This little Dutch boy is pictured with the family wooden shoes, note the different sizes. The photograph is undated, but we believe it was taken in 1945, probably April. The failure of Market Garden (October 1944) left the Netherlands beyond the Rhine in German hands. The NAZIs to punish the Dutch for siding with the Allies, disrupted the transportation system. Food, clothes and leather shoes became virtually impossible to obtain. when the British and Canadians crossed the Rhine (March 1945), the Dutch were starving. (The soldiers in the background are presumably British or Canadian.) Click on the image for a fuller discussion.
Montgomery had been pressuring Eisenhower to order one big push into Germany which of course he thought he should direct rather than Patton. Eisenhower kept insisting on a broad front advance. At this stage of the campaign. Most of the Allied supplies were still coming in over the Normandy beaches. Ports like Brest, Boulogne and Calais were still in German hands. The German V-2 attacks while not a real military threat, were terrifying civilians and it was Montgomery who was best placed to seize the launching sites in the Netherlands which could still be used to hit London. Eisenhower as a result, acceeded to Montgomery's plan to seize the Rhine River bridge at Arnhem and cross the Rhine through the Netherlands. Available supplies were diverted toward this effort, Operation Markt Garden (September 17-26). While more attention is given to airborn opertions on D-Day, Market Garden was the largest airborn operation of World War II. Over 30.000 allied paratroopers were employed in the operation. Eisenhower was a proponent of a broad-front offensive against Germany. His field commnanders, especially Montgomery and Patton, wanted to focus the offensive on specific sectors (their own) to pierce the enemy defenses. Available supply lines in September 1944 were inadequate for a general broad-front offensive against the Germans. If there was to be an offensive in Septmber against the Germans, Eisenhower had to chose a specific sector. He chose Montgomery in the Netherlands. Eisenhower has never fully explained this decission. Seceral factors were certasinly involved. The route through the Netherlands was the most direct and shortest into the industrial heart of Germany. The Germans were launching V-1 rockets from the Netherlands which were causing civilian casualties in London and other British cities. Montgomery's plan offered a key objective, the seizure of the Rhine River bridge at Arnhem. In addition, the liberation of Belgium had brought with it the port of Antwerp which meant that if Montgomery was successful, supplies to exploit the crossing of the Rhine could be brought in through Antwerp, instead of the long truck routres through France. The effort achieved some success, but failed at Arnhem. This allowed the Germans to stabilized their Western front as Winter approached.The failure of Operation Market Garden left most of the country still in NAZI hands.
Conditions in the Netherlands north of the Rhine were very difficult after the failure of Operation Market Garden. The NAZIs after the Allies approached introduced draconian regulations in areas under their control. The Germans prohibited Dutch citizens from using electricity or to be in the streets after dark (August 1944). The Germans shot Dutch people who violated these regulations. The Allies liberated most of the Netherland south of the Rhine (October 1944). These regulations, however, maintained in effect north of the Rhine. The NAZIs used Dutch cities to continue launching V-2s at London. Food was very scarce. The Allies finally crossed the Rhine with the invasion of Germany (March 1945). By this time the Dutch were near starvation. Dutch children were primarily affected at the end of the War where the civilian population east of the Rhine was close to statvation by the times the Allies liberated them in 1945. A reader reports, "We in occupied Holland were certainly happy to see the Canadian liberators. We were starving to death." [Stueck]
A reader tells us, "The soldiers must have been Canadians. Our part of the country was liberated by Canadian troops. Of course, they all were English-speaking, although some of them had Ukrainian or German names. But I remember some French-Canadians as well. One of our neighbors was delighted to be able to speak French with them. It is a strange picture, but those were strange times. The Canadian soldiers were very generous. We kids got candy and our parents cigarettes. One of them sent me clothes from Canada after he returned home. He went out with my sister, but she never got anything. HBC is absolutely right. We should never forget that the United States saved Europe twice. [HBC might say three times.] They did not want any land. On the contrary, they helped the liberated countries (and even Germany) to get on their feet again. For that we shall always be grateful."
Our Dutch reader provides some insights about the photograph here, "Wooden shoes were always left outside the house and the wearers had to enter on their socks or stockings. This boy does not seem to have even that. As a boy I never wore "klompen" (wooden shoes). At our school only the children of farmers and laborers wore them. Now I own two pairs, but I only use them for certain events (like representing Holland at a folkloristic gathering. I have a complete outfit). What you see in the doorway is a pot de chambre. We called it a 'po'."
Wooden shoes are called "klompen" in Dutch. Holland a few centuries ago had thousands of clogmakers. At that time, almost all clogs were made by farmers. Specialize tools were not needed. These old fashioned, handmade clogs were for the most part created using tools that the faarmers already had and were use for various other purposes. A folk tradition developed. Many farmers decorated the shoes that they made. The Dutch tradition of clog making began to change in the late 19th century, There had always been some clog makers in cities who produced clogs as their main occupation. The number of selfemployed clogmakers started to increase after 1870. That was not only the result of the increased population, but even more importantly because of the agricultural changes in the Netherlands. The ordinary farmer didn't have enough time left to produce clogs. Wooden shoes were common until the late 1950s. It is likely that World War II gave klompen a new lease on life. Leather shoes probably were in very short supply during the War, especailly the later years of the War.
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