The death of Dirk.

Dirk III

It’s not every day one gets a chance to do a blog about one’s own death, and espcecially not after breakfast, but hey history is history.

But before you start sending flowers and cards etc, the Dirk in the title is not me of course , but Count Dirk III of Holland, or West Friesland to be more precise.

It is thought that Dirk III went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land around 1030, hence his nickname of Hierosolymita (‘or Jerusalemite’ in Latin).

His mother, Luitgard of Luxemburg, was regent in the county while Dirk was still a minor, from 993-1005. She was the sister-in-law of Emperor Henry II and with his help she managed to maintain the county for her son. His father was Arnulf of Holland.
After Dirk assumed the government of the county, she still used her family connections to acquire imperial assistance, in one instance an imperial army helped Dirk suppress a Frisian revolt.

Dirk3

The actual title of Count Dirk III was ‘Count in Friesland’. Western Frisia was very different from the area (North and South Holland) of today. Most of the territory was boggy and subject to constant flooding and hence very sparsely populated. The main areas of habitation were in the dunes at the coast and on heightened areas near the rivers.

He died on May 27 1039

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Holocaust in the Netherlands

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Some people believe that when the Germans invaded the Netherlands in May 1940 the life of its Jewish population changed over night.

This however was not the case. Like in other European countries the undermining and eventual eradication of Jewish life was a gradual process.

Until September 1940 very little changed,It was only then when the German occupation of the Netherlands started to have an impact of the 170,000 Jews living there.  A series of anti-Jewish measures started to male life  difficult.

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Throughout 1941, the situation for Jews in the Netherlands got worse.  Jews were banned from public places, subjected to nighttime curfews and travel restrictions. Jewish students were also thrown out of schools and universities. Then, during late 1941, the Joodse Raad(Jewish Council) was tasked with providing lists of workers as the Germans opened a number of forced labour camps.

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In may 1942 Jews were ordered to wear a yellow Star of David containing the word Jood (the Dutch word for Jew). As a sign of protest some Non Jewish Dutch also wore the Yellow star.

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Deportations of Jews from the Netherlands began in the summer of 1942 and lasted until September 1944. Approximately 75% of the Dutch Jews did not survive the war.

A Substantial albeit minority part of the Dutch population being sympathetic to the Nazis ideology(or idiocy) .The NSB were the dutch equivalent of the NSDAP in Germany, they subscribed to the same Fascist  ideas.

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However there were many Dutch who risked their own lives and that of their families to save their Jewish neighbours. he NV-Groep (Nameless Company). The group was set up by by the brothers Jaap en Gerard Musch.(picture is of Jaap}Jaap.JPG

They were a resistance group dedicated to helping Jewish children find hiding places. Many of the children they helped hide, survived the war. The picture below is a picture of some of the children being a bit brave but cheeky by forming the letters NV in a field, this picture was taken in 1943 while the war was at its height.NV

Unfortunately not everyone was as lucky as these children were.The geography of the Netherlands made escape difficult. The ruthless efficiency of the German administration and the willing cooperation of Dutch administrators and policemen doomed the Jews of the Netherlands.

I have come across many pictures of Dutch Jews being killed in death camps or pictures of their remains, and initially my thought was to end this blog with some of those pictures. However I changed my mind, although I do think it is important ti show the horrors of the Holocaust in the graphic ways, we do sometimes forget that the victims weren’t always victims., they were also people like you and me. Therefore below pictures of my  some of my fellow human beings as they were before they were butchered.

Etty Hillesum

Julius Spier and  Evaristos Glassner

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Jaap Hillesum brother of Etty on his 21st birthday.

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Bram Beem

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Eva and  Bram Beem

Eva en Bram

Students of a Jewish secondary school during summer recess in 1940. I don’t know how may ,if any, survived the war.

MULO

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Joods Monument

Yad Vashem

Holocaust Wedding

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Elisabeth Appelboom and Philip Flesschedrager did what so many young people of their age did, they fell in love, got married and promised to stay together until death did them part.

For most married couples it is a journey they enjoy for many years to come. But not for Elisabeth and Philip. because death did do them part sooner then they had envisaged.

Philip Flesschedrager was a shop assistant age 21  when he married Elisabeth Appelboom  on April 8 1942 a seamstress age also age 21,

They got married in the Synagogue on the Rapenburgerstreet in Amsterdam.

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Up until spring time 1942 daily life had been reasonably ‘normal’ for Jews in Amsterdam. It was only on May 3rd it was obligatory for the Jewish population to wear the yellow Star of David.

Little did the newlyweds know that just over 1.5 year later their marriage would come to an end.

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On December 26 1943 Philip was killed in Auschwitz age. Elisabeth was killed on January 18 1945, they were both 23.

Elisabeth Appelboom and Philip Flesschedrager had a child that survived the war.

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Joods Monument

 

The bombing of Rotterdam,May 14-1940

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The battle of the Netherlands was really best described in biblical terms, it was a fight between David and Goliath. However in this case David lost.

Valiantly the Dutch fought the Germans for 4 days, Although they were poorly equipped and badly organized they kept fighting and caused significant damage to the Germans.

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But on May 14,1940 when the Luftwaffe virtually destroyed the Netherlands 2nd biggest city and its economical heart,Rotterdam, the Dutch finally succumbed.

This is a picture of how Rotterdam looked like before the war.

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After May 14 1940

Rotterdam

Bombing of Rotterdam

Straat

Bundesarchiv_Bild_141-1114,_Rotterdam,_Luftaufnahme_von_Bränden

All together 25.479 dwellings were lost in which 77.607 people were housed. Besides that, 26 hotels, 117 boarding houses and 44 lodgings, in which some 2000 people lived, had been destroyed. In total 79.600 persons, who represented 12,8 % of the population of Rotterdam, were left homeless. Of these people, as from June 15th 1940 onward, 20.887 were accommodated in other municipalities, while others, at that moment, had found a temporary shelter within the boundaries of Rotterdam. A lot of industrial premises were also destroyed: 31 department stores and 2.320 smaller shops, 31 factories and 1.319 workshops, 675 warehouses and storage companies, 1.437 offices, 13 bank buildings and 19 consulates, 69 school buildings and 13 hospitals, 24 churches and 10 charitable institutions, 25 municipal- and government buildings, 4 station buildings, 4 newspaper buildings and 2 museums, 517 cafés and restaurants, 22 cinema’ s and 184 other business accommodations.

Rotterdam 2

Initially, the  government of the Netherlands announced a death toll of approximately 30,000 civilians. This was later found inaccurate.

While the exact number of those killed is still contested, it is believed that around 1,000.

The Dutch military had no effective means of stopping the bombers (the Dutch Air Force had practically ceased to exist and its anti-aircraft guns had been moved to The Hague), so when another similar ultimatum was given in which the Germans threatened to bomb the city of Utrecht, the Dutch government decided to capitulate rather than risk the destruction of another city.

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As a result of the bombing Rotterdam had to be rebuild and is now one of the most modern looking cities in Europe.

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Brandgrens

WW2Today

May 10 1940-An eventful day.

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May 10 1940 must have been one of the busiest and chaotic days in WWII.I won’t go to deep into the details because most of the events are well documented, however not everyone might know that these events happened on the same day.

The invasion of the Benelux(Belgium,Netherlands, Luxembourg)

On the 10th May, 1940, the German forces invaded the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. On the same day the German Ambassadors handed to the Netherlands and Belgian Governments a memorandum alleging that the British and French armies, with the consent of Belgium and the Netherlands, were planning to march through those countries to attack the Ruhr, and justifying the invasion on these grounds. Germany, however, assured the Netherlands and Belgium that their integrity and their possessions would be respected. A similar memorandum was delivered to Luxembourg on the same date.

There were however no plans for any British and French troops to march through the low countries in order to attack Germany.

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Prime Minister Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill becomes Prime Minister of the United Kingdom upon the resignation of Neville Chamberlain.

Chamberlain who  formally lost the confidence of the House of Commons, resigned as Prime Minister Churchill, known for his military leadership ability, was appointed to replace Chamberlain as Prime Minister of Great Britain.. He formed an all-party coalition and quickly won the popular support in the UK.

WINNIE

Operation Fork-the Invasion of Iceland

The invasion of the Benelux wasn’t the only invasion that day. The British invaded Iceland  on the morning of 10 May 1940. The initial force of 746 British Royal Marines commanded by Colonel Robert Sturges disembarked at the capital Reykjavík. Meeting no resistance, the troops moved quickly to disable communication networks, secure strategic locations, and arrest German citizens. Requisitioning local transport, the troops moved to Hvalfjörður, Kaldaðarnes, Sandskeið, and Akranes to secure landing areas against the possibility of a German counterattack.

In the evening of 10 May, the Icelandic government formally issued a statement noting that their neutrality had been “flagrantly violated” and “its independence infringed”. The British government appeased the protest by promising compensation, trade agreement, non-interference in domestic Icelandic affairs, and the promise that troops would be withdrawn at war’s end.

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The Bombing of Freiburg

You may be forgiven to think that Freiburg was bombed by the RAF on May 10th 1940, because that would make sense. However that wasn’t the case.

Freiburg was bombed that day but not by the Brits or French but by the German Luftwaffe.The  3 aircrafts involved, commanded by Lieutenant Paul Seidel ,  from 8. Staffel, Kampfgeschwader 51 “Edelweiss” ( 8th Season of Fighter Squadron 51)flying the Heinkel He 111 medium bomber. They had taken off at 14:27 from Landsberg-Lech Air Base, to bomb the French city of Dijon, or the alternative target Dole–Jura Airport, as part of the Battle of France.

Due to navigation errors, lost among the clouds hovering over the German city of Freiburg, they were 100% positive they had their target in sight. At 3:59 PM, the Heinkel He 111 planes started dropping the total of 69 bombs.The city’s anti-aircraft defenses were caught totally unprepared. They had clearly seen the German planes flying over their heads and probably assumed they were en route to France. The load fell near a train station, killing a total of 57 people. Once the damage was done, the air raid alarm absorbed the horror in the streets.

The German command tried to cover up the mistake and passed the bombing off as enemy action. The German media accepted that version without any hesitation.Die Deutsche Wochenschau News reel(German Weekly Review) for example, reported in its issue no. 506 on 15 May 1940 at the end of a longer contribution of the “brutal and ruthless air raid on an unfortified German city”.

The following day, the Freiburger Zeitung reported a “sneaky, cowardly air raid against all laws of humanity and international law.” Seven months later, the Fuhrer himself accused Winston Churchill of terrorist attacks against civilians in Freiburg.

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Even though top German military officials maintained that the raid on Freiburg must have been an Allied mission, the truth eventually surfaced. Important work carried out by several historians finally broke through the officers’ denialism. Thus in August 1980, even the famous Colonel Josef Kammhuber stated that it was “evident” that “the attack on Freiburg was conducted mistakenly by a chain of III/KG51.”

Bundesarchiv_Bild_101I-343-0694-21,_Belgien-Frankreich,_Flugzeug_Heinkel_He_111

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The unsolved murder of Gretha Melaard

Greta

I was doing some research on the days before the Germans invaded the Netherlands, and  I came across a news paper article of the murder of Gretha Melaard.

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Gretha Melaard was a 26 year old student nurse who was killed on May 3rd 1940.She had left Rotterdam at 8.30 pm to go to work in Delft on her bicycle, on Friday May 3rd. She never arrived at work, she was found beaten to death.Her body was found the following day Saturday 4th of May 1940,by some laborers who were passing by on the A13 motorway between Delft and Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Vind plaats

Her bicycle was found a few day later on May 8th, just a few kilometers down the road, by a group of soldiers.

delft

Initially the Police had envisaged it would be an easy crime to solve because they had found a leave pass belonging to a soldier, next to her bike. But it emerged the soldier had nothing to do with the murder and neither did another soldier who was seen at the scene of the crime on the day of the murder.

On May 9th, 1940 the Police appealed for anyone who had information to come forward.

On May 10th, the Germans invaded the Netherlands.Because of this the murder of Gretha Melaard was never solved, making her I suppose an indirect victim of WWII.

Bezuidenhout,_Den_Haag,_10_mei_1940,_Duitse_parachutisten

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When the Pope warned about an imminent attack on the low countries.

Pope Pius XII

On 4 May 1940, the Vatican advised the Netherlands envoy to the Vatican that the Germans planned to invade France through the low countries. With the blessing of the Pope, the Vatican sent a coded radio message to its nuncios in Brussels and The Hague. The messages were intercepted by the Nazis

On May 5 1940,Pope Pius XII shared the intelligence gathered by Vatican agents that Germany was planning on invading the Low Countries with the Princess of Piedmont Marie José, who was the sister of King Leopold III of Belgium and wife of Italian Crown Prince Umberto.

Marie-José_of_Belgium2

On the same day, a massive German armoured motorised column many miles long was spotted driving west through the Ardennes forest but the Belgian Army did not respond.

convoy

 

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You could have been my teacher

Frieda

You could have been my teacher

You could have been the mother of my best friend

You could have been the midwife who helped deliver me

You could have been my dentist

You could have been a waitress in my favourite restaurant

You could have been a lady working in a shoo who wraps my gifts

You could have been working behind the bar in my local pub

You could have been the first woman on the moon.

You could have been anything you wanted to

But some people thought you were not a valuable member of society

In fact they didn’t think you were anything.

They thought you were an impurity not worthy to live

Someone who would blemish their pure Aryan race.

You had to be removed from this world

And that they did on February 11 1944, in Auschwitz they killed you, aged 4.

You are Frieda Marianne Van Den Bergh from Nijmegen in the Netherlands.

You could have been my teacher but instead you are a star in heaven.

Looking down on us, sometimes with a smile, sometimes with a tear.

Your tears are the rain falling from the skies, for you are sad thinking of all of those 4 year olds who died with you,before you and after you.

Your tears are the rain falling from the skies, for you think you have been forgotten

But cry no more because you are remembered and loved in our hearts.

 

 

 

World War 2 in the Netherlands

paratroopers

As the saying goes “A picture tells a thousand words” therefor rather then writing at length about  WWII in the Netherlands, I have decided that this time I will let the pictures do the talking.

The photograph on the top is a picture of American troops from the 82nd Airborne Division parachute into The Netherlands on Sept. 17, 1944.

Following are just a few pictures in no particular order

German SS soldiers advancing towards the Allies on stolen  bicycles during Operation Market Garden.

german-bikes

In 1941 the German occupiers turned the Jewish district in Amsterdam into a ghetto.

opnamedatum: 27-10-2006

Jews are being arrested during a raid in Amsterdam in February 1941

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The city of Rotterdam after the German bombing during the German invasion of the Netherlands in May 1940.

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Dutch soldiers guard the border with Germany shortly after mobilization, 1939

Mobilisatie_1939_Dutch_soldiers_on_guard

Diplomat being evacuated from occupied Holland. German special visa issued for the travel on a diplomatic train for the evacuation in July of 1940.

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Members of the Dutch Resistance, identified by their cloth armbands, with American paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division in Eindhoven, September 1944

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A case of ‘friendly’ fire on October 5 1942 RAF bombers mistakenly bomb the town of Geleen, thinking it was Aachen in Germany.

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Canadian troops pass a windmill in Rijssen-Holten, April 1945.

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Dutch civilians pictured during the Hongerwinter of 1944–45

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The town of Nijmegen in ruins on Sept. 28, 1944. The bridge in the background was one key element to Operation Market Garden.

nijmegan-ruins

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You will not be forgotten

STER

The 4th of May is the day when the Dutch remember the dead. Those who died because of war. At the start of WWII, my hometown had 37 Jewish citizens, by 4th of May 1945 they had all perished.
This is a poem remembering those 37 innocent lives.

You are not different than me.
You eat the same food.
You read the same books.
But yet you are not free.

You are not free because of someone’s idea of you.
You are given a yellow star
You are catalogued and numbered like cattle.
But yet you’re not an animal but a human too.

You are being killed in the vilest of ways.
You are a man, a woman, a child, a parent.
You are erased as if you were never here.
But yet you are remembered on many days.

You are not different to me but you are also not the same.
You are merely a number and a name on a list.
You are not listened to for you have no voice
But I pledge I will shout for you in loud acclaim.