May 10,1940- The Day that shocked the Netherlands.

War

Perhaps the Dutch government were naive to believe that they would able to stay neutral like they did in WWI. Perhaps they thought they had nothing to fear from the Germans.

However when Germany invaded Norway and Denmark in April 1940, it became clear that neutrality was no protection. Frantically the Dutch started to prepare for war.

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On the th of  May 1940, the Vatican advised the Dutch 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.

The Dutch didn’t stand a chance against the overwhelming power of the German army.

Hours before dawn on the 10th of May, the Luftwaffe swept over the Netherlands, bombing the defenses around key targets. Around 4:30 AM, more planes followed, dropping paratroopers.

An attack on The Hague was a failure. Paratroopers tried to capture the city and its airfield but were defeated by the Dutch defenders. This prevented the Germans from landing planes full of troops there.

Germany had commenced operation Fall Gelb and attacked the Netherlands, without a declaration of war given before hostilities.

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The Dutch army gave a good fight but after  the devastating bombing of Rotterdam by the Luftwaffe on 14 May, the Germans threatened to bomb other Dutch cities if the Dutch forces refused to surrender. The General Staff knew it could not stop the bombers and ordered the Dutch army to cease hostilities.

It was also deemed essential that Queen Wilhelmina be brought to safety; she left around noon from Hoek van Holland, where a British Irish Guards battalion was present, on HMS Hereward, a British destroyer, but the presence of   sea mines made it too dangerous to try to reach Zealand, she therefore went to England.

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At 05:00 on 15 May a German messenger reached The Hague, inviting Winkelman, the Commander-in-chief of the Armed forces of the Netherlands,to Rijsoord for a meeting with von Küchler to negotiate the articles of a written capitulation document. Both quickly agreed on most conditions, Winkelman declaring to have surrendered army, naval and air forces.

Winkelman

Below some photographic impressions of the 10th of May 1940 and the aftermath of what would be the biggest shock to the Netheralnds.

Two downed German luftwaffe planes.One plane is at the side of the road, the other one at the back of the road.

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A German Wehrmacht soldier taking position on the top of the ‘steenberg'(stone mountain) of the Sates mine Maurits in Geleen,shortly after the Germans had crossed the border on May 10.

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Members of a German Propaganda division in Rotterdam May 14,1940.

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Rotterdam in ruins.

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War History on Line

World War 2 violence in Nijmegen.

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On February 22nd, 1944 the people of the Dutch  town of Nijmegen were subjected to an attack which killed more than 750 civilians. One would assume that this awful attack was carried out by the German occupiers , but that was not the case. The attack was carried out by B-24 bombers of the 446th and 453rd Bombardment Group if the United States Army Air force.

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The bombers had been on the way on a mission to bomb the German city of Gotha,where the Gothaer Waggonfabrik aircraft factory was producing Messerschmitt fighters and other Luftwaffe planes.

But due to poor visibility the mission was cancelled and the bombers were told to return to base to the RAF Bungay airbase.

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Initially it was reported that the bombing of Nijmegen had been a mistake, it was said that after the command to abort the Gotha mssion the bombers looked for alternative targets like the German cities of Kleve or Goch which are near the Dutch border.

However in reality the bombers  for targets of opportunity on the way back to Britain. The targets were found in the form of a railway emplacement near Nijmegen, a gasworks in Arnhem, and an industrial area in Enschede.

The devastation caused to of the city centre of Nijmegen was certainly not intented, according to the airmen’s reports. They had dropped the  bombs dropped too early.  a study by Dutch Historian Rosendaal indicated that the bombers were inexperienced. And those were not the only errors: not all the pilots realized they were targeting Nijmegen, nor did they rknowthat Nijmegen was occupied Dutch territory and that it would have needed  special clearance  required to bomb it.

The Germans were quick to use this incident as a propganda tool, They had accused the Dutch government in exile had given the go ahead to bomb Nijmegen.The Germand hung posters in several places  with the text ‘With friends like these, who needs enemies?’

nijmegen propaganda

Their propaganda efforts failed seven months later, the American ground troops were welcomed as heroes by the inhabitants.The propaganda had been counterproductive.

On that day more then 750 civilians were killed, which was close to the  amount of casualties of the bombing of Rotterdam , which was 900,at the start of the war.

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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

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Bombing of Rotterdam

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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.

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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

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.

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

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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.

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WWII -In Pictures

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The most destructive war in all of history, its exact cost in human lives is unknown, but casualties in World War II may have totaled over 60 million service personnel and civilians killed.

As the saying goes ‘ a picture paints a thousand words’ even though it may paint a thousand words it doesn’t always tell the whole story.

You will have seen some of the pictures below already and others may be new to you, either way they do tell a bit of the story of WWII.

A Frenchman weeps as German soldiers march into the French capital, Paris, on June 14, 1940, after the Allied armies had been driven back across France. What is even more powerful in this picture it shows in one shot the different sentiments. As he weeps the woman next to him applauds.

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Cpl. Carlton Chapman…is a machine-gunner in an M-4 tank, attached to a Motor Transport unit near Nancy, France.

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Pfc Angelo B. Reina, 391st Inf. Regt., guards a lonely Oahu beach position. Kahuku, Oahu. Rosenberg, Hawaii, March 1945.

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Standing in the grassy sod bordering row upon row of white crosses in an American cemetery, two dungaree-clad Coast Guardsmen pay silent homage to the memory of a fellow Coast Guardsman who lost his life in action in the Ryukyu Islands. Benrud, ca. 1945.

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German troops parade through Warsaw, Poland

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The tragedy of this Sudeten woman, unable to conceal her misery as she dutifully salutes the triumphant Hitler, is the tragedy of the silent millions who have been `won over’ to Hitlerism by the ‘everlasting use’ of ruthless force.

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Two bewildered old ladies stand amid the leveled ruins of the almshouse which was Home; until Jerry dropped his bombs. Total war knows no bounds. Almshouse bombed Feb. 10, Newbury, Berks., England.” Naccarata, February 11, 1943

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Canadian Infantry of the Regiment de Maisonneuve, moving through Holten to Rijssen, Netherlands. Lt. D. Guravitch, April 9, 1945

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Captured Japanese photograph taken during the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. In the distance, the smoke rises from Hickam Field

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This picture, captured from the Japanese, shows American prisoners using improvised litters to carry those of their comrades who, from the lack of food or water on the march from Bataan, fell along the road.” Philippines, May 1942.

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This victim of Nazi inhumanity still rests in the position in which he died, attempting to rise and escape his horrible death. He was one of 150 prisoners savagely burned to death by Nazi SS troops.

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A German girl is overcome as she walks past the exhumed bodies of some of the 800 slave workers murdered by SS guards near Namering, Germany, and laid here so that townspeople may view the work of their Nazi leaders.

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The German ultimatum ordering the Dutch commander of Rotterdam to cease fire was delivered to him at 10:30 a.m. on May 14, 1940. At 1:22 p.m., German bombers set the whole inner city of Rotterdam ablaze, killing 30,000 of its inhabitants.”* Aerial view of the ruins of Rotterdam.

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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.

Razzia_Rotterdam

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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