The World at War

Soldiers on BicyclesWhile most European countries were involved in World War I, it bypassed the Netherlands completely, after they decided they wanted to stay neutral. The trick didn’t work in World War II though. They did try, but Hitler had different ideas and invaded the country anyway in May 1940. The Dutch never stood a chance – their army was mostly made up of soldiers on bicycles. After heavy bombing raids, the Dutch gave in and spent the rest of World War II under German occupation.

Did you know that…

The Queen of the Netherlands, Wilhelmina, escaped to London just in time and for the remainder of the war she and her husband organised the Dutch resistance from their temporary home in England. The Queen regularly spoke to the Dutch people on Radio Oranje, which could broadcast to the people back home.

A bridge too far….

By 1944 the Allied Forces had landed in France and were heading north, pushing the Germans back onto their own territory. They got as far as the bridge across the river Rhine in Arnhem by the autumn of 1944, but it took until May 1945 before they finally beat the Germans. During that last winter 16,000 Dutch people died of starvation, and those who survived, did so by eating flower bulbs and waterrats.

Casualties

In total, about 300,000 Dutch people died during World War II, and of that number, about one-third was Jewish. Before the war, about 112,000 Jewish people lived in the Netherlands – many of them in Amsterdam. Most of them were sent to concentration camps, and only 5,000 survived the camps. One survivor is a man called Otto Frank, whose daughter Anne wrote the Diary of Anne Frank, which describes her life with her family as they were in hiding from the Nazi occupiers in Amsterdam. Anne Frank is such a special person that she has a page all to herself. Click here to read about her, or follow the link in the sidebar.