Dutch Under Nazi Occupation

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Natalia Szlarb
Introduction to Dutch Studies
British English

Accommodation, Co-operation or Collaboration?

Dutch population under the German Occupation

The German occupation in the Netherlands has been, and probably will be the cause of the heated debate among historians, politicians or Dutch citizens themselves for quite a long time. The question which triggers the emotions is how the Dutch people acted during the occupation. One the most influential historians on this matter, De Jong, one of the first faced the myth of an intransigent people standing up to the terror of occupier. [1] In the evolution of this view, there is certain consensus reached by most of the historians; most of the Dutch people tried to adopt “accommodation” tactic during the occupation. The essay focuses rather on the daily aspects of average Dutchman to understand sociology behind it; it examines the specific Dutch attitude of “accommodation” during German occupation, the origins and the consequences.

1. Prewar Dutch-German relations

Contrary to common belief, a far from insignificant rapprochement between the Dutch and the Nazi Germany had existed during the interwar periods. The origins could be traced in some way similar ideological and economical motives i.e. a virulent anti-communism that had deeply infiltrated in the Dutch elites. In 1917, after the collapse of tsardom, the Bolsheviks annulled all foreign debts. Although it was not the Dutch Government that suffered, but mostly private individuals who had invested heavily in the empire of the Tsar. In those days the amount of 1 billion guilders was at stake which was even more than the total sum of Dutch annual expenditure.[2] The common hatred of Communists proved to be somehow common ground for Dutch and Germans before the war.

The pro-German attitude in the Netherlands among authorities and elites was also confirmed by the German diplomat Wolfgang zu Putlitz, who spent four years in England, and was moved to take the new post as the Counselor in the Hague. In his memories he writes “In England I had never come across officials in leading agencies who expressed their sympathy for the new Germanism as enthusiastically as in the Netherlands […] The National Socialists of Mr. Mussert[3] had supporters in almost all ministers and even among the royal household […] There Chiefs of Police who, summarily, at one signal from Butting[4] deported German emigrants at any time of day or night, and handed them to Gestapo […] I have never heard that the Dutch government asked for a single document concerning such arbitrary acts, which were known to us by the dozen”[5]. In the prewar phase, the Netherlands seemed to have accepted the rise of “radical nationalism” in the neighboring country, and as long as it has not affected Netherlands, Dutch population stayed lenient towards more and more extreme German changes[6].

The evidence of closer relations with the Nazi Germany is undeniable. Among the Dutch authorities, particularly among the staff of police, there were few who had offered their service to the Nazis already before the war. In Amsterdam for example, the police commissioner, Broekhoff, personally informed in 1935 to the Gestapo officials in Berlin that the Dutch Minister of Defence would cooperate against “kommunistische and marxistische Umtriebe” (communist and Marxist machinastions). With the pen-name “David” Broekhoff took care of exchange of data due to which 250 German “illegals” who fled to the Netherlands immediately were arrested after the occupation in 1940.[7] The chief commissioner of police in Rotterdam, Mr. L. Eintoven, together with 17 other Dutch police officers considered to be “deutschfriendlich” in the list written by Gestapo.

2. Dutch Response and Attitude to the Occupation

When the Nazi Germany invaded Poland on the 1st September 1939, few days later Britain and France in reply declared war on Germany. Caring in mind benefits of a...
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