Dunes of Death

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Waalsdorpervlakte, in the dunes by the Dutch seaside village of Scheveningen, was one of the most notorious spots during the Second World War. On this desolate sand plain more than 250 people were killed by the Germans.

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Most were members of the Dutch Resistance who risked their lives in the struggle against the Nazi occupier. In their last moments they walked across the sand, were bound to wooden poles and waited for the firing squad to line up. The shots that followed put an end to their lives. The first execution carried out here was on 3 March 1941 when the Germans shot Ernst Cahn, who had organized Resistance activities from his ice cream parlour in Amsterdam.

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In 1945, out of respect and appreciation for the fallen, five large memorial crosses were fashioned from the wooden execution poles. These wooden crosses were replaced by bronze copies in 1981.

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Marion Pritchard-Van Binsbergen- WWII Hero-Real Girl power.

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Dutch hero Marion Pritchard-Van Binsbergen died at the age of 96 in Washington on December 11th, 2016.

Marion Pritchard, (née van Binsbergen; was a Dutch-American social worker and psychoanalyst, who distinguished herself as a savior of Jews in the Netherlands during the Second World War. Pritchard helped save approximately 150 Dutch Jews, most of them children, throughout the German occupation of the Netherlands.In addition to protecting these people’s lives, she was imprisoned by Nazis, worked in collaboration with the Dutch resistance, and shot and killed a Dutch Nazi.

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Marion Pritchard grew up in the Netherlands, the daughter of liberal judge Jacob van Binsbergen, who was on the board of regents for the prisons of Amsterdam. Her parents encouraged her to express her feelings and to expect honest answers from them. She recalled going to school with Jews in every class and reported that they were “considered Dutch like everyone else”. At age 19, she enrolled in a school for social work in Amsterdam

When the war started in May 1940, she was studying social sciences at the University of Amsterdam.

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During her social work studies, Pritchard (then van Binsbergen) was arrested while staying overnight during curfew with friends, who—unbeknownst to her—had been distributing transcripts of Allied radio broadcasts, and was imprisoned for seven months.

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A year later, when the Germans began with the mass deportation of Jews, Marion intervened again. Along with 10 friends, she started a resistance that helped Jews find places to hide, getting them food stamps and false identities.

She then took on more dangerous activities when she was tasked with delivering a package to a home in the northern part of the country. Along the journey, she was given a baby girl by a stranger. Upon reaching her destination, she found out that the people she was supposed to deliver the package to had been arrested. She then took shelter with a man and his wife, originally not part of the operation, who agreed to take care of her and the baby

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Marion also managed to hide Fred Polak and his three children for over three years in a home outside Amsterdam. When Germans raided the home with a Dutch police officer, she hid the Jewish family under the floor. The Dutch officer returned and found the family. Marion shot him to protect them and hid his body, with the help of a local mortician, by burying it in a coffin that already contained someone else.

After the war she joined the United Nations and helped refugees who were displaced from their home. Here she met her husband Anton Pritchard, a US Army officer. They moved to the United States, where she continued to work with refugees.

Rotterdam Razzia

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In the early hours of 10 November 1944, 8,000 German soldiers flooded the streets of Rotterdam. They lay a cordon around the city, took up position on the bridges and squares and shut down the telephone service. They distributed pamphlets ordering all men ages 17 to 40 years to report for tewerkstelling (employment in the service of Germany.

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The men were instructed to bring specific things they would need and to wait on the street with their luggage. All other residents were told to stay inside their homes until the raid was over. For two days, the Germans searched through the city: street-by-street, house-by-house.

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There was no escape possible. Aktion Rosenstock was the German code name for what took place that day: the largest razzia (roundup) carried out by the German occupier in the Netherlands during the Second World War.

To put this into context, the south and the East of the Netherlands had been liberated a few months before.

In the icy rain, 50,000 men (from a total population of 600,000) were taken away to work as slave labourers.

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One of them was Gerard Pakker. He was sent to a coal mine near the German city of Essen. In January 1945, he managed to escape. After a roundabout journey lasting two months, penniless and in tattered clothing, he finally arrived home. The first thing his mother exclaimed was: ‘Oh poor child, just look at you!

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Surviving the 1944-45 Famine

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The Dutch famine of 1944–45, known as the Hongerwinter (“Hunger winter”) in Dutch, was a famine that took place in the German-occupied part of the Netherlands, especially in the densely populated western provinces north of the great rivers, during the winter of 1944–45, near the end of World War II. A German blockade cut off food and fuel shipments from farm areas. Some 4.5 million were affected and survived because of soup kitchens. As many as 22,000 may have died because of the famine.

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Thirteen malnourished babies were taken in by the clandestine Princess Margriet Babyhuis (Lit. Baby House) in Groningen because of the widespread famine in Amsterdam. A group of ladies from Groningen, acting on the initiative of Sieneke Bones, decided to help these infants through the hard winter. People in Groningen supported the project with money and food.

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The mothers faced a difficult choice: watch your child waste away or hand your baby over to complete strangers all the way in the north of the country? What was unique about this place is that the mothers got a letter almost every week describing the progress of their little ones: first words, teething, et cetera. Lots of those letters were saved, along with the entire administration of the Babyhuis, which was just one of the initiatives in a large-scale operation to save children during the Hungerwinter .

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Primarily through the help provided by lots of churches, around 50,000 children from cities in the west of the Netherlands were cared for in the northern provinces. This most likely saved the lives of thousands.

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Paying the price for sleeping with the enemy.

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Freedom! Suddenly Dutch flags were hanging all over the place and people were singing and dancing arm-in-arm in the streets. But pent-up emotions were also unleashed: ‘Kraut whores’, girls and women who had consorted with the Germans during the war, were targeted. They were dragged from their homes, marched through the streets, jeered and spit at in the days following the Liberation.

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This happened all over the Netherlands. Under the watchful eye of overjoyed spectators, their hair was cut off, their heads shaved and at times even smeared with tar. This was done with a hair clipper like this one, which was most likely used in Amstelveen on the outskirts of Amsterdam.

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An eyewitness from the city of Haarlem described what happened: ‘The girl’s head was shaven unevenly. She was clenching her teeth in anger. Then she had to hold a bouquet of flowers and some guy thrust her arm into the air and forced her to keep time while people in the crowd sang the traditional Dutch rallying cry Oranje Boven (Lit. Orange on top). An older woman was then pulled out of the line. She tried to defend herself; was incredibly angry. The people around me were laughing hysterically.’

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The Battle of Vlaardingen

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On the 29th of July, 1018, the Battle of Vlaardingen was fought. The German emperor sent an army towards western Frisia to subdue the rebellious Count Dirk III.

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However, the imperial army was defeated by the Vlaardingers and fled in panic.

This is an interesting event because a superpower of the time was vanquished by a – theoretically – weaker opponent. Also, it is an important milestone in the development and the independence of the county of Holland.

Despite the fact that it was a spectacular and prominent feat of arms, the Battle of Vlaardingen is not very well known, even among the Dutch.

A large imperial army, made up of troops supplied by the various bishops of region, under the command of Godfrey II, Duke of Lower Lorraine, then headed for the stronghold at Vlaardingen. The ensuing Battle of Vlaardingen was a disaster for the imperial army and a tremendous victory for Count Dirk; many of the imperial commanders perished and Duke Godfrey was captured. Following this victory, Dirk III was permitted to keep his lands and he continued levying tolls.

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Later on, Dirk also managed to acquire more lands east of his previous domains at the expense of the Bishop of Utrecht. After the death of Emperor Henry II in 1024, Dirk supported Conrad II for the succession to the kingship.

After Count Dirk III’s death in 1039, imperial armies were sent on a few more occasions seeking to reclaim the lands held by the Frisian counts. The powerful Robert I, Count of Flanders (called Robert the Frisian) helped Dirk V, grandson of Dirk III and his own stepson, to restore Frisia to the counts.

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Royal Gas proof Baby Buggies.

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As the threat of war increased in Europe in August 1939, the Dutch army was placed at a heightened state of alertness. In early 1940, as a precautionary measure, the firm of Kiekens built two gasproof baby buggies as protection against the possibility of a poisonous attack. This one for the then two-year-old Dutch Princess Beatrix and another for her younger sister Princess Irene.

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On 12 May, two days after the German invasion, Princess Juliana and Prince Bernhard fled with their two baby daughters to the harbour town of IJmuiden ,in the Netherlands, in a bulletproof car An English warship was waiting there to take them to safety. A day later, Queen Wilhelmina and the Dutch government also arrived safely ashore in Great Britain. The gasproof buggies remained behind in the Netherlands.

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Karl Peter Berg commander of Camp Amersfoort.

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Karl Berg was originally the third man in the chain of command at Camp Amersfoort and in 1943 he was appointed camp commandant. He had a reputation for being cruel and merciless. Berg was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of prisoners.

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A group of 101 Russian prisoners who had arrived at the camp in 1941 were among those who died. Part of the them were starved to death; the other 77 were killed in group executions. Berg was later responsible for a number of retaliations, including the one carried out after SS and Police leader Hanns Albin Rauter was ambushed by the Resistance in the hamlet of Woeste Hoeve on the Veluwe, a wooded area in the Dutch province of Gelderland. The day after this unexpected March 1945 attack, Berg had 49 men executed on a rifle range. Following the Liberation in 1945, Berg was forced to point out the location of the mass graves where his victims had been dumped.

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At that moment he was still wearing these boots, but later they were taken from him.

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One of the most notorious SS-officers of PDA Amersfoort was Joseph Kotälla. He was appointed in September 1942 by Karl Peter Berg.

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He was famous for his so-called ‘Kotälla-kick’, a very hard kick in the testicles with his army-boot. He also took part in many of the firing squads and he took a special interest in Jewish prisoners and priests, which he physically abused most frequently and fanatically.

In 1948 the camp commandant and guards of Amersfoort were tried and convicted for their crimes. Karl Peter Berg was sentenced to death and was executed in 1949.

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Martyrs of Gorkum(Gorinchem)

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This story might surprise many for the Netherlands is known as a tolerant and multi cultural society, this wasn’t always the case.

The Martyrs of Gorkum (Dutch: Martelaren van Gorinchem) were a group of 19 Dutch Catholic clerics and friars who were hanged on 9 July 1572 in the town of Brielle (or Den Briel) by militant Dutch Calvinists during the 16th century religious wars in the Low Countries.

As of 1572, Lutheranism and Calvinism had spread through a great part of Europe. In the Netherlands this was followed by a struggle between the two denominations in which Calvinism was victorious. On 1 April of the next year, Calvinist forces and a rebel group called the Watergeuzen (Sea Beggars) conquered Brielle (Den Briel) and later Vlissingen.

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In June, Dordrecht and Gorkum fell, and at the latter the rebels captured nine Franciscans: Nicholas Pieck, guardian of Gorkum; Hieronymus of Weert, vicar; Theodorus van der Eem of Amersfoort; Nicasius Janssen of Heeze; Willehad of Denmark; Godefried of Mervel; Antonius of Weert; Antonius of Hoornaer, and Franciscus de Roye of Brussels. To these were added two lay brothers from the same friary, Petrus of Assche and Cornelius of Wijk bij Duurstede. At almost the same time the Calvinists arrested the parish priest of Gorkum, Leonardus Vechel of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, and his assistant.

Also imprisoned were Godefried van Duynsen of Gorkum, a priest in his native city, and Joannes Lenartz of Oisterwijk, a canon regular from a nearby priory and spiritual director for the monastery of Augustinian nuns in Gorkum. To these fifteen were later added four more companions: Joannes van Hoornaer (alias known as John of Cologne), a Dominican of the Cologne province and parish priest not far from Gorkum, who when apprised of the incarceration of the clergy of Gorkum hastened to the city in order to administer the sacraments to them and was seized and imprisoned with the rest; Jacobus Lacops of Oudenaar, a Norbertine, who became a curate in Monster, South Holland; Adrianus Janssen of Hilvarenbeek, a Premonstratensian canon and at one time parish priest in Monster, who was sent to Brielle with Jacobus Lacops. Last was Andreas Wouters of Heynoord.

In prison at Gorkum (from 26 June to 6 July 1572), the first 15 prisoners were transferred to Brielle, arriving there on 8 July.On their way to Dordrecht they were exhibited for money to the curious. The following day, William de la Marck, Lord of Lumey, commander of the Gueux de mer, had them interrogated and ordered a disputation. In the meantime, four others arrived. It was demanded of each that he abandon his belief in the Blessed Sacrament and in papal supremacy. All remained firm in their faith. Meanwhile, a letter arrived from the Prince of Orange, William the Silent, which enjoined all those in authority to leave priests and religious unmolested. But to no avail.On 9 July, they were hanged in a turf shed.

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A shrub bearing 19 white flowers is said to have sprung up at the site of the martyrdom. Many miracles have been attributed to the intercession of the Gorkum martyrs, especially the curing of hernias.The beatification of the martyrs took place on 14 November 1675, and their canonization on 29 June 1867. They were canonised on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, as part of the grand celebrations to mark the 1800th anniversary of the martyrdom of Peter and Paul AD67.

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For many years the place of their martyrdom in Brielle has been the scene of numerous pilgrimages and processions. The reliquary of their remains is now enshrined in the Church of Saint Nicholas, Brussels, Belgium.

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Forbidden for Jews

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Less than two months after the German invasion, Jewish employees of the Dutch Air Raid Defence Service were dismissed. It was the first in a long line of anti-Jewish measures. Jews were gradually isolated from the rest of the population in the Netherlands.

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The German occupier went about this very systematically. Jews had to register and their identity cards were stamped with a J. Jewish business owners were required to report and assigned a Verwalter, an Aryan supervisor who took over running their business. Measures to restrict freedom of movement followed in 1941: Jews were banned from public places such as parks, swimming pools, sports facilities and museums.

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Jewish children were forced to attend Jewish schools and even needed permission to travel. More and more signboards appeared on the street with the text Voor Joden verboden (Forbidden for Jews). Such as this board: equipped with metal brackets on the back to easily attach it to a lamppost.

Starting in May 1942 Jews were required to wear a yellow star. The deportations from the Netherlands began two months later under the guise of ‘employment’: instead Jews were sent to extermination camps where they were killed