University of North Carolina at Asheville








Oranje zal Overwinnen:


The Dutch Resistance to the German Occupation of World War II








A Senior Thesis Submitted To the Department of History

In Candidacy for The Degree of

Bachelors of Arts in History










Sara Ann Baker









Asheville, North Carolina

November 22, 2005



            When the German regime began a war in Europe in 1939, no one could possibly imagine the damage that would be done, whether in terms of politics, economics, or human welfare. The Netherlands were not any different in this regard; the country did not expect to face any of the conditions that were about to devastate their small nation. This was largely due to Hitler’s promise that Dutch life would be protected under German occupation.[1] Despite the promises that Germany would not deny the Dutch their freedoms and would occupy the Netherlands as a means of protection and unification, violence and totalitarianism erupted, leaving millions of citizens in a state of despair. The German administration’s lies and deceit turned the Dutch people against Germany and acts of resistance began to occur regularly. The largest act of Dutch resistance, the railroad strike that began in September of 1944, proved to be fatal for nearly thirty thousand civilians. The rail embargo led Reich Commissioner Arthur Seyss-Inquart to brutally retaliate by imposing a prohibition against shipping foodstuffs into the western part of the nation. Although the stopping of the trains was by far the largest act of Dutch resistance, other forms of resistance existed as well, both before and after the food embargo.

The resistance movement in the Netherlands was prevalent from 1940-1945, particularly during the last year of the war. Acts of resistance, such as assassinations, sabotage, forgery of important documents, extensive underground presses, radio broadcasts, and a vital rail strike, all contributed to the largest famine in Western Europe during the war and the Netherlands’ worst famine in modern history. Although these acts led to such an event, resisters also helped those suffering survive the German occupation via the same clandestine methods. 

Germany managed to manipulate Dutch civilians and government officials prior to hostile actions. According to Germany, England and France were interested in occupying and plundering the Netherlands; Germany revealed documentation to support their claims.[2] The idea that their sister country would wish to unite and protect Germanic nations is a feasible theory, one the Dutch considered to be true. On May 18, 1940 Hitler decreed that Arthur Seyss-Inquart would act as the Reichkommisar (Reich Commissioner) of the Netherlands and he would represent “the supreme civil power of the Government.”[3] With this power, he was permitted to take any action, such as organizing courts and implementing decrees, as long as it was permissible or instructed by the Führer.[4] Seyss-Inquart explicitly stated on May 29, 1940 that he wanted to respect the Dutch citizens, “It is my wish to leave intact the Dutch laws valid at present, to act in co-operation with the Dutch authorities in governing the country, and to guarantee the independence of the administration in justice.”[5] Even as he faced trial at Nuremburg for war crimes, he asserted that he had tried his best to please the Dutch.[6]

Since the Nazi regime claimed that it had “no desire to oppress this country and its inhabitants with imperialistic intentions,” it is not surprising that the reactions of the Dutch peoples were negative when Germany began to take total control of governmental, military, social, and economic functions in the Netherlands.[7] Given that the Netherlands “had no tradition of enmity with Germany,” they could not understand the attacks by their self-proclaimed protectors.[8] Although the country had not taken polarized stands in the war prior to its invasion, the nation’s citizens were by no means neutral. The Dutch were well aware of what cruelties the Nazi system had to offer and, accordingly, were strongly opposed to the National Socialist party.[9] This knowledge of Nazi capabilities, combined with hatred and fear of the Nazi party, resulted in a strong division amongst the Dutch citizens.

Members of the Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging (National-Socialist Movement, but commonly referred to as the NSB) were Dutchmen who strongly supported the Nazi regime. The NSB had helped Germany to invade the Netherlands on May 10, 1940, causing much conflict between citizens loyal to Queen Wilhelmina and the House of Orange and those affiliated with Nazi Germany. After the invasion, thousands of NSB members had to be hidden or protected by German affiliates since they had played a role in helping the attacker. Some Dutchmen loyal to the Dutch government even killed members of the NSB because they were so furious.[10] This treason against the Netherlands did nothing but heighten the animosity between the ordinary Dutch and NSB members; it was argued, “the Dutch hate the members of the NSB even more than they hate the Germans.”[11] They viewed the Dutch Nazi as not only an enemy, but also a traitor and an enemy against the state.

            This animosity between the divided populations is important to note because Dutch resisters began striking out against the Germans and the NSB as soon as the invasion occurred. Even though these initial acts of resistance were directed mainly towards the Germans, the Dutch did not pass up an opportunity to strike out against members of the NSB. Initially, these antics, practiced by people of all ages, were usually regarded as poor attitudes and harmless bantering, although sparks of rage were evident. When loyal citizens passed members of the NSB in the streets, they would greet them with the song, “Op den hoek van de straat” (On the corner of the street), which describes how the NSB betrayed their country to gain a few pennies. [12] The Dutch word for hello, “hallo,” was transformed into an acronym meaning, “Hang Alle Landverraders Op,” (hang all traitors) and also readily used to greet members of the group that betrayed the country.[13] Other passive signs, though not directed towards anyone in particular, were also recognized; newborn babies were named after members of the royal house, “Oranje zal Overwinnen” (Orange Shall Conquer) became a favorite phrase, and flashes of “V” for victory signs made with the index and middle fingers were a few of the most common.[14]

            For a brief period of time, Dutch resistance remained as passive as an unfriendly greeting in the street. However, it was not long before the resisters realized the negative limitations of grudging collaboration and impolite ridiculing. The latter does not take enough action to result in major changes and the former does not take into account the possibility that the occupiers can lose the war.[15] Thus, it is at this point that the resistance movement became more focused on accomplishing the goals of awareness and German removal; resisters wanted the Germans to be aware of the disapproval of their occupation and the reasons their presence would be so adamantly abhorred.

            Once appointed, Seyss-Inquart quickly took action to seize control of Dutch industrial labor in an attempt to impose National Socialism upon the nation.[16] This opened a door for industrial sabotage and other forms of passive labor resistance. Although not typically harmful to humans (there were a few cases of attempts to burn down entire factories), these actions were detrimental to German plans.[17] The Dutch initiated a plan of “slow down” sabotage, which could easily be practiced throughout the country. This method indicated that workers would not hurry with their work; the thought behind the plan was that all production “would only benefit the German war machine,” so there was no reward or reason to hurry.[18] The need for coal was prevalent and German officials tried to implement a series of regulations for Dutch miners, though the miners were reluctant to comply. They mined only the poorest coal for the enemy and refused to work the extra hours imposed on them.[19] Economically, the work done, or not done, by employees under German surveillance was one of the best tactics; it exemplified the Dutch opposition to National Socialism.

            For those who were not employed by factories or institutions under German control, other forms of passive resistance were of interest. Unlike the name-calling originally occurring between the Dutch, Germans, and NSB members, these small acts were embedded with political and social issues. Nearly all early forms of written opposition were satirical, honoring their dead countrymen or the exiled queen, or boasting certain victory.[20] Names of traitors were distributed via hand-written pamphlets as well, encouraging sabotage against those who had betrayed fellow countrymen for a stipend from the Gestapo. Speeches delivered to the Dutch by the exiled Queen Wilhelmina or her son, Prince Bernard, were copied in shorthand and delivered to those who did not have access to the originals.[21] This was important in maintaining hope and trust between the separated citizens and royalty; it showed the citizens that the Royal House of Orange had not dismissed them.

            German officials prohibited images of the royal family towards the beginning of the war because “they were greatly annoyed at photos of the Queen.”[22] When one could no longer purchase photos of the family from local shops, prints were passed around the nation. Stamps, too, were given a different image, rather than the photo of the queen. The Dutch began to affix stamps to the left side of the envelope, because the upper-right corner “belonged only to stamps with the image of Queen Wilhelmina.”[23] Displaying these photographs or relocating the stamp placement allowed even the illiterate to make a visual stand against the enemy. Still, despite the fact that possessing these pictures and informal writings caused no real threat to the Germans, there were great repercussions for having them. Houses were often searched for photographs and documents, and possession of either could result in being imprisoned or sent to a concentration camp.[24]

            The first public demonstration of resistance, and also one of the first that can be perceived as intentionally violent, occurred on June 29th, Prince Bernard’s birthday.[25] Aware of the upcoming patriotic day, the Germans declared on June 25 “that no national or orange-colored flags would be displayed from public buildings” in order to stifle an outpouring of Dutch nationalism.[26] Even though no flags were raised in tribute to Prince Bernard’s birthday, he was honored by an array of red, white, blue, and orange clothing.[27] Attributed to mere chance with comments such as, “Surely one may wear a carnation in one’s buttonhole just as well as a lady may wear a brooch?” many citizens paraded around the country emblazoned with national emblems; the brooch was representative of Queen Wilhelmina and the carnation was Prince Bernard’s favorite flower.[28]  This public display of affection for the monarchy caused an outrage. Dutch Nazis and Germans eagerly ripped the carnations from the chests of those who wore them and attacked others who wore the country’s colors. The patriots retaliated by hiding darning needles and rusty razors in the flowers; when someone struck at the carnation, they were cut rather severely.[29] The injuries further enraged the enemies and fistfights erupted throughout Holland when one was cut by a defiant carnation.

            Acts of resistance first occurred primarily on an individual basis, but as the need for resistance grew, resisters began to organize and strategize in order to more effectively work against German forces and help Dutch citizens. These organizations, referred to by the Germans as “terrorist organizations,” strove to find money, rations, and refuge for the suffering with the best means they had available.[30] They were also responsible for attacking the German establishment by destroying records and registers and providing information to citizens.[31] Smaller groups organized locally during the first three years of the occupation, but were not generally unified on a national level.[32] The compatibility of such groups was questionable; for example, measures taken by the Communist resistance were greatly opposed by Protestant resisters.[33] By the third year of the occupation, the underground movement had grown significantly and was capable of being a major strength in the defiance of German forces.[34] These underground groups managed to accomplish some goals, but recognized that they would be far more effective if united. Thus, in September of 1944, Queen Wilhelmina formed the Nederlandse Binnenlandse Strijdkrachten (Netherlands Forces of the Interior), appointing Prince Bernard as head of the group.[35]

            The Forces of the Interior was comprised of a few subdivisions, including the Order Service, the Council of Resistance, and the National Action Groups.[36] Members of these divisions were treated by the Germans, not as civilians, but in some instances as combatant soldiers. This distinction is a major development in how seriously the Dutch resistance was taken. The jobs of those involved in the Council of Resistance was to unify the other underground groups, and although it never fully managed to accomplish this, more than 2,000 people could be called on for help if necessary.[37]

            In order to operate these formal resistance organizations, as well as any resistance groups, funding was desperately needed. The Netherlands’ resistance movement differs somewhat from other nations because it had an organization whose sole function was to obtain the money needed for the other groups to act and to make life sustainable for the hundreds of thousands Dutch in hiding. The Germans never traced the group, sometimes called the “banker of Dutch resistance,” due to the complex nature of Dutch society.[38] An extraordinary amount of time and effort was put into such a tedious collection process, to say the least, but it paid off. The organization managed to collect over one hundred million guilders (according to the 1990 value, approximately five hundred million dollars) during the war. After liberation, all funds were accounted for and the government repaid all companies and people who had lent money to the cause.[39] The appropriation of this funding allowed the resistance movement to flourish throughout the latter part of the war.

            The underground press and radio served as the most influential forms of resistance for the masses by providing citizens with information about the war that could not be obtained otherwise. This access to information not only kept citizens aware, but allowed planning for other acts of resistance to occur.  The importance of the Dutch underground press can be quantified and qualified; quantified because of the high number of papers in circulation, and qualified due to the practicality and reliability of the sources.[40] The Nazi regime worked hard to keep information about the Allies out of available news sources, so pieces regarding the Allies were heavily sought after.[41] Although this type of information was often vied for, the primary purpose of the press “was the overriding necessity to warn the Dutch people against submission to the Germans and to encourage them to resist the enemy with the best of their ability.”[42]

            Distributing these newspapers and pamphlets was far from an easy task; members of the press were tried by German courts if caught and editors were almost always sentenced to capital punishment.[43] One newspaper, Vrij Nederland (Free Netherlands), noted the dangers of illegal journalism by saying in an issue, “All readers know that our paper is not written with ink, but with the blood of dozens of our company.”[44] Despite the risks of being associated with the press, underground newspapers flourished during the final years of the war. Some major titles included, Vrij Nederland, Uit de woestijn (Out of the Desert), De Oranjekrant (Orange Journal), Trouw (Faith), and Het Parool (The Password).[45] The circulation of each newspaper was tremendous; sources say that each issue could easily have been read by at least 100,000 people.[46]

            The underground radio services were influential as well, although not to the extent of the press. However, radio transmissions could provide the illiterate with information that the press could not deliver. Inside the Netherlands, radio programs were not produced by Dutch loyalists, as the Germans had taken control over the airwaves, but outside of the country, the BBC presented the Dutch with necessary information. Stationed in London, the BBC hosted many Dutch radio broadcasts, including Radio Oranje, which established a line of communication between the citizens and Queen Wilhelmina.[47] This communication was vital to the resistance movement because the royal house could deliver commands and suggestions to the resisters, despite being separated from them by the North Sea.

            This wealth of information led to critical acts of resistance by the Dutch people. Through the presses and the radio, people were better informed of what atrocities were being performed against them. While resisters had initially tended to respond to the Germans in a passive manner, this changed with the influx of information. More aggressive attacks on the Nazi regime began to occur; acts of sabotage and German assassinations were indicative of just how aggressively the Dutch could behave. Sabotage against the enemy created much excitement because even though the acts were dangerous missions, the sacrifice of a human life in exchange for liberation from Germany was worth the highest honors.[48] Originally, sabotage groups were careless with their work and were caught before they could take any action.[49] However, as the war progressed and organizational skills were much more refined, the resisters bettered their attacks.

            A focus of saboteurs was the registries that listed the age of every Dutch male suitable for working in the German work camps. The best-known example of sabotage against a registry occurred in Amsterdam. A group of resisters, disguised as police officers, were welcomed into the registry by German guards, who believed the story that there would be a raid in an hour and intruders should be shot immediately. The supposed police inspector asked to inspect their weapons and when the Germans surrendered their revolvers, the resisters overpowered them. They were drugged, but not killed, and left outside while the building was burned to the ground, destroying the registers.[50] These men were later apprehended and executed, but their contribution to the Dutch citizens is still remembered today.[51] By destroying registries, hundreds of Dutchmen were saved from the perils of the Nazi concentration and work camps.

            Other acts of sabotage, besides destroying the registries and the industrial sabotage mentioned earlier, were also common. Files located in the state employment office in Hengelo were ransacked, soaked with gasoline, and then burned. The city hall of Apeldoorn was burned to the ground by resisters. A number of registration cards identifying a group of young men set to work in the German work camps were stolen from an office in Leeuwarden.[52] Dutch Nazis were murdered and their homes and farms were destroyed.[53] As these incidents began to occur on a daily basis, the Germans tried to impose harsh punishments upon saboteurs, by imprisoning and executing those involved.[54] However, this measure backfired and, instead of discouraging it, their resolutions stimulated the growth of resistance.

            The escalation of assassinations practically thwarted the impressiveness of the sabotages by comparison. Justifications for these assassinations were based upon the necessity of the act in order to save the lives of patriots; many of those murdered were policemen or informers. At first, people gave little support for such violent measures, but as German brutality increased, support for assassinations did as well, given that the lives of Dutch citizens were at stake.[55] Germans, NSB officials, and even their wives were shot in their own homes. Soon after H. Reydon was appointed the new Secretary-General of the Netherlands, he was shot in the spine. Just prior to that incident, General Seyffradt was shot in the liver and kidney in his home.[56] In September of 1944, in the village of Putten, a German car occupied by four passengers was attacked, killing one of them. Unfortunately, with, already tight German regulations, this act resulted in tragedy for the Dutch. German General Christiansen was furious at the attack and demanded that the entire village pay for the crime. No one was killed directly, as the culprits were unknown, but eighty-seven homes were burned, women and children were taken as prisoners (although later released), and 590 men were deported to a concentration camp; only fifty survived.[57]

            This disproportionate retaliation left the Dutch wary and extremely cautious.[58] The Germans now knew that the resisters were dead serious about their cause, but at the same time, the Dutch knew that the Germans were not going to go down without a cruel fight. When resisters were arrested, unimaginable devices were employed to get them to tell their secrets. These brave souls underwent tedious cross-examinations, extended periods of isolation, and evil tortures. Unfortunately, many of these people died. Few ever divulged the information the Germans wanted, which always resulted in execution.[59] These resisters should be commended for their valor; by not revealing information about the underground movement, the resistance could continue.

            Once the Nazis enforced these harsher conditions, the Dutch citizens and the monarchy knew that a major act of resistance must occur for the Netherlands to prove to the Germans that they would not be defeated easily. The closing of the railroads seemed a rational solution to the problem of what to do; German forces used the railroads for food, infantry, and deporting people to concentration and work camps. More than 30,000 Dutch rail workers had obeyed orders given by the Germans for the initial four years of the war, pushing aside the ethical matters that consistently arose. However, the idea for a general strike had been in the works since 1943, indicating this obedience may have been coerced.[60]

            By September of 1944, it seemed that the end of the war was fast approaching; Portions of Belgium, France, and Luxembourg had been liberated and the news spread that the Netherlands would be freed next. The underground movement shifted its attention to the railroads, assuming that Germany would be demanding a higher number of exportations and deportations because of the Allies’ position. Resisters attacked the railways more than thirty times from September 6th through the 11th.[61] Portions of the tracks were bombed and fueling stations were burned, heavily deterring the movement of these trains.[62] On September 17th, 1944 the exiled royal government ordered all rail workers to strike; the trains stopped.[63] This elated the whole movement and was one of the most important events in the entire resistance campaign because for four years the Dutch rail workers had obeyed the Germans, but when they finally stopped, they did so with tremendous force.

            Understandably, such an act infuriated the Germans and they tried their best to coerce the Dutch into resuming their work.[64] Engineers and other front men were faced with serious consequences if they did not return to work: they received death threats, members of their families were incarcerated, and their homes were demolished.[65] Eventually, Germany sent 5,000 of its own men to work the lines in the Netherlands, five hundred of whom would become casualties of the resistance.[66] Despite once again having Dutch trains at their disposal, the Nazis were determined to not be seen as pushovers when the war seemed so close to its end. The year’s events, such as sabotage and assassinations by resisters, had heightened German awareness to the resistance, creating a demand for harsher punishments. Public announcements tacked on walls across the country stated, “Staking Brengt Alléén Ellende Over U Eigen Volk” (Strike only brings misery to your own people), indicating what was to come.[67] On September 22nd, Dr. H.M. Hirschfeld, Secretary General of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, and Mr. S.L. Louwes, Director General for the Food Supply, were instructed by Seyss-Inquart to inform the nation’s people that if the workers did not return to work, famine was certain to follow.[68] Unfortunately, this was not an empty threat. When the Dutch workers refused to resume their positions on the rails, Seyss-Inquart decreed an embargo of foodstuffs into the western provinces of the Netherlands from the northern and eastern provinces, as well as from outside the country.[69]

            Considering that food reserves had been depleting since the start of the war, Western Holland was left in a grave situation. After Seyss-Inquart delivered the command to stop sending food into the western part of the nation, the country fell into a state of despair in matters of feeding its people. German authorities constantly received grievances about the embargo, but they went unacknowledged. In the meantime, a system of rationing had developed. The population was divided by two sets of criteria established by the national government; first, there were subdivisions according to age, and then those groups were once again divided according to one’s labor. The age groups enabled people to receive food depending on how much was needed to sustain them according to physical age; those who worked harder jobs received extra rations as necessary. If one was seriously ill, pregnant, or nursing, they could also receive extra rations.[70] Infants also faired better than other members of society; children aged one year or younger received an average of 1,233 calories in February of 1945.[71] Ration cards enabled people to receive items such as brood (bread), vlees (meat), kaas (cheese), and melk (milk).[72] However, the rations were not enough for a person to sustain a healthy life. Finally, after a number of appeals, Dutch authorities and medical professionals managed to convince Seyss-Inquart to partially lift the ban. On November 8th, he allowed a limited amount of imports via water transportation.[73]

            Unfortunately, by this point the damage had been done. Owners of vessels large enough to ship an adequate amount of food often refused to do so out of fear that the Germans would seize their ships.[74] The weather also became a factor; the cold made water movement extremely difficult.[75] With the limited food supply, rations were cut tremendously, leaving citizens surviving the winter on a meager four hundred calories per day.[76] Kruijer’s figures indicate that during the week of January 27 through February 3, 1945, the people of Amsterdam received only 340 calorieën (calories) per day, resulting in 610 deaths.[77] The need to supplement the rations was great and people began to find other forms of subsidence in their diets. Some towns began rationing sugarbeets and tulip bulbs along with ordinary foodstuffs.[78] By the end of the war, approximately 80% of what was consumed by the Dutch was vegetation of some sort, including both vegetables typical in a standard diet and those atypical of regular foods.[79] The need for food was so extreme that people resorted to eating anything that could be considered edible. Sara Feder, who was ten years old at the time, recalls how she once ate bread crusts that had been run over by a cart in the street.[80] The need for food was great and key players in the resistance realized that the government was not going to be able to solve the problem on their own while in exile.

            Before the Dutch underground could take any significant action however, the Germans imposed a series of even harsher regulations. With the winter being unusually harsh, the need for heating resources was great and German forces took advantage of this situation by shutting off access to gas, coal, and electricity. Gas availability was the first to diminish; a public announcement boldly stating, “Bezuiniging Gasverbruik” (Cuts gas usage) declared that anyone caught using more than their limited rations of gas would lose all privileges.[81] Other announcements soon followed. “Afsluiting Electriciteit” (Shutting down the electricity) came next due to the coal shortage and only public institutions were permitted to have coal-powered electricity.[82] As they were desperate for food, people were also desperate for warmth. Crowds would gather around train tracks and sift through rocks for pieces of discarded coal.[83] They would also cut down trees and break into abandoned houses, dismembering furniture and woodwork for prospective firewood.[84] These actions would only serve as temporary solutions until authorities realized what citizens were doing. Once acknowledged, German officials again took action to repress the Dutch. The German Wehrmacht (army) ordered that cutting down trees was prohibited and violators would be shot.[85] The combination of harsh weather conditions and low caloric intake led to minimal living conditions amongst the Dutch in much of the Netherlands, particularly the western provinces. Determined to help alleviate their fellow countrymen, the underground movement focused much of its attention to aiding citizens.

            Forgery became a necessary crime at this point in the war, one that the Dutch underground was all too familiar with. They forged identification cards and passports for citizens in hiding, as well as Jewish citizens, in order to prevent them from being deported, which was occurring at a faster pace at this point in the war.[86] Copying personal identification documents were not the only forms of forgery resisters committed. They also successfully forged food coupons and ration cards. When forging a document was not possible, resisters often turned to the black market for documents and ration cards. If that failed, then they would go through the even more dangerous process of stealing the items. Resisters, often disguised as Germans via stolen uniforms, would raid food offices and steal ration cards.[87] In one case, these men managed to burn a hole in an iron safe large enough for an adult male to pass through, awarding them the 40,000 ration cards locked inside.[88]

            Aside from the forged and stolen ration cards and coupons, the resistance movement employed a Communal Kitchen system that was open to more than those the kitchens originally serviced. Initially, the kitchens were designed to service those who were unable to cook meals for themselves or for their families, due to financial, economic, or social issues.[89] Makeshift stoves and ovens were also provided to Dutch citizens by the resisters whenever the supplies were available.[90] In February of 1945, extralegal rations provided an average of 724 calories per day, compared to the 479 calories that were legally allotted by government rations.[91] This statistic indicates that although measures taken by resisters may have seemed insignificant in the grand scheme of the hunger that was taking place, the food provided by resisters was almost entirely the reason why many survived.

            The provision of food was a necessary action for many resisters at this time, but they were also responsible for a considerable amount of medical care provided during the last few months of the war. Hunger oedema had become prevalent throughout the western part of the country and other forms of hunger disease were becoming more common as well. Hospitals admitted far beyond their patient capacity; many of these patients felt no relief since not even the hospitals had an adequate amount of food despite having some electricity.[92] By February of 1945, hospitals began to turn patients away. The underground forces started to manage their own hospitals by transforming schools and other public buildings into medical centers.[93] The patients were not only provided with shelter, but with beds, blankets, and food collected by the underground with the funding that was provided through the “banker of Dutch resistance.”[94] By this point in the war, medicines and supplies had depleted, but resisters did what they could to replace them. Often, this was done using primitive or home remedies.[95] Obviously, these remedies were no replacements for technology and prescription drugs, but they were somewhat beneficial to patients.

            The underground press remained a vital force of the resistance at this point in time as well. With rumors spreading that the war would soon be over, the press was the driving force of hope amongst the people. Given the trials and tribulations the people were facing that winter, it was feared that submission to the Germans would be inevitable. The press offered support and encouragement for the suffering by stressing that Germany would certainly be defeated soon and by articulating the absolute imperativeness of being a loyal citizen.[96] The importance of the news and unity brought to the Dutch by the underground press is best exhibited during this last year of the war. Between September and December of 1944, an additional 350 news bulletins began to circulate; by the start of 1945, this number had increased to five hundred.[97] During the five years of its occupation, the Netherlands issued nearly 1,200 unauthorized periodicals and during the final stage of the war, these newspapers were read more than those issued legally.[98] The danger these people went through in order to provide information and hope to Dutch citizens was crucial to the survival of many.

            The resistance movement did grant sustenance for many individuals during the war. However, the effects of starvation were great and a number of people did not survive the winter. It is estimated that about twenty thousand people in the western part of the Netherlands died due to lack of both nutrition and favorable living conditions.[99] People were displaced from their homes, even their cities, in an attempt to find food. The larger cities were worse off than rural areas; people were dying from exhaustion, incidences of hunger oedema continued to rise, and death rates were increasing at an alarming rate.[100] In order to find food, people such as Sara Feder, left the western provinces and headed north to Friesland and Groningen.[101] In many instances only those who were too weak to make the trip stayed in the larger cities, such as Amsterdam, The Hague, and Rotterdam.

            By the end of April it was evident that Germany was teetering on the verge of losing the war. This was fortunate for the Dutch; their last rations of potatoes and bread were distributed on April 29, 1945. Members of the resistance, Dutch authorities, the government-in-exile, and a reluctant Arthur Seyss-Inquart agreed that assistance was needed for the Dutch to survive the remaining few weeks of the war. Thus, Operation Manna was planned. On May 1, the Royal Air Force dropped food and supplies into cities of Holland.[102]

            During the five years that Germany occupied the Netherlands during World War II, many atrocities were committed against a country that had intended to remain as neutral as possible. Many Dutch citizens were sent to concentration or work camps, people did not have the means to provide for their families, thousands of Dutch citizens died from the evils of warfare, and thousands more died from malnutrition and starvation. The Nazi Regime attempted to force the people of the Netherlands to obey their commands and some did so willingly; the members of the Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging respected the wishes and ideals of the Nazis. Conversely, many Dutch citizens remained loyal to the House of Orange and Queen Wilhelmina. These citizens united to form a successful, albeit perilous, underground resistance movement against their oppressors. Since no postwar registration of members of the resistance was compiled, there is not an exact number of those who partook in such operations. However, it is assumed that approximately sixty thousand people were a part of the movement, but this number does not include those who aided the resisters or those who housed refugees. Of this number, about ten thousand underground members were shot or died while in concentration camps.[103] The resisters who lived faced many hardships after the war: numerous members suffered from severe depression, many could not rebuild their lives once the war ended, some suffered from nightmares, and thousands faced the underlying tensions from years of being “mercilessly hunted by the Gestapo.”[104]

            These extraordinary people paid with their lives for the greater benefit of Dutch society. Underlying anti-Nazi attitudes laid the foundation for the resistance against Germany and Dutch Nazis. The resistance grew as German presence became increasingly violent and a threat to the culture and well being of the Netherlands’ citizens. Public displays of disapproval began to occur on societal, as well as individual, levels, also encouraging the growth of the movement. An extensive underground press and radio system united the nation’s people and established a wellspring of hope.  Acts of sabotage and assassinations revealed to the enemy that the Dutch were not going to be easily discouraged by their cruel demeanor. An essential rail strike was central to the resistance’s cause, even if the consequences of the strike were detrimental to many. But the Dutch resisters did not do something that many might have done if they were faced with such consequences: they did not give up, nor did they stand back while their fellow countrymen suffered. Although some outcomes of the resistance movement were negative, the resisters were quick to aid Dutch citizens to the best of their abilities in times of need.



Primary Sources

“Anti-strike Public Announcement Poster.” 1944. Located in Amsterdam, The Netherlands at Verzetsmuseum Amsterdam.


Boolen, J.J. and J.C. Van der Does. Five Years of Occupation: The Resistance of the Dutch Against Hitler-Terrorism and Nazi-Robbery. NP: The Secret Press of D.A.V.I.D., 1945


“Cutting Trees Public Announcement Poster.” Administered by C. Van Ravenswaal, mayor of Utrecht. 8 January 1945. Located in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, at Verzetsmuseum Amsterdam.


De Jong, Louis. Holland Fights the Nazis. London: Lindsay Drummond, 1941.


---- The Netherlands and Nazi Germany. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990.


De Jong, Louis and Joseph W.F. Stoppelman. The Lion Rampant: The Story of Holland’s Resistance to the Nazis. New York: Querido, 1943.


Dols, M.J.L. and D.J.A.M. Van Arcken. “Food Supply and Nutrition in the Netherlands During and Immediately After World War II.” The Millbank Memorial Fund Quarterly 24, no. 4 (1946): 319-356.


“Electricity Public Announcement Poster.” 1944. Located in Amsterdam, The Netherlands at Verzetsmuseum Amsterdam.


Feder, Sara. Interview by author. 1 May 2005. Rotterdam, The Netherlands.


Forged passports and identification cards. 1944-1945. Located in Rotterdam, The Netherlands at Oorlogs Verzets Museum Rotterdam.


“Gas Public Announcement Poster.” Administered by C. Van Ravenswaall, mayor of Utrecht. 20 September 1944. Located in Amsterdam, The Netherlands at Verzetsmuseum Amsterdam.


Hornecker, Rudi, director. Honger. 1945. [Documentary film]


League of Nations. Food, Famine, and Relief. New York: American Book-Stratford Press, 1946.


Makeshift stoves and ovens. Located in Hoorn, The Netherlands at Museum of 20th Century. Temporary “Hongerwinter” exhibit.


Malnutrition and Starvation in Western Netherlands. The Hague: General State Print, 1948. [No author].


Ration cards. 1944. Located in Hoorn, The Netherlands at Museum of 20th Century. Temporary “Hongerwinter” exhibit.


Rijksinstituut voor Oorlogsdocumentatie. Het Woord als Wapen: Keur Uit de Nederlandse Ondergrondse Pers 1940-1945 (The Word as a Weapon: From the Dutch Underground Press). ‘s-Gravenhage: M. Nijhoff, 1954.


Woodman, Dorothy. Europe Rises: The Story of Resistance in Occupied Europe. London: Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1944.


Secondary Sources


Davidson, Eugene. The Trial of the Germans: An Account of Twenty-two Defendants Before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremburg. New York: Collier Books, 1966.


Kruijer, G.J. Sociale desorganisatie: Amsterdam tijdens de Hongerwinter. Meppel, The Netherlands: J.A. Bloom, 1951.


Maas, Walter B. The Netherlands at War: 1940-1945. London: Abelard-Schuman, 1970.


Stein, Zena, Mervyn Susser, Gerhart Saenger, and Francis Marolla. Famine and Human Development: The Dutch Hunger Winter of 1944-1945. New York: Oxford University Press, 1975.


Warmbrunn, Werner. The Dutch Under German Occupation 1940-1945. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1963.


Bibliographical Note


A substantive portion of the argument concerning the Dutch resistance is supported by sources written during World War II, particularly pieces by Louis de Jong.  Despite being in London during the war, de Jong remained actively involved in the resistance. He served as a direct communicator between the government-in-exile and Dutch citizens via Radio Oranje, a radio program hosted through the BBC, since Dutch airwaves were under German control.[105]  During the German occupation, he began to collect information and documents regarding Dutch involvement in the war; materials he would later use to write extensive histories of the Netherlands during the early 1940s. Immediately after the Netherlands’ liberation from Nazi Germany, plans were implemented for the construction of an institution that would house documents, books, newspapers, and other materials discussing the nation’s involvement in the war. De Jong acted as the first director of this institution, and remained in this position for thirty-four years.[106] Many sources supporting the idea that Dutch citizens were heavily involved in an underground resistance movement were discovered after visiting the extensive library at the Rijksinstituut voor Oorlogsdocumentatie (Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation) in Amsterdam in May of 2005. De Jong’s involvement in the institutions’ cataloguing and writing is still prevalent today.


Illustration 1



Dutch underground printing press. Photographed by the author on May 4, 2005. Located in Rotterdam, The Netherlands at Oorlogs Verzets Museum Rotterdam.



Illustration 2



Forged passports and identification. Photographed by the author on May 4, 2005. Located in Rotterdam, The Netherlands at Oorlogs Verzets Museum Rotterdam.


Illustration 3



Coal sieve. Photographed by the author on May 3, 2005. Located in Hoorn, The Netherlands at Museum of 20th Century. Temporary “Hongerwinter” exhibit.



Illustration 4



Ration cards. Photographed by the author on May 4, 2005. Located in Rotterdam, The Netherlands at Oorlogs Verzets Museum Rotterdam.


Illustration 5



Makeshift stoves and ovens. Photographed by the author on May 4, 2005. Located in Rotterdam, The Netherlands at Oorlogs Verzets Museum Rotterdam.



Illustration 6



Food parcels, dropped during Operation Manna in May of 1945. Photographed by the author on May 4, 2005. Located in Rotterdam, The Netherlands at Oorlogs Verzets Museum Rotterdam.


[1] J.J. Boolen and J.C. Van der Does, Five Years of Occupation: The Resistance of the Dutch Against Hilter-Terrorism and Nazi-Robbery (n.p.: The Secret Press of D.A.V.I.D., 1945), 11.

[2] Boolen and Van der Does, 12.

[3]Eugene Davidson, The Trial of the Germans: An Account of Twenty-two Defendants Before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremburg (New York: Collier Books, 1966), 458. [Davidson’s spelling of Nuremburg is used when cited throughout the paper].

[4] Davidson, 458.

[5] Boolen and Van der Does, 14.

[6] Davidson, 457.

[7] Boolen and Van der Does, 13.

[8] Davidson, 461.

[9] Louis de Jong, Holland Fights the Nazis (London: Lindsay Drummond, 1941), 55.

[10] De Jong, Holland Fights, 71.

[11] De Jong, Holland Fights, 72.

[12] Boolen and Van der Does, 17.

[13] Louis de Jong, The Netherlands and Nazi Germany (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990), 34.

[14] Louis de Jong and Joseph W.F. Stoppelman, The Lion Rampant: The Story of Holland’s Resistance to the Nazis (New York: Querido, 1943), 336.

[15] De Jong, Holland Fights, 81.

[16] De Jong, Holland Fights, 47.

[17] Werner Warmbrunn, The Dutch Under German Occupation 1940-1945 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1963), 205.

[18] De Jong and Stoppelman, 336.

[19] Dorothy Woodman, Europe Rises: The Story of Resistance in Occupied Europe (London: Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1944), 63.

[20] Boolen and Van der Does, 17.

[21] Boolen and Van der Does, 18.

[22] Boolen and Van der Does, 18.

[23] De Jong, Netherlands and Nazi Germany, 33.

[24] Boolen and Van der Does, 18.

[25] De Jong, Holland Fights, 34.

[26] De Jong and Stoppelman, 26.

[27] De Jong and Stoppelman, 26.

[28] Boolen and Van der Does, 19.

[29] Boolen and Van der Does, 19.

[30] Boolen and Van der Does, 34.

[31] Boolen and Van der Does, 35.

[32] Warmbrunn, 214.

[33] Warmbrunn, 214.

[34] De Jong and Stoppelman, 345.

[35] Warmbrunn, 215.

[36] Warmbrunn, 215.

[37] Davidson, 463.

[38] De Jong, Netherlands and Nazi Germany, 46.

[39] De Jong, Netherlands and Nazi Germany, 47.

[40] Rijksinstituut voor Oorlogsdocumentatie, Het Woord als Wapen: Keur Uit de Nederlandse Ondergrondse Pers 1940-1945 (The Word as a Weapon: From the Dutch Underground Press) (‘s-Gravenhage: M. Nijhoff, 1954), 401.

[41] Woodman, 75.

[42] Warmbrunn, 221.

[43] Boolen and Van der Does, 18.

[44] Woodman, 75.

[45] De Jong and Stoppelman, 288.

[46] De Jong and Stoppelman, 288.

[47] Davidson, 462.

[48] De Jong and Stoppelman 343.

[49] Warmbrunn, 203.

[50] Boolen and Van der Does, 36-37.

[51] Walter B. Maass, The Netherlands at War: 1940-1945 (London: Abelard-Schuman, 1970), 140.

[52] Maass, 140.

[53] Maass, 141.

[54] Maass, 140.

[55] Warmbrunn, 207.

[56] Maass, 140.

[57] Maass, 177.

[58] De Jong and Stoppelman, 345.

[59] Boolen and Van der Does, 37.

[60] Maass, 179.

[61] Boolen and Van der Does, 105.

[62] Boolen and Van der Does, 106.

[63] Malnutrition and Starvation in Western Netherlands (The Hague: General State Print, 1948), 9.

[64] Boolen and Van der Does, 108.

[65] Boolen and Van der Does, 108.

[66] Maass, 180.

[67] “Anti-strike Public Announcement Poster,” 1944, located in Amsterdam, The Netherlands at Verzetsmuseum Amsterdam.

[68] M.J.L. Dols and D.J.A.M. Van Arcken, “Food Supply and Nutrition in the Netherlands During and Immediately After World War II,” The Millbank Memorial Fund Quarterly 24, no. 4 (1946): 343.

[69] Malnutrition and Starvation in Western Netherlands, 29.

[70] Dols and Van Arcken, 327.

[71] Zena Stein, Mervyn Susser, Gerhart Saenger, and Francis Marolla, Famine and Human Development: The Dutch Hunger Winter of 1944-1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1975), 51.

[72] Ration cards, 1944, located in Hoorn, The Netherlands at Museum of 20th Century, “Hongerwinter” temporary exhibit.

[73] Malnutrition and Starvation in Western Netherlands, 9.

[74] Warmbrunn, 79.

[75] Malnutrition and Starvation in Western Netherlands, 9.

[76] Malnutrition and Starvation in Western Netherlands, 20.

[77] G.J. Kruijer, Sociale desorganisatie: Amsterdam tijdens de Hongerwinter (Meppel, The Netherlands: J.A. Bloom, 1951), 179. 

[78] Malnutrition and Starvation in Western Netherlands, 9.

[79] League of Nations, Food, Famine, and Relief (New York: American Book-Stratford Press, 1946), 44.

[80] Sara Feder, interview by author, 1 May 2005, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

[81] “Gas Public Announcement Poster,” administered by C. Van Ravenswaall, mayor of Utrecht, 20 September 1944, located in Amsterdam, The Netherlands at Verzetsmuseum Amsterdam.

[82] “Electricity Public Announcement Poster,” 1944, located in Amsterdam, The Netherlands at Verzetsmuseum Amsterdam.

[83] Rudi Hornecker, director, Honger, 1945 [documentary film].

[84] Malnutrition and Starvation in Western Netherlands, 24.

[85] “Cutting trees Public Announcement Poster,” administered by C. Van Ravenswaal, mayor of Utrecht, 8 January 1945, located in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, at Verzetsmuseum Amsterdam.

[86] Forged passports and identification cards, 1944-1945, located in Rotterdam, The Netherlands at Oorlogs Verzets Museum Rotterdam.

[87] Boolen and Van der Does, 35-36.

[88] Boolen and Van der Does, 36.

[89] Dols and Van Arcken, 327.

[90] Makeshift stoves and ovens, located in Hoorn, The Netherlands at Museum of 20th Century, “Hongerwinter” temporary exhibit.

[91] Zena Stein, Mervyn Susser, Gerhart Saenger, and Francis Marolla, Famine and Human Development: The Dutch Hunger Winter of 1944-1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1975), 49.

[92] Malnutrition and Starvation in Western Netherlands, 20.

[93] Malnutrition and Starvation in Western Netherlands, 21.

[94] Malnutrition and Starvation in Western Netherlands, 21.

[95] Malnutrition and Starvation in Western Netherlands, 22.

[96] Warmbrunn, 248.

[97] Rijksinstituut voor Oorlogsdocumentatie, 406.

[98] Warmbrunn, 223.

[99] De Jong, Netherlands and Nazi Germany, 46.

[100] Malnutrition and Starvation in Western Netherlands, 30.

[101] Sara Feder, 2005.

[102] Malnutrition and Starvation in Western Netherlands, 20.

[103] De Jong, Netherlands and Nazi Germany, 47.

[104] De Jong, Netherlands and Nazi Germany, 48.

[105] Louis de Jong, The Netherlands and Nazi Germany (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990), x.

[106] de Jong, xi.