The Netherlands Under German Occupation
THE 'NEW ORDER' IN HOLLAND STARTED WITH THE abolition of democracy. Parliament was simply dismissed. Seyss-Inquart assumed authority as the Reich Civil Commissioner. He appoints and dismisses most of the higher officials, whether State, provincial or municipal. Six German officials are virtually in charge of the Netherlands departments of State which, in the absence of the ministers, are nominally controlled by the permanent Secretaries-General. German commissioners have been appointed in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, as mentioned elsewhere in these pages. This network of German officials guarantees that the activities of the State are directed to furthering the interests of Germany.
All offences against Germany, the German State, its army, its leaders and its Fuehrer are dealt with by special German courts of justice. These Landesgerichts are established in all the larger cities.
Political reorganization has been supplemented in
the economic sphere. 'State offices,' Dutch counterparts of the German Reichsbüros, have been set up. They are concerned with the distribution of raw materials, Government orders and workpeople. The various trades are being organized into six groups, which correspond more or less to the German Reichsgruppen.
This elaborate reorganization cannot, however, conceal the fact that the ' New Order ' has resulted in a striking decline of the standard of living. Many sources of income have dried up. The important sea-borne trade, of course, has been cut off. Exports to Germany have trebled. Exports to all other countries have dropped to insignificant figures. During the four months June to September 1940 the gap between the exports to and the imports from Germany widened to 43,000,000 guilders, though the situation is even worse than this figure suggests.
Fishing has practically come to a standstill. Only those industries which can benefit Germany receive raw materials. On the whole, industry, and especially the work of reconstruction, directed by a Dutch engineer--war damage is estimated at 1,500,000,000 guilders, about half the annual national income--is greatly hampered by transport difficulties, which are still the most striking feature of the economic 'New Order.'
The famous Dutch dairy-farming-industry faces
the prospect of a severe shortage of fodder, which may become acute next winter.
Prices and wages have been fixed time and again as a result of which there is a strong fear of the effects of inflation. The public are very reluctant to make deposits with the savings banks.
The average rise in the quotation of shares on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange between May 9th and May 10th, 1941, was 50 per cent. Land prices had almost doubled until the Germans forbade the sale of land at a price above the 1939 level.
In the autumn of 1940 the farmers were so reluctant to have their cattle slaughtered that the meat available was one-tenth of normal consumption, whereas, shortly before, the Germans had fixed the meat ration at 70 per cent, of the normal figure. The prices of many rationed articles are so high that the unemployed and poorer people cannot afford to buy them. The shortage of many foodstuffs and the monotony of the diet are accompanied by a lack of coal for domestic purposes. New textile products may only be bought on the German point system, which in the long run barely provides for sufficient underwear.
One of the first effects of the arrival of German troops was many suicides among prominent Dutch Jews, including an alderman of the city of Amsterdam, two well-known professors, the publisher of a leading weekly periodical and two authors of
considerable reputation. Hundreds of cases of suicide occurred among the German refugees. The medical service of the city of Amsterdam was obliged to use vans to collect the bodies of many who feared the wrath of the Nazis.
Needless to say, the Jews are worse off than their non-Jewish fellow-countrymen. Early in October 1940 promotion and appointment of Jewish civil servants was cancelled. Jews are those who had one Jewish grandparent or more. At the end of November the second stage followed. All Jewish civil servants were dismissed 'on account of the anti-German activities of world-Jewry.' They retain their salaries for the time being, which deceives nobody as to the ultimate intentions of the Germans.
The dismissal of Jewish professors aroused a wave of bitter indignation. The Protestant churches launched a vigorous protest. The students of the ancient University of Leyden and the famous Delft Technical High School went on strike for two days, after which the Germans closed both Universities 'for an indefinite period.' The leading Rotterdam daily went so far as to write openly that the German decree had 'profoundly shocked the Dutch people almost in its entirety.'
The aim of the Germans, clearly enough, is to make the Jews ' second-class citizens.' All Jewish businesses have been compelled to submit to special
registration which forebodes little good. Jewish directors of prominent companies have resigned 'voluntarily.'
The position of the 100,000 or so Dutch Jews would become desperate if the German regime should last for many years. That of the Jewish refugees from Germany is already beyond description. Some of them have been sent to concentration-camps for the second time. The others face the prospect of being sent to the Jewish Reservation in Poland. The various anti-Jewish decrees of the Nazis have only succeeded in strengthening the ties between the Jews and the other Dutchmen.
Industrialists and bankers are threatened with the prospect of becoming mere tools of German officials. The earnings of the middle classes are rapidly declining. The farmers are complaining of low prices for their products. Requisitioning of horses on behalf of the German Army has caused much unrest in farming circles. Industrial labour, too, is far worse off than it was before. The standard of living has deteriorated owing to the rise of prices and there are almost 200,000 unemployed. More than 118,000 Dutch workers are working in Germany in unsatisfactory conditions.
The Social-Democratic Labour Movement, together with some small Socialist and Communist groups, was dissolved on September 21st by its
German-appointed 'commissioner,' a Dutch Nazi, Rost van Tonningen, who is a former commissioner of the League of Nations in Vienna and a close personal friend of Seyss-Inquart. The General Council of the Social Democratic Trade Union Movement has been dismissed. The movement is now directed by another Dutch Nazi, who is engaged in attempting to win the favour of the Dutch workers by a much-advertised Strength-through-Joy Movement. The Catholic and Protestant labour organizations are ignored. Nevertheless, their power is increasing.
Although the political parties have not yet been dissolved, they are more or less inactive so far as surface signs indicate. Yet they form silent but powerful centres of opposition. Generally, however, the political scene is no longer dominated by the old political movements. The Dutch National-Socialists, who were partly responsible for the undermining of Dutch resistance during the five days' war, are bitterly hated by almost all Dutchmen. This movement, which at the last free elections polled 4 per cent, of the total after a most intensive campaign, has the support, however, of the Germans, and has greatly extended its activities. An Agricultural 'Front,' an Economic 'Front' (comprising some prominent business-men), a Middle-Class 'Front' and a Judicial 'Front' have been formed. The
'Defence' members of the movement now wear the uniform of the German SS. Their most important function, however, is the same as that of the German SA. In September last, a member of the 'Defence Force' was killed during riots at The Hague. He has since been 'beatified' as a Dutch 'Horst Wessel.' In the early days of November 1940 many members of this 'Defence Force' were attacked by the population of The Hague. The whole attitude of this 'Force' is provocative and, though but a noisy minority, it is encouraged by its German sponsors. Seyss-Inquart has distributed many important posts among his Dutch friends. He has called these traitors 'true and worthy representatives of the Dutch people.' On November 22nd Seyss-Inquart said at Maastricht: 'The Dutch people have to decide for themselves their political future. We Germans, however, must reserve our attitude as to that decision.' Two days later the Dutch Nazi leader, speaking at Haarlem, pointed out that there was only one political party which could be trusted by the Germans--his party. He added: 'I am firmly convinced that the Dutch National-Socialists will attain power in the course of 1941.' This conviction is not shared by the people at large. Indeed, when at the beginning of October Terboven paid a visit to The Hague shortly after he had placed Quisling in power in Norway, a wave of unrest swept
over Holland. The public had to be reassured that the visit of the Norwegian Civil Commissioner had no political significance.
The social-democratic daily Het Volk has been taken over by the Dutch Nazis. The Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant, which still appears, recently asserted in a leading article, that 'positive collaboration is impossible as long as the lawful government is abroad.' Moreover, 'positive collaboration' did not take into account 'the chance, however remote, of Germany losing the war.'
The Algemeen Handelsblad stated on December 5th, 1940: 'A people who desire to build their own future, can only do so when they are free.'
A similar policy was adopted by a phenomenon in Dutch political life, the 'Netherlands Union,' or Nederlandsche Unie. On July 24th, when practically all Dutchmen were still of the opinion that Germany could not possibly lose the war, three prominent personalities issued an appeal in which they advocated a political union on the basis of an authoritarian programme. This triumvirate consisted of Mr. J. Linthorst Homan, the Queen's Commissioner in the province of Groningen, an able man who had won the full confidence of the Queen, Mr. L. Einthoven, Public Commissioner of the town of Rotterdam, and Mr. J. E. de Quay, professor at the Catholic Economic High School at Tilburg.
It may be assumed that they were guided by the fear that the Germans, unwilling to collaborate with the former political parties (an unwillingness which was shared by those parties!) would recognize the Dutch Nazis as the only existing political movement. In order not to arouse the suspicions of the Germans, the triumvirate was forced to adopt a programme which included National-Socialist slogans. A political party, however, is not determined by its programme, but by the views and opinions of its adherents. Circumstances have shaped the seemingly authoritarian Nederlandsche Unie into a strong anti-National-Socialist Movement.
Within four months this movement gained the adherence of over half a million members, which represents a remarkable achievement in a country of some 8,500,000 inhabitants. Membership of the Union costs two shillings per annum.
The Unie has organized a Social Advice Service, and plans to set up a strong Youth Organization. The official organ of the Unie described Seyss-Inquart's anti-Semitic decrees as 'unnecessary' and 'contrary to Christian tolerance.' This statement provoked the usual indignation in the German papers. The official weekly of the Dutch Nazis printed in its issue of November 22nd a cartoon in which the triumvirate of the Unie were depicted as
puppets directed by a monster with unmistakably Jewish features.
The cultural life of the Netherlands in its various public forms is strictly controlled by the Germans. German censors supervise the contents and make-up of all newspapers. The headlines of the German News Agency are splashed across whole pages. Foreign news has to conform to the requirements of the Wilhelmstrasse.
From the first the Germans have shown a lively interest in broadcasting. During the early months of the occupation the Germans contented themselves with giving the Dutch Nazis control of all radio news and radio propaganda. Recently they have gone further and have concentrated all broadcasting operations which have been placed under State control. A Dutch Nazi has been appointed Secretary-General of the newly created Department of Propaganda. He commenced his political career under the German occupation by 'purging' the Dutch press. After his appointment at the Department of Propaganda this official left for Berlin hurriedly 'to make an intensive study of German propaganda methods.' He has announced the production on a large scale of a so-called 'popular' wireless set--an announcement which has evoked little interest from the Dutch public. The number of people who are put on to the so-called radio-
centrales, which, of course, are only allowed to distribute German-controlled programmes, is reported to have decreased.
One of the first acts of the Germans was to 'purge' the public libraries. All school books are censored by a Nazi commission.
Other forms of German cultural propaganda include the setting-up of a Labour Service Corps in which all young Dutchmen have to serve for six months. The organization of a Winter-Relief campaign on German lines was an astute piece of propaganda which the Germans have practised in all occupied countries. They hoped that only a few people would be able to draw a clear distinction between a form of relief for poor Dutchmen and a German propaganda ruse which aimed at winning admiration for National-Socialist institutions. These hopes were not fulfilled. Most of the subscriptions to the Winter Relief are 'voluntary' contributions from big business firms. The first Flag Day at Amsterdam yielded about one-fifth of the Flag Day which was held in aid of the Jewish refugees after the November 'pogroms' in 1938. Many of the flag-sellers received rough treatment from the public, and the Dutch Director-General of Winter Relief stated openly that about three-quarters of its posters were torn from the walls.
Despite German propaganda, the Dutch people as
a whole are more united and more anti-German than ever before. The Churches prove to be a centre of spiritual resistance. At the beginning of November the Catholic bishops issued an official warning in which it was stated that 'the world was threatened by a nationalistic and materialist conception of life which left no place for Christ.' In their Lenten Pastoral the Bishops declared that membership of the Nazi movement would stand in the way of Catholics receiving the Holy Sacrament. The Germans retorted to this by cutting the salaries of teachers of religion in Catholic schools by 40 per cent.
The attitude of the Protestant Churches has been admirable. When the Germans forbade the appointment of Jews in the Civil Service, the Protestant Churches sent a vigorous protest to Seyss-Inquart which was read in all the churches on Sunday, October 24th. They asserted in this protest that the tendency of the German decree was 'contrary to Christian charity.'
'The Churches,' it was courageously stated, 'are deeply moved, as this measure concerns the people out of which the world's Saviour was born. They make a solemn appeal to the promise made by you at your installation, that the national character of the Dutch people would be respected.'
The appeal, of course, brought no reply from the
German Reichskommissar. Some weeks before, the Reformed Churches openly issued a declaration that 'lawful government still rests with the Queen.' The Dutch wireless has often issued strong warnings against the use of 'ambiguous' texts in sermons.
Newspaper editors have developed a facility to circumvent the German censorship. Papers like the Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant and the Algemeen Handelsblad are still worth while for people who know how to read between the lines.
Some months ago, for example, Professor H. J. Jordan of the University of Utrecht published a study on 'The Causal Explanation of Life.' The conclusion of the author's biological and philosophical investigations was: 'Liberty does not mean Anarchy. It only indicates the absence of Tyranny.' According to the reviewer in the Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant, this conclusion was 'of particular interest.'
All cultural life in the Netherlands at the present time has a political background. Needless to say the Queen and the House of Orange are the symbols of political and cultural resistance. The Germans, who have abolished the term 'Royal' and who have issued new postage stamps which no longer bear the Royal portrait, are unable to destroy the affection won by Queen Wilhelmina in forty years of selfless service and devotion.
The Germans have tried to stifle all opposition
by the internment of many prominent Dutchmen. More than 450 colonial officials have been sent to concentration camps as a 'reprisal' for the lawful and correct internment of all male Germans in the Netherlands East Indies. The former Dutch Commander-in-Chief, General Winkelman, has been sent to a German prison after having exposed a fraud in the collection of documents which were supposed to 'prove' that the Netherlands and Belgian Governments were preparing to join the Allies. Other interned officers include Baron J. Van Voorst tot Voorst, Commander-in-Chief of the Field Army, Major-General Baron H. Van Voorst tot Voorst, Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant-General Best, Commander-in-Chief Air Defence, and Major-General Baron Van Lawick, governor of the Royal Military Academy.
Dutch leaders in the world of learning have aroused the full hatred of the Nazis. At the end of October many members of the Netherlands parliament and men of learning were placed under arrest. These included Professor P. Geyl of the University of Utrecht, a former reader in Dutch history at the University of London, Professor P. Lieftinck, Professor at the High School of Commerce at Rotterdam, and Professor J. Goudriaan, director-general of the Dutch railways. A score of professors of great eminence drawn from almost every leading
university in the Netherlands have been sent to the notorious Buchenwald concentration camp. Among those who have fallen victim to the Nazi fury is a well-known and much-respected ex-Minister of the Crown, Dr. C. Goseling, whose death has been announced since his arrest.
Others arrested include Mr. de Monchy, burgomaster of The Hague, Mr. van Heuven Goedhart who was editor of one of the most prominent anti-National-Socialist dailies, Dr. Eykman, leader of the Amsterdam Y.M.C.A., some of the sons of members of the Netherlands Cabinet in London, and many doctors, lawyers and teachers.
Some time ago the Germans defaced every wall with a poster warning the civil population against the 'merciless' British airmen. Immediately afterwards a striking piece of verse was widely distributed, which depicted the horrible destruction of Rotterdam as a striking proof of the 'mercy' of the German Luftwaffe.
Amongst those convicted by the German Landesgericht have been persons in whose possession copies of this verse have been found.
Profound hatred of the Germans has spread to all classes of the population. The windows of business men who trade with the German Army are smashed. There is a strong tendency to sabotage the blackout regulations. The newly-appointed secretary-general of the Education Department, Professor J.
van Dam, has even had to warn the pupils of elementary schools against 'discussing politics.' The pupils of the secondary schools were becoming, as he described it, 'involved in political strife.' He urged them to give up their bitter opposition against the German regime. Professor Van Dam has found it necessary to appoint a Dutch Nazi 'commissioner for the preservation of tranquillity and order' in schools. In one case, heavy sentences have been passed on pupils of a secondary school who had formed a secret sabotage organization.
Endless chapters could be written on the brutal and barbarous conduct of the Germans in the Netherlands--their evil disregard for the liberty of the subject, their revolting oppression of the people, their condemnation to death of Dutch patriots, and their negation of all that the people of the Netherlands hold most dear. But the German is what he is, Hitler or no Hitler. Put a beggar on horseback and he is king. Force him to dismount and his abasement shows him for the miserable thing he is.
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