In general, I have some level, albeit low, of sympathy for those who chose to collaborate with the Nazi regime in the Netherlands because maybe they felt it was the only way to survive.
However, I have no sympathy for the Nederlandse Landwacht. They were in it for their own greed and hungered for power. Their aim was to terrorize Dutch citizens, including their neighbours, and to protect members of the Dutch Nazi party, the NSB. None of these men had to join and never forced to do so. They joined because they wanted to join.
The Nederlandse Landwacht was a Dutch paramilitary organization founded by the Nazi occupiers in the Netherlands on 12 November 1943. It should not be confused with the military volunteer corps ‘Landwacht Nederland’, which was established in March 1943 and renamed Landstorm Nederland in October and that became part of the Waffen-SS.
The Landwacht was first seen on the street in March 1944. The Landwacht mostly was made up of Dutch National Socialist Movement (NSB) members equipped with shotguns. The populace nicknamed them the “Jan-Hagel,” Dutch slang for a rabble but also related to the Dutch word for a shotgun (hagelgeweer). The Landwacht was mainly used to guard buildings, check identity cards, and carry out arrests, house searches, and raids. They did not wear a uniform initially but were identified by a red bracelet.
In one case of bullying by the Landwacht on 13 June 1944, the ‘heroes of the Landwacht’ took food from successful HBS students in Apeldoorn. Reinier Hardonk wrote in his diary, “Young people, who had passed the Christian HBS, went out per Jan Enjoyment. They had collected some butter, eggs, sugar, etc. as presents for the teachers. They were along the way by Heroes of The Land Guard and were arrested. The food was taken and the boys were taken to Arnhem as prisoners. What a heroic act!”
The Landwacht was feared and hated by the population, among other things because during the Hongerwinter, the Dutch famine in the winter of 1944–45, the Landwacht confiscated food parcels from Dutch civilians. Many thousands of Dutch people had travelled hundreds of kilometres to obtain bread or some potatoes. On 27 March 1945, the illegal Het Parool newspaper devoted an article to the Landwacht’s many arrests and executions. Het Parool voiced its opinion saying, “…Landwachters should be shot after the war.”
Members of the Landwacht generally wore the black NSB party uniforms: black shirts, black trousers or riding breeches, black leather motorcycle or riding boots, and a black leather belt with a matching carrying strap. Depending on the weather, a black tunic or black overcoat could be worn. Though the Landwacht were poorly armed, black pistol holsters were sometimes carried.
The Landwacht were so cruel that sometimes the Germans had to intervene. For example, the Ugchel diarist Willem van Houtum writes on April 8, 1944, “German soldiers beat Landwachters from the platform in Deventer. They checked the citizens there for clandestine goods. They threw everything on the ground. For example, bottles of milk and precious eggs were smashed. Another member wants to ride the bus for free in Epe. This is only allowed for members of the German Wehrmacht. After many words, the conductor calls the head office in Apeldoorn and this in turn calls the Ortskommandant. Apeldoorn was met by two sturdy mechanics. They take him to the Ortskommandant. He suddenly wants to pay at that moment, but that is no longer the point. The mechanics literally grab him by the collar and bring the criminal to the intended address. After some scolding The Ortskommandant notices that the Landwachter is carrying a revolver under his coat, which is why he is handed over to the SD, who put him in jail. The villains eventually end up in jail. According to rumours, there are already more Landwachters in prison than can be checked.”
At the end of August 1944, the Winterswijk Landwacht got a hold of a farmer’s daughter, the mayor of Wisch and Terborg describes, “At farmer Rougoor, they tied a cloth over Leyda’s eyes, they would count to ten; if she did not say where the Jews were, she would be shot. When she said nothing, they shot into the ground, but the girl persisted. Shame on those bastards. The cross of merit to Leyda!”
During the famine winter, the Landwacht became deeply hated for confiscating food so laboriously gathered by civilians during food scavenges.
Eventually, only three members received the death penalty after the war, Gerard Rollema, Gerrit Sanner and Dirk Eijkelboom.
One wonders why only 3 had to face consequences? Jail terms for others?
Reblogged this on History of Sorts.