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In the aftermath of the dodenherdenking and the celebration of the bevrijding of the Netherlands from the German occupation during World War II on May 4 and 5 and the fact that 2019 marks 80 years since the start of World War II in 1939, I am writing a series on how the Dutch got sucked into the war, and how they fought and resisted the Nazi occupation. In this third part, we will explore how the Dutch resisted the Nazi rule.
A local verzetsgroep (resistance group) (Image by Stefanhendriks1989 at Commons.wikimedia.org, CC0 public domain)
After the capitulatie (capitulation) of the Netherlands, many people did not want to give up that easily. Some actively collaborated with the Nazis, an act known as collaboratie (collaboration). Others simply tried to make the best of the new situation without resisting or helping it actively, while others actively resisted it. This last group would become known as het Verzet (“The Resistance”). While this sounds like one coherent, large group, it really was not. In fact, the question that should first be asked is: wat is verzet (what is resistance?)
Geschiedschrijver (historian) Loe de Jong, who wrote a seminal series on the Netherlands during World War II, defines verzet as follows: “Verzet was steeds verzet tegen de bezetter: elk handelen waarmee men trachtte te verhinderen dat deze de doeleinden verwezenlijkte die hij zich gesteld had.” (Resistance was always resistance against the occupier: Every action with which one intended to prevent that the occupier would realize the objectives he had set.) These doeleinden were, in particular:
To make the Netherlands a nationaal-socialistische staat (national-socialist state)
To use the Dutch economisch potentiaal (economic potential), in particular for the oorlogsvoering (war effort), or simply exploitatie (exploitation)
To deport hundreds of thousands of Dutch staatsburgers (citizens), in particular the Joden (jews) to concentration and extermination camps, or simply deportatie (deportation)
To prevent any steun (support) for vijanden (enemies) or any actions against the three doeleinden above.
With this broad definition, many acts were considered verzet. Something seemingly harmless like wearing an anjer (carnation) on June 29, 1940 – the verjaardag (birthday) of Prince Bernard, whose favorite flower was the anjer, was already considered verzet. Why? After the Germans took over, the koningin (queen) fled to England. The monarchie (monarchy) was removed when the Nazi rule took over. So showing allegiance to that monarchie meant going against the first doeleinde of making the Netherlands a nationaal-socialistische staat.
Of course verzet would also go further, like giving a place to onderduiken (hide) to Jews or other vervolgden (prosecuted) under the Nazi regime. Or much further, like executing Nazi officers or attempting to assassinate high-ranking officials. Many verzetsstrijders (resistance fighters) were much more terughoudend (reluctant) to do these things, because the repercussions were grave. If you gave a roof to a vervolgde, they could also take you away or burn down your house. After an (attempted) assassination, many more regular Dutch people would get murdered.
At the end of the oorlog (war), there were about 45,000 leden (members) of different verzetsgroepen – half a percentage of the Dutch population at the time. The amount of people that helped out, or only did small deeds of verzet is much higher of course.
Radio Oranje and other news
Radio Oranje, eerste uitzending 28 juli 1940 - YouTube
One way that the Nazis tried to reach their doeleinden was by censorship of the media. To resist this, many illegal channels were created to still keep people informed. One of the most famous was Radio Oranje.
On July 28, 1940, two and a half months after the Dutch capitulation, the English BBC premiered a special kwartier (quarter-hour) for Radio Oranje, a new radio program for the Dutch to speak to its population in the Netherlands. Koningin Wilhelmina opened this Dutch-speaking program, where she said the following:
Ruw geweld is niet in staat een volk zijn overtuiging te ontnemen.
(Raw violence is not able to deprive a people of its convictions.)
Nederland zal den strijd volhouden, zo lang tot voor ons een vrije en gelukkige toekomst opdaagt.
(The Netherlands will continue the fight until a free and happy future appears for us.)
Radio Oranje was uitgezonden (broadcast) every day at 9 pm Dutch time. It would present Dutch news, warnings about attacks and even serve to pass on coded messages.
Even though Wilhelmina’s flight to England was seen by some as an act of cowardice, even treason, this was a clear sign that she was on the side of Dutch verzet, against the Nazis. A lot of people listened it, but the actual effectiveness of the program is hard to measure. However, it definitely helped to steek de Nederlanders een hart onder de riem (“stick the Dutch a heart under the belt” – expression meaning to support, motivate, encourage).
Of course, the Nazis forbade to listen to Radio Oranje and even installed stoorzenders (jammers). Even owning radio receivers was forbidden at some point. But the Dutch often just hid their radio away.
The front page of the first oplage of Vrij Nederland of August 31, 1940. (Image by Hannolans at Commons.wikimedia.org under public domain)
Radio Oranje was not the only way to spread Dutch news. More than 1300 illegal so-called verzetskranten (resistance newspapers) were produced by the end of the war. Kranten like Het Parool and Vrij Nederland grew very quickly, and exist to this day as national kranten. They had oplages (prints) of a few hundred to hundreds of thousands every month.
Effectiveness of verzet
Jong in Oorlog - Verraad of verzet in de oorlog - YouTube
How effective were all these actions? Did they really help resist the Nazi rule, save lives, and help end the oorlog? Hard to say exactly, but it is likely. The Dutch actually helped more than 350,000 people onderduiken, which is one of the highest numbers in Europe. The Nazis also never really succeeded in converting the Netherlands into a nationaal-socialistische staat. We will never know if this would have happened had the oorlog lasted longer, but the verzet definitely played an important role in resisting the Nazis.
However, not all Dutch that resisted wanted to do it from within the Netherlands. They wanted to go further and fight within an army. And those brave Dutch people we will take a look at next time.
Het verzet makes for a good story, telling of the heldhaftige (heroic) and verschrikkelijke (horrible) of the oorlog. There are many Dutch movies that tell stories, some based on reality, of verzetsstrijders. Recent examples are Oorlogsgeheimen, Zwart Boek and De Tweeling.
What do you think of the Dutch verzet? Was there verzet in your country against the Nazis? Let me know in the comments below!
Last Saturday, the Eurovision Song Contest took place in Tel Aviv with about 186 million viewers worldwide not including the many streaming parties organized in several countries. The big winner of this year’s event was Dutch singer Duncan Lawrence giving the Netherlands its fourth win.
Photo taken by Daniel Kruczynski found on Flickr.com with license CC BY-SA 2.0
What is Eurovision?
Eurovision began in 1956 as way bring together the continent after the oorlogen or wars. The first show was held in Switzerland and it was a huge experiment considering live TV was not really common, let alone among so many countries. At first, the show was called Eurovision Song Contest Gran Prix, but later it was shortened to just Eurovision Song Contest. Eurovision has grown to be the longest running television shows and one of the most watched non-athletic event in the world.
Who and how can you participate?
Although the event began as a Europe-only event, it has somewhat expanded over the years. Any member of the European Broadcast Area who pays a participant fee can participate. Non-European countries who have sent a competitor include Turkey (transcontinental), Israel, Cyprus, Armenia, Australia, Morocco, Russia (transcontinental), among others.
All submitted songs must have both music and lyrics and the singing has to be live. There have been some beperkingen or restrictions about language, but nowadays, songs can be in any language. English has become the most common language in use although many countries still use their own.
Stemming or voting is done two ways. First, there is a selected jury who awards punten or points to each of the participants. Secondly, viewers can submit their vote via the app or with an SMS, however, they are not allowed to vote for their own country. This reduces the advantage of the most bevolkte or populated countries (Germany, France, UK, Australia, Russia). Since the popular voting began, there has been a backup jury in place just in case of a malfunction.
This year, the show was hosted in Tel Aviv since Israel won Eurovision 2018. The theme of this year was “Dare to Dream!” and there were many events organised in Israel, including beach watching parties, related to Eurovision.
During the first halve finale or semi-finals, Australia was the big winner of the night followed by Czech Republic and Iceland. The second semi-finals saw the Netherlands, North Macedonia and Sweden as the big winners. The finale was won by the Dutch singer Duncan Lawrence with the song “Arcade” followed by Italy and Russia. You can see Duncan’s performance in this video from the Eurovision YouTube channel. The video below shows the warm welcome Duncan Laurence received at Schiphol after the big win. Some of the fans at the airport compared Duncan’s win to winning the WK or world cup.
Honderden fans op Schiphol voor Duncan Laurence: 'Alsof we het WK hebben gewonnen' - RTL NIEUWS - YouTube
The winnaar or winner of the event is automatically the host country for the next year. This means that Eurovision 2020 will be hosted by the Netherlands. Not long after Duncan was named the winner, many Dutch cities were already bidding to host. Some of these include The Hague, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and my very own city Maastricht. Cost will be a factor in determining the city considering that Premier Rutte said there would be no extra money given to the Dutch national broadcast. Each city will have to determine if the cost of the show (anywhere from €15 million to €50 million) is worth it.
I found the video below and thought it was a gem! This video has the top 10 entries from the Netherlands. Some of the songs are in English while others are in Dutch. My personal favorite is “Calm After the Storm.” Which one did you like best?
Top 10: Entries from The Netherlands at the Eurovision Song Contest - YouTube
Did you watch Eurovision 2019? Which country were you cheering for?
I visited the grotten (caves) of Maastricht last weekend. They are entirely human-made, as the mergel (marl) in the Sint-Pietersberg (“Saint Peter’s Mountain”) has many uses. It is used as bouwmateriaal (construction material), ingredient for cement (concrete), veevoer (fodder), kleurstof (coloring) and kalkmeststof (agricultural lime). While there is no spreekwoord (saying) related to mergel, there is an uitdrukking (expression). I found a fitting spreekwoord though!
Een goede ziel weet van stenen brood te maken
Image by Wesual Click at Unsplash.com
A good soul knows how to make bread from stones
Making brood (bread) from stenen (stones) – impossible! Stenen are useless – brood is amazingly nutritious. The idea behind this spreekwoord is that you should be happy with what you get. Even if you are given something useless, you can be happy with it, you can figure it out.
The exact herkomst (origin) of this spreekwoord I could not find, but it appears to have a biblical herkomst. It probably refers to a lesson to avoid being gretig (greedy). The Dutch generally have a culture that is, let’s say, suspicious of gretigheid (greed).
I have not heard this spreekwoord a lot in everyday use, probably because the same message can be passed on with fewer words and in a less cryptic way. I could imagine it being used in the following way:
Wat moet ik met dit ding? Het is bijna 10 jaar oud, daar kan ik niet mee werken!
– Een goede ziel weet van stenen brood te maken.
(What am I supposed to do with this thing? It is almost 10 years old, I can’t work with this!
– A good soul knows how to make bread from stones.)
It does have a rather negative connotation, as you basically tell somebody that they are being greedy or ungrateful for what they have. If you want that undertone, however, it is an excellent spreekwoord. On to the uitdrukking!
Mergel (marl) (Image by jdegraaf at Flickr.com under license CC BY 2.0)
To be starved
Uitgemergeld zijn (to be starved) is an expression that relates to a body being just skin and bone due to honger (hunger), ziekte (sickness) or uitputting (exhaustion). It is especially related to a detrimental process that led to this condition. It is not a good state to be in, to say the least.
But where does it come from, how is mergel related to this? Is it at all?
There are different theories, actually.
The most widespread is that it is indeed related to the material mergel. As I said in the introduction, the stuff is used as kalkmeststof. Kalk (lime) is an important ingredient for well-fertilized soil. However, using too much mergel to fertilize is going to lead to unusable soil, as it does not contain any other voedingsstoffen (nutrients). This process of slowly draining the soil of nutrients it requires to be “alive” translates well to the meaning of the uitdrukking. So it does make sense!
However, other theories emphasize the German equivalent ausmergeln and how that came about. That word simply came from the Old German merg, marg or Mark, which means “power, energy”. So with uitmergelen – “out-marling”, you would literally take the power out of somebody.
The uitdrukking fits in all social settings, both formally and informally. You would not use it lightly, though – it does not just mean skinny, it really means skin and bone.
Na haar chemotherapie is ze hard achteruit gegaan. Ze is helemaal uitgemergeld.
(After her chemotherapy, she quickly deteriorated. She is just skin and bone now.)
What do you think of these two? Have you heard them before? Do you have equivalents in your language? Let me know in the comments below!
Just when I think I have a good grasp of Dutch, a new situation comes to show me that there is still more to learn. I recently took my car for the bi-annual change of winter and summer tires and was faced with new vocabulary. Below is a list of some useful words and phrases related to car maintenance.
Photo taken by Jac. Janssen found on Flickr.com with license CC BY 2.0
Banden en Velgen
In the Netherlands, you are not obliged to have winterbanden or winter tires during the winter months, however, it is very much suggested given that these tires help with traction or tractie in temperatures below 6 degrees Celsius (43 degrees Farenheit). I recently purchased an extra set of velgen or rims to reduce the cost of changing the tires each time.
Having two sets of tires requires storage space either in your garage or opbergruimte (storage room). For those who don’t have storage space or couldn’t be bothered to remember to put the banden in the car when getting tires changed (yes, I have forgotten the tires more than once), many car garages offer storage space for your tires. The catch is, of course, that you have to pay them for the storage and always use them for the tire change. Bandenopslag costs between €50 and €60 per season.
An autobeurt is the service done to your car. Beurt literally means a turn or a move; I like to see it as the car’s turn for service. Another common word used is onderhoud which means maintenance. You usually have two options, grote beurs or kleine beurs, and these vary from one car maker to another. A kleine beurt usually includes vervangen motorolie en filter (change motor oil and filter), bijvullen ruitensproeier- en koelvloeistof (top off washer and cooling liquid), inspectie banden en remen (check tires and brakes), controle ruiten en ruitenwissers (check windshields and wipers), controle accu en verlichting (check battery and lights), among other things. The approximate cost of this is €100.
A grote beurt includes the above mentioned plus some others including inspectie remystem (inspect breaking system) and vervangen bougies (replace spark plugs). The approximate cost of this is €230.
In Europe, cars get checked every year to make sure everything is running smoothly and that there are no safety issues. This is very similar to what I used to get done in my car in Texas. In the Netherlands, this is called APK or Algemene Periodieke Keuring. The APK is a check for veiligheids- en milieueisen or safety and environmental requirements. This happens after the fourth year of the car, then another check two years later, and then every year. For diesel autos, this happens after the third year and then every year after that.
When it is time for the APK, you receive a letter in the mail letting you know its time. You can have this done two months before the due date at many car service centers. There are several checks done. Below is a list I found on the ANWB website.
de verkeersveiligheid (remmen, wielophanging, schokdempers, banden, stuurinrichting, verlichting en carrosserie)
het milieu (uitstoot van uitlaatgassen)
de registratie (de kilometerstand, het voertuigbewijs, identificatienummer en de gebruikte brandstof)
The following video explains what happens in the APK. You can hear the pronunciation of most of the words I’ve mentioned.
ANWB helpt: APK 2018 - YouTube
In this post, I covered some of the most basic vocabulary related to car maintenance. For those who know more about cars than I do, this might not be enough and I encourage you to check the ANWB website for more vocabulary and reading material.
There are many quick ways to quickly show your approval in writing. A very common sign of goedkeuring (approval) is the vinkje (check mark). While the vinkje is sometimes also used in the Netherlands, the goedkeuringskrul (“approval curl”) is a lot more common! But why this difference, and where do these signs come from?
What is it used for?
A goedkeuringskrul. You write it starting at the bottom (Image by author)
The goedkeuringskrul has been around for many decades now, and is widely used in scholen (schools) and universiteiten (universities) across the Netherlands to indicate goede antwoorden (correct answers). Foute antwoorden (wrong answers) are usually marked with a simple slash, X or even a vinkje! So where the vinkje means “correct” or “seen” in other countries, it can indicate a wrong answer in the Netherlands.
Where does it come from?
The vinkje – used in the Netherlands sometimes to indicate approval, and sometimes to indicate a mistake! (Image by author)
Where both these tekens (marks) come from is unclear. One thing that is for sure is that the vinkje is a lot older. It is probably a steno (shorthand) for the Latin “vidit”, which means “seen”. Others say it comes from the French “vu”, with the same meaning. Since both of those languages have been dominant in Europe for a long time, it makes sense that this mark made such an impact!
The goedkeuringskrul did not get all that much fame. It definitely was not used in the 16th and 17th century yet. Probably, it only came into use in the 19th century. This may have come along with the growing (government) bureaucracy. And what does the goedkeuringskrul stand for?
This is how the goedkeuringskrul is used in schools. Also notice how the vinkje is used to indicate fouten (mistakes) (Image by author)
Well, that is not clear, either. It may stand for gezien (seen) or goed (good/correct). The krul looks a bit like a sloppy, fast-written g, just like the check mark looks like a sloppy and quick v. The krul is also used in Portugal, actually. The Portuguese claim that it stands for correcto (correct). Others say that the krul comes from the German richtig (correct), or that it is a quick X. I think the theory of the krul simply being a sloppy g the most plausible. That could explain why it did not find widespread adoption outside the Netherlands.
Who is right? We may never find out – the krul simply got its place in Dutch culture, even if we do not know where it comes from. And that is what makes it unique.
What do you think? Where does the krul come from? Do you use the krul? Had you heard of it before? Let me know in the comments below!
In anticipation of the dodenherdenking and the celebration of the bevrijding of the Netherlands from the German occupation during World War II on May 4 and 5 and the fact that 2019 marks 80 years since the start of World War II in 1939, I am writing a series on how the Dutch got sucked into the war, and how they fought and resisted the Nazi occupation. In this second part, we will explore how the war started continued and ended for the Dutch, with what happened in Rotterdam.
We left off with the aftermath of the Slag van Mill (Battle of Mill), which continued close to the border of the heart of the Netherlands, at the Randstad. The Germans broke through there quite quickly, too. Or were they already there? While the Nazis moved the trains across the grens (border), they also sent vliegtuigen (airplanes) deeper into the country.
1940-05-23 - Film - UTW 507 - Angriff deutscher Fallschirmjäger auf Rotterdam am 10-05-1940 - YouTube
“‘s morgens vroeg om een uur of 5 kwamen de vliegtuigen, en we wisten niet wat er aan de hand was. Ze kwamen vlak over de lakens zetten, en m’n vader zei, het zijn de moffen die binnenkomen. Ik was toen 14 jaar, en ik weet nog wel dat ik toen ontzettend bang was. Heel erg bang. Ik ben in mijn hele leven nog nooit zo bang geweest als toen.”
(Early in the morning around 5, the airplanes came, and we had no idea what was going on. They flew over low, and my dad said it’s the Germans invading. I was 14 at the time, and I remember that I was very scared then. Very, very scared. I have never been as scared in my life as back then.)
On the first day, May 10, the Germans sent vliegtuigen with parachutisten (paratroopers), or Fallschirmjäger in German, into the West of the Netherlands. Anton Greven recalls how the Germans arrived early in the morning in Rotterdam-Zuid (Rotterdam South), where he lived as a boy. He explains how the Germans were best aardig (quite nice), and that it was only the second time for the young Germans to jump. The Dutch military was also still walking around in the first hours, nothing had happened. They were then taken, but the Germans remained peaceful, it seemed.
But then, everything changed.
The Dutch defended better than expected, with multiple days of fierce fighting all over the country. The invasie (invasion) did not go fast enough for the Nazis. To force a breakthrough, they devised a horrific plan. On the morning of May 14, 1940 at 10:00, the Dutch received an ultimatum of 2 hours to capitulate. If the 2 hours passed, Rotterdam would be bombed. When the Dutch entered capitulation negotiations, the planned bombardement (bombing) of 1 pm was cancelled, but the order did not reach all the bommenwerpers (bombers) in time – and so on May 14, at 1:30 pm, the Nazis dropped 97,000 kg of bombs on the old city of Rotterdam. Within a short 15 minutes, the bombardement was over. But these short 15 minutes had awful gevolgen (consequences). Thousands of buildings were vernietigd (destroyed), more than 800 people were gedood (killed) and more than 80,000 people ended up dakloos (homeless).
Rotterdam’s inner city after the bombardement and when the puin (rubble) was removed. (Image public domain)
When the Nazis threatened that the city of Utrecht would undergo a similar fate, the Dutch capitulated. The overgave (capitulation) was signed the next day. And so on May 15, 1940, after only 5 days of fighting, the Netherlands became Nazi territory.
Dutch General Winkelman leaves the school in Rijsoord after signing the overgave. (Image by Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1969-097-17 / Hausen, v. at Commons.wikimedia.org under license CC BY SA 3.0)
But not everybody wanted to give up that easily. Some people took great risks to fight back… Which is the story for the next post in the series.
Rotterdam at night seen from the Euromast (Image by Rob Oo at Commons.wikimedia.org under license CC BY 2.0)
Rotterdam is one of the only large Dutch cities without a historical inner city.
If you want to see some of the remains of the old city of Rotterdam, check out this website.Another great article shows the differences between old Rotterdam and new Rotterdam, and you can look at before-and-after pictures of different spots in the city. While there are some monumental buildings left, like the Witte Huis (white house), seen as one of the first wolkenkrabbers (skyscrapers) of Europe) that survived the war, most are gone. The reaction was to make Rotterdam an modern and futuristic business city, with the implementation of American ideas like a Central Business District – a place for work places, not homes.
It is Pasen (Easter)! On Easter Sunday, the Dutch have a few traditions they follow, and one that I am highlighting today are a very popular food item: matzes!
Why Do The Dutch Eat Unleavened Flat Bread during Easter?
Image by author
During the Paasontbijt (Easter breakfast), which is usually quite extensive, the Dutch eat these flat crackers a lot. You can get them throughout the year, but consumption definitely peaks during Pasen. Why? And why is it so popular in the Netherlands?
The matze, also spelled matzah, matza or matzo, is ongerezen plat brood (unleavened flat bread) that comes from the Jewish Pesach (passover) celebration. It is eaten in memory of the slavernij (slavery) of the Joden (Jews) and the uittocht (exodus) from Egypte (Egypt). Under the leiding (lead) of Mozes, the Joden had to vluchten (flee) very snel (quickly). There was not even time to let the bread rijzen (leaven)! And that is where this unleavened bread, consisting only of water and flour, comes from. In Jewish tradition, it is not allowed to have any leavened bread during the Pesach period – you cannot even buy it in Jewish stores!
Before the Second World War, many Joden lived in the Netherlands. During passover, they would gift matzes to their Dutch buren (neighbors). The Dutch have loved them ever since. They come in large and small (see above) and even mini sizes, as volkoren (whole grain) variant or biologisch (organic). They are especially popular with some boter (butter) or margarine (margarine) and suiker (sugar) sprinkled on top. There are other varieties, but in most cases, the beleg (topping) is zoet (sweet).
These days, matzes are eaten more by non-Jews than Jews in the Netherlands.
The Dutch know matzes usually from the orange boxes or larger packages of Hollandia Matzes. This Dutch bedrijf (company) was founded in 1933 in Enschede, in the east of the country. They have a proud history of producing the popular delicacy, and even admit themselves: er zit eigenlijk niks in (there is really nothing in it) – what makes them so great is that you can combine them with so many things. Therefore their slogan reads niks is zó lekker! (Nothing is this yummy!).
While most matzes they make are “normal”, they also make a portion of their production koosjer (kosher), so that it abides to Jewish food rules. They even do this onder rabbinaal toezicht (under rabbi supervision) of the Nederlands-Israëlitisch Kerkgenootschap (Dutch Israelite Church Community – NIK). So a rabbi checks that the whole production is done… well, kosher, actually.
What about that shape?
Matzes are usually vierkant (square), not rond (round), as they are most often found in the Netherlands. This vierkant shape is a reference to the tegels (tiles) that the Joden had to make during their ballingschap (exile) in Egypt. If according to tradition, matzes are vierkant, then why are they usually rond in the Netherlands?
According to H J Woudstra, oud-directeur (former director) of Hollandia Matzes: “Nederlanders eten van oudsher ronde matzes, dus maken wij ronde matzes” (The Dutch have always eaten round matzes, so we make round matzes). Perhaps it is the shape, that reminds the Dutch of their other favorite – pannenkoeken (pancakes) – perhaps?
Have you eaten matzes before? What do you think of them? Why do you think that they are round? Let me know in the comments below!
In anticipation of the dodenherdenking and the celebration of the bevrijding of the Netherlands from the German occupation during World War II on May 4 and 5, I am writing a series on how the Dutch got sucked into the war, and how they fought and resisted the Nazi occupation. In this first part, we will explore how the war started for the Dutch, looking at the Slag bij Mill (Battle of Mill).
May 10, 1940, 3:50 a.m. In the dark of the night, a pantsertrein (armored train) crossed the grens (border) at Kerkrade, in the far South of the Netherlands, meant to get behind the defense lines to unload troops, like a Trojan horse. Five other pantsertreinen made their way to other bruggen (bridges) along the Dutch defense lines with the same objective.
German soldaten (soldiers), vermomd (disguised) as Dutch marechaussees (military police officers) entered the country to secure several bruggen. A fleet of the Nazi Luftwaffe (German: air force) flew in to drop parachutisten (paratroopers) all over Dutch territory. A sheer overmacht (dominance) that the Dutch could never beat.
However, the Dutch got their hands on some of the documenten (documents) of Fall Gelb (German: case yellow), the German plan for the invasion of the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France. Because of this, they could at least prepare a bit. Once they heard the Germans would infiltrate the country, they placed springladingen (explosive charges) on vital bridges to stifle the Dutch opmars (advance).
The Sint Servaasbrug in Maastricht, blown up on May 10, 1940, with German soldiers inspecting the site (Image by the German Federal Archive, Bild 146-2004-0103 at Commons.wikimedia.org under license CC BY SA 3.0)
Toeval en Verraad
Due to toeval (coincidence) and verraad (treason), the brug that crosses the Maas at Gennep, close to the German border, was taken by the Germans. The other bruggen were blown up in time. Therefore, only one out of the six pantsertreinen could breach the Maaslinie. At 4 a.m., Panzerzug No. 1, followed by a regular German train carrying about 800 soldiers, went on its way to get behind the Dutch Peel-Raamlinie.
The Dutch defense lines in 1940 (image by Niels Bosboom at Commons.wikimedia.org under license CC BY SA 3.0)
The Peel-Raamlinie, or Peellinie in short, was fortified with the peelkanaal, an artificial canal that had a spoorbrug (train bridge) at the small village of Mill. With the inlichtingen (intelligence) the Dutch had secured, they had prepared this defense line. However, nobody had told them that the Maaslinie at Gennep, only about 15km (10 miles) away, was breached already!
The Peelkanaal, with a kazemat (pillbox) on the west side of the oever (bank). Due to its military purpose and fortification, it was also known as defensiekanaal (defense canal). (Image by Havang(nl) at Commons.wikimedia.org under license CC0)
Upon seeing the German pantsertrein, a Dutch officer even remarked: “Ik wist niet dat wij die dingen ook hadden” (I did not know we also had those things), not realizing it was the enemy that went full steam ahead to breach the defense line. Only when the train crossed the peelkanaal, the Dutch soldaten realize that it is a German Panzerzug they are dealing with! They quickly begin building a versperring (barricade) on the rails.
Achter de Linie
At 4.45 a.m., the German train drops more than 800 troops behind Dutch lines. One group heads north, one group heads south, to take over the Dutch kazematten (pillboxes) and stellingen (positions). The train tries to get in touch with their Generalkommando?!?!?!? to deliver the good news, but they get no connection. They decide to send the armored train back.
But the Dutch had set up their blokkade (blockade). The train stormed back at full speed, crashing hard at the blokkade and derailing.
The Dutch soldaten, despite being fewer in numbers, fight valiantly. The slag (battle) goes on for hours and hours – but the Germans, with their artillery and bombers, cannot be beat. The Dutch retreat to Den Bosch and Uden. In the early morning of Saturday, May 11, the Slag bij Mill is over. 30 Dutch soldaten and 7 burgers (citizens) died in the attack, and more than 700 were taken krijgsgevangenen (prisoners of war). The fight had to be continued at the next line of defense, at Den Bosch and already at the Vestinglinie, which defends the most populous and important parts of the Netherlands – the Randstad. Or did the war already begin there, too? That will be explored in the next post.
Nieuwe informatieborden bij kazematten - YouTube
This story was mostly made using the websites of Stichting Sporen van de Oorlog and Zuidfront Holland. These sources are in Dutch, but provide a lot more detail to all aspects of this Slag and other parts of the inval (invasion) of the Germans into the Netherlands.
There are several oorlogsmonumenten (war monuments) around the Slag bij Mill. The organisations mentioned above are also still active in keeping the memory of these events alive and gathering even more information for accuracy. In the video above, they unveil a new information panel about the Slag bij Mill.
Have you seen the American show Cops? The show with one police chase on the highway with the song “Bad Boys” in the background. “Bad boys, bad boys, what you gonna do, what you gonna do when they come for you?” I recently discovered a Dutch TV show that (sort of) resembles the American Cops show and I highly recommend it. It is called De Handhavers.
Photo taken by Matthew Kenwrick found on Flickr.com with license CC BY-ND 2.0
Who are the handhavers?
The handhavers are a sort of municipal security force whose task is to keep order. According to the Dutch police website, the difference between handhavers and politie is the following:
De politie zorgt ervoor, als uitvoerende instantie, dat het recht in Nederland wordt nageleefd; ze handhaaft de rechtsorde. Dit gebeurt in opdracht van de overheid.
If you have been to Amsterdam, you have probably run into the handhavers, particularly at the central station. They are the ones called when a passenger did not pay for public transport, when people are sleeping in benches, and when there is someone causing commotion.
Handhavers are part of the gemeente or the city government and their tasks vary per city. In big cities such as Amsterdam or Rotterdam, their tasks might involve dealing with dakloos or homeless people sleeping on the streets, troublesome tourists, and general order. In the south of the Netherlands, they are very much present during carnaval making sure things are in order. Handhavers are also the first to respond to complaints for say, a neighbour that has a lot of trash in their back yard (yes, you can complain about that), or people who have furniture outside their property. They even check streets for improperly disposed of trash as well as cars that have been wrongly parked.
Police vs Handhavers
While handhavers might not deal with the most pressing issues regarding safety, their role is very much connected to the community. Many times, they are the first on scene to determine what the course of action is. Their role in cities is to ensure that things run smoothly, people don’t use the streets as trashcans, and everyone is just orderly leaving the police to take care of criminal activity. The police website expands on the difference with the following statement:
De politie treedt op tegen overtredingen van de wet. Denk bijvoorbeeld aan de wetten op het gebied van openbare orde, milieu en verkeer. Handhaven is noodzakelijk, omdat chaos ontstaat wanneer iedereen zomaar zijn gang zou kunnen gaan.
In other words, handhavers are there to deal with situations that might just need some mediation and leadership.
The TV show
The TV show De Handhavers airs every sunday evening on channel SBS 6. The reason why I find this show interesting is the type of “disorder” that is portrayed there. Having grown up in the States with the commercials of the show Cops constantly on TV, De Handhavers are a nice relief of the type of crimes that are televised. I am in no way saying “harder” crimes don’t exist; just that they don’t get televised.
The TV show also portrays other safety and order branches such as the dierenpolitie, boswachter and the police. Below is a clip I found that gives a good idea of what the show is about.
Het beste van De Handhavers - Compilatie #1 - YouTube
Do you have a similar police/security force in your country? Do they also have a television show?
Last Wednesday, thousands of stemgerechtigden (voters) flocked to the hundreds of stemlokalen (polling stations) all over the country to cast their stem (vote). Or, perhaps, the plural stemmen is more apt, as the Dutch actually had two verkiezingen (elections)! One vote for the waterschapsverkiezingen (water board elections) and the other for the Provinciale Statenverkiezingen (Provincial States elections). Today, the official results will be published. What do these elections mean for the Netherlands? And who won? Who lost? Let’s find out.
What were the elections about?
Verkiezingsposters (election posters) of parties that participated in Maastricht (Image by author)
The waterschapsverkiezingen decide who is going to lead the waterschappen in the coming four years. The waterschappen are responsible for water management, which of course is a big deal in the Netherlands. And while this seems quite simple – to just make sure that our feet stay dry – there is more to it than you may think. A high water level allows nature to thrive, whereas a low water level helps boeren (farmers). The waterschappen are also involved in the energietransitie (energy transition), as they own land that can be used to install windmolens (wind turbines) and zonnepanelen (solar panels). Money can be invested in more such solutions, or the budget can be cut to save the belastingbetaler (taxpayer) a few bucks. These are important political choices!
However, the waterschapsverkiezingen have never gained as much attention as the Provinciale Statenverkiezingen, as the latter indirectly determine the verdeling (distribution) of zetels (seats) in the Eerste Kamer (“First Chamber”, the Senate, or upper house, of the Dutch parliament). In fact, the reason that the waterschapsverkiezingen are held together with the Provinciale Statenverkiezingen is to generate a higher opkomst (turnout) for the waterschapsverkiezingen. Why do those elections suffer from a lower opkomst? Well, it may be that people are less interested in the waterschappen or simply do not know much about them. After all, direct voting of the representatives of the waterschappen at a national level has only existed since 2008. But the strategy to hold the verkiezingen simultaneously seems to be working: The opkomst for the waterschapsverkiezingen grew from 43.5 in 2015 to 50.5 percent this time around. The Provinciale Statenverkiezingen also saw a bump from 46 to 56 percent this year.
Just like in the gemeenteraadsverkiezingen, there are lokale partijen (local parties) and landelijke partijen (national parties) that participated in both verkiezingen held on March 20. There are different parties for the waterschappen and the Provinciale Staten.
The 21 waterschappen and the 12 provincies of the Netherlands. Their territories do not always line up with each other. The thin white lines in the left map show the provincial borders (Image composed by author from images by Janwillemvanaalst at Commons.wikimedia.org under license CC BY SA 4.0).
Wednesday’s elections were held in each of the 12 provincies and in each of the 21 waterschappen of the country. Every gemeente (municipality) set up stembureaus (polling stations) throughout the gemeente. The default stembureau is the one closest to your huisadres (home address), but you can vote in any of the stembureaus in the gemeente. That can be quite handig (handy) – but this can also cause problems. While the grenzen (borders) of gemeenten and provinces line up nicely, the waterschappen have differently drawn territories. This meant that some gemeenten held elections for multiple waterschappen! However, your vote only counts for the waterschap in which your home is. So if you voted in a stembureau outside of your waterschap, your stem was ongeldig! Luckily, this was quite an unlikely scenario.
So… Who won?
Forum voor Democratie wint Provinciale Statenverkiezingen: the day after - YouTube
For the waterschappen, it was Water Natuurlijk (“Water Naturally”) that became the biggest party in the country, just like in 2015. As the name suggests, it is a waterspecifieke partij (water-specific party), so it is not in the race for the Provinciale Statenverkiezing.
And what about the Provinciale Staten?
The big surprise was Forum voor Democratie (FvD, Forum for Democracy), a right-wing party led by Thierry Baudet. It is the first time that the partij participated. With 13 zetels, it immediately became the largest partij in the Eerste Kamer. Baudet profiled his party as anti-establishment, distancing himself from the other parties. The party has strong stances on migration, the EU and climate change with nationalistic tones throughout. Disgruntled voters used to flock to the long-standing anti-establishment Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV, Party for Freedom) of Geert Wilders. It seems that they are losing faith, as the PVV lost many voters to FvD. Baudet is the new kid on the block, which promises to blow a new wind into Dutch politics.
Another surprise was on the left: GroenLinks, the Green Left party led by Jesse Klaver, also gained a substantial amount over 2015, moving from 4 zetels to 9. He is primarily focused on the klimaatakkoord (climate agreement).
Both Klaver and Baudet want to change the status quo, and both do so with a populist narrative.
However, will they be able to really change things? In the end, due to the Dutch political system (and the famous poldermodel), both Baudet and Klaver will have to work together with other parties and find compromises. Will it be enough for their achterban (constituency)? We will see.
The big losers are the CDA, D66, PVV and SP, who all lost at least three seats compared to the verkiezingen in 2015. Also the government party VVD lost one zetel. It looks like populism is gaining traction in the Netherlands.
What do you think of these election results? Do you find them surprising? What do you think that they entail? Let me know in the comments below!