in the book and publishing business. In the beginning my German name created some difficulties, because the Dutch hated everything German." [Stueck]

Government

Queen Wilhelmina and the Government in Exile returned to the Netherlands with the advancing Allied armies. They assumed control of the administration and established a provisonal government under W. Drees and W. Schermerhorn. Schermerhorn's attempt to overcome the Pillarization of Dutch society failed. The parliament of 1940 was reassembled. Elements like the NSB which collaborated with the NAZIS were excluded. The Labour Party (PvdA) was founded, by a merger of the SDAP and several smaller parties (1946). The coalition government of the Catholic People’s Party (KVP) and the PvdA laid the foundations of the welfare state. Dutch Governments maintained a capitalist economic system. Unlike Britain, the Government did not move aggressively to createa welfare state before the country had the ecionomic viability to support it. The country once the economy was on its feet did intriduce comprehensive welfsare legislation (1960s). The system today is unprecedented in its scope and generosity.

Recovery

Many economists believe that becase of the devestation, it would take the Europeans a generation to recover from the War. The first task faced by the Dutch Povisional Government (DPG) was to obtain food, shelter, fuel, clothing for a devestated population. The Dutch were heavily dependent on American food aid immediately after liberation. One of the first major projects was the Wieringermeerpolder. It had been drained (1929, but flooded by the Germans to slow the Allied advance (April 1945). The DPG had in drained again by the end of the year. Great progress was made in 1946 in restoring agricultural production. Food production increased significantly and the Government was able to raise daily food rations 2.500 calories per day. Considerable effort was put into repairing bdamaged houses. Temporary shelters were opened for those whose homes had been destroyed. The Dutch like other Europeans countries received Marshall Plan assistance from the United States (1947). They Dutch received about $1 billion in Marshall Plan aid which included an incentive for regional planning. The Dutch share was in percapita terms second only to Iceland. The Dutch joined neighboring countries in both economic and security pacts. The Netherlands formed Benelux with neighboring Belgium and Luxenburg. They joined the Council of Europe, the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Common Market. Recovery and expansion of trade and industry proceeded rapidly by 1950. Many economists credit the closer economic ties with neigboring countries as a major reason for the rapid Duch recovery. It meant that Dutch companies which before the War were limited by the small Dutch market now had a much larger market available. As in Germany, the country had a reservoir of well-educated people and an industrious population. Also surprising many, the loss of their primary colony, the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), did not adversely ffect the economy,The Dutch defying predictions, 10 years after the War had fully recovered. Industrial production was 60 percent above pre-War levels. Agricultural production was nearly 20 percent greater. The Dutch were able to sustain a continuous and fast economical growth making the country one of the most prosperous in the world. Like other Europeans the Dutch are now worried about their ability to finance the generous welfare payments.

Dutch East Indies

The Netherlands had only one important colony--the Dutch East Indies (DWI). The Japanese seized control of the DWI soon after Pearl Harbor (February 1942). Indonesian nationalists, believing that the Japanese would grant them independence, collaborated with the Japanese, but began to disassocite themselves from the occupiers as it became apparent that they would be defeated by the Allies. They managed to seize some Japanese arms. Sukarno and Hatta declared Indonesian independence when Japan announced their surrender (August 1945). The Allies tried to prevent the Japanese from surrendering to the nationalists and turning over their weapons to them. Dutch New Guinea had been liberated (1944), but most islands including the major islands (Java and Sumatra) remained in Japanese hands. It was a major undertaking to get Allied forces to the many DWI islands. The greatest priority was to rescue the surviving internees who were neary 4 years of abuse and maltreatment were in dreadful condition. Many had already died. Those who had survived were by this time starving. The Dutch attempted to reestablish control. After a 4-year war, the Netherlads granted independence to the Dutch East Indies, which became the Republic of Indonesia (1949). Many Dutch people assumed that the loss of the Dutch East Indies would significantly impair the Dutch economy. This did not prove to be the case.

The Monarchy

Queen Wilhelmina after reigning for 50 years abdicated in favor of her daughter Juliana (1948).

Sources

Stueck, Rudi. E-mail message, June15, 2010.



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Created: 6:55 AM 6/14/2010
Last updated: 11:54 PM 7/9/2014