Published: May 10th 2010May 10th 2010
Liberation by the Allies
Operation MARKET GARDEN was comprised of US, British, & Canadian troops.
Since I was still on my "World War II-kick," today I decided to visit the Nationaal Bevrijdingsmuseum (National Liberation Museum) in Groesbeek. I had originally thought it was an easy train ride an hour north of Maastricht; however, I was wayyyyyy off. It took me 2 hours to get to Nijmegen by train, & then I had to take a 20 minute bus to Groesbeek. Since it took me forever to get there, I decided I had better make the most of my experience there.
The museum itself is pretty cool. It looks like an old bunker & one part of the building looks like a parachute. While it was a nice museum, it certainly wasn't what I had expected. The informational movies that were playing in some rooms were only in Dutch (without English subtitles) so that made it pointless for me to try to follow along. Luckily, the plaques telling what things are were in Dutch, English, & German. By reading the plaques, I was able to learn a lot more about the War in the Netherlands.
On May 10, 1940, Germany invaded Holland. Three days later, the Dutch royal family & government fled the country to
Operation MARKET GARDEN had both a land & an air dimension. In fact, it was the largest airborne undertaking of the war.
seek refuge in England. After the bombing of Rotterdam (killing 800 civilians), the Dutch military (under the command of General Winkelman) capitulated on May 15.
Nazi occupation of the Netherlands is broken up into 3 phases: May 1940 - February 1941; February 1941 - Spring 1943; & Spring 1943 - Spring 1945.
During the first phase, the Dutch were treated pretty well by the Germans. They were ruled by civilian (instead of military) authority, & Dutch Jews were more or less left to live in peace. This was because the Nazis viewed the Dutch as a "Germanic brother people" so they wanted to convert them to Nazi-styled socialism gradually. In this initial period, the Dutch had 3 options - collaborate, adapt, or resist. With continued occupation, things started to turn sour.
In February 1941, the Nazis began rounding up the Jews in the Netherlands. This included removal from jobs & universities, isolation in ghettos, & mandatory wearing of yellow stars. These German measures, however, led to what became known as the "February Strike" in Amsterdam which ensued after 425 Jewish men were arrested & deported from Amsterdam to concentration camps. (Of these men, only 2 survived).
The "Orange Hotel"
This is a replica room of the Scheveningen penitentiary where suspected Dutch resistance supporters were incarcerated. It was nicknamed the "Orange Hotel" due to the high number of resistance members it housed. (Today, Scheveningen Prison is used to detain convicted war criminals from the former Yugoslavia & Sierra Leone under the auspices of the United Nations.)
In the Spring of 1943, the Nazis ordered Dutch soldiers to become part of the German army. Similarly, all men aged 18-35 were ordered to report to Arbeidsinzet ("Work Service"). This led to many young men going into hiding. During this time period, the deportation of Dutch Jews was completed. Of the 140,000 deported to concentration or labor camps, 104,000 never returned. The Nazi occupation led to Dutch resistance movements. These organizations helped the people in hiding & forged the necessary documents for life in Nazi-occupied Holland. Women played an important role in the resistance because they could move about easier (since the young men were mostly in hiding). Baby carriages with false bottoms were frequently used to smuggle forbidden items to & from resistance workers. There was a story about a man who was bragging about being a resistance hero, & when his friend confronted him about it (since the man was only 1 at the time), the man replied that he was a "resistance baby" because his stroller was used to aid the movement. The resistance movement was fueled by Orange Radio (a radio broadcast from England that spread the latest war news). Queen Wilhemina, from her refuge
Air raid shelter
Even after the war, many Dutch were forced to live in air raid shelters due to the massive amounts of destruction done to their homes.
in London, would give regular speeches urging the Dutch to fight against the Nazis.
In June 1944, the Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy. By September, Operation MARKET GARDEN was in effect in the Netherlands. The Operation included the use of land & airborne forces with the goal to capture the strategic bridges linking the Netherlands to Germany. The Allied forces (including American, British, Canadian, & Polish troops) were able to liberate the area of Holland up to Eindhoven & Nijmegen. However, the Operation didn't accomplish all that it had set out to accomplish. Despite its partial failure, Operation MARKET GARDEN continued until October 1944, making enough progress into Germany that by the Spring of 1945, the war in Europe was over.
However, just because the war was over, didn't mean that all was well. There was severe damage to the civilian world. Allied forces (mostly Canadians) remained to help repair the destruction & remove land mines. During this time, people lived in air raid shelters due mainly to the fact that their homes were too badly destroyed.
One of the most interesting "exhibits" that was on display depicted the interaction between the Allied forces & Dutch civilians. Apparently one of the most famous songs of this era was "Mary Got Herself a Canadian", which tells the story of a Dutch girl who fell for & married a Canadian soldier. Apparently over 6,000 "liberation babies" were born. (The plaque said that most of them are still
looking for their fathers.) There was also an anecdote about a woman who married an American paratrooper, & her dress was made of parachute fabric. Interesting...
All in all, it was interesting to learn more about the War in this part of Europe. Like I mentioned before, when you learn World War II history, you tend to miss the stuff that happened in between Normandy & Berlin. This was a good opportunity for me to be able to experience some of that "in between" in terms of Dutch history.