A sports challenge during WWII

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The Dutch take their sports serious, despite what happens in the world. It is part of the Dutch psyche to not give up,keep going regardless(although looking at the performance of the Dutch National football team, you might be forgiven for thinking differently)

Despite being occupied by the Germans the Dutch felt compelled to organize the skating marathon called “De elfsteden tocht” (Eleven cities tour)

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A skating tour, almost 200 KM (120 mi) long, which is held both as a speed skating competition (with 300 contestants) and a leisure tour (up to 16,000 skaters). It is held in the province of Friesland in the north of the Netherlands, leading past all eleven historical cities of the province.

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The tour is held  only when the natural ice along the entire course is at least 15 centimetres (6 in) thick.When the ice is suitable, the tour is announced and starts within 48 hours. In 1941 and 1942 it was felt the Marathon skating event had to be held because of the harsh winters which made the ice perfect.The Germans did allow it but did put severe restrictions in place.

In the early morning hours of 6 February 1941, 1900 people fastened on their skates. The race of all races was about to begin: the Elfstedentocht (Eleven Cities Speed Skating Tour). The weather was mild (0.0 °C/32 °F)and the ice looked inviting. But there were also some concerns. An imposed blackout meant a large part of the race would have to be skated in the dark, making it very difficult for many participants. The Frisian skater Auke Adema finished first.

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On 22 January 1942, after a long spell of frost, the Elfstedentocht was held again. As many as 4,800 skaters signed up.

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The atmosphere was very special. Being together in Friesland, free from the Germans with their rules and bans, gave the participants a feeling of solidarity. The Germans could barely comprehend the nation’s fervour for this skating marathon. Given they had little control over the crowded event, they chose not to interfere. In 1942, Sietze de Groot of Weidum won the race. He skated the 200 kilometres in a record time of 8 hours and 44 minutes. The temperature was significantly lower in 1942 (-11.7 °C/10.94°F)

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Ironically during this grueling sporting event  the contestants felt humanity again, a sense of freedom despite occupation.

Like all the others since 1912 the names of Auke Adema and Sietze de Groot’s names were engraved on the coveted silver trophy cup that is passed from winner to winner, which is still the custom today.

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The last time this race was held was on 4 January 1997. Although in 2012 the conditions were ideal, at the last minute it was decided not to go ahead with the race.

An “alternative Elfstedentocht” has been held every year in January since 1989 on the Weissensee in Carinthia, Austria.

 

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Schiermonnikoog-The Forgotten Island

Although the Netherlands was liberated on the 5th of May and VE day was on the 8th of May. It took more then a month after the official liberation of Europe for this Island at the north of the country to be liberated.

It was on the 11th of June 1945 before Schiermonnikoog was freed from German occupation, making it the last place in Europe to be liberated.

Schiemonnikoog is an Island situated in the “Waddenzee”-Wadden Sea,which is an intertidal zone in the southeastern part of the North Sea. It lies between the coast of northwestern continental Europe and the range of Frisian Islands, forming a shallow body of water with tidal flats and wetlands

Ironically another Island in the Wadden Sea,Texel, was considered the last battle field in Western Europe.

https://dirkdeklein.net/2016/02/29/forgotten-history-europes-last-battle/

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Schiermonnikoog was the last place in the Netherlands to be liberated from the Germans after WWII. It took until June 11 to free the Dutch island. Why? The Canadians simply didn’t have time to free the island before that.

During the War, the German Army heavily fortified the island as part of the Atlantic Wall defence line, and the number of German troops came to equal the island’s native population of 600. Towards the end of the war, hundreds of SS troops, along with members of the SD, fled to the island, reinforcing the German contingent already there.

After the German surrender, the Germans on the island failed to accept the surrender, but the Canadian forces responsible for the sector that included the island did not attack them to force their surrender. After several months of negotiations the German commander did agree to respect the surrender and the German soldiers were evacuated to Wilhelmshaven in Germany. On 11 June 1945 the island became the last part of Europe to be liberated from Axis occupation by the Allies

Several RAF planes had been brought down during the war on the Island, the German occupiers did pay respect to the airmen who died on the island. Below are pictures of  a military funeral of 3 RAF men by the Germans in 1942. The funeral was for The crew of 415 Squadron’s Hampden AT245 – 28th of June 1942.

 

Schiermonnikoog also encountered another big problem. A group of 125 dangerous SS and SD commanders took refuge on the island after the liberation of the City of Groningen in April. This in an attempt to escape from there by boat back to Germany. This group, among them Robert Lehnhoff,  reigned the Scholtenhuis in Groningen during the war with their terror and were widely feared.

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Needles to say that the 650 islanders were not pleased with the situation. Even the 600 German soldiers who were encamped on the island during the war were scared of this group.They were given the name “Beulen van Groningen”-Torturers of Groningen.

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The German commander on the island decided to house the group on a farm (the Kooiplaats) outside of the town on the island. The Talsma family who owned the farm had to flee the farm without taking anything

The German reinforcements on the island made Allied plans to disarm these troops risky at best. With the war over for weeks already, the Canadians did not want to spill more blood. A member of the Dutch resistance ended the impasse however when he, disguised as an Allied negotiator, approached the German commander with surrender instructions. The Germans fortunately took the bait, allowing for their peaceful evacuation to Wilhelmshaven in Germany, they were however sent to the jail in Zoutkamp on the 31st of May.

It took till June 11 before the liberation was official with the transportation of the 600 other German soldiers from the island.