World War II: Displaced Dutch Children (1938-46)

Figure 1.--ere we see Queen Juian gisitingan orphanage. The image is not dated, but was probably taken about 1950. Juliana had been evacuated to England with ret of the Royal Family. She became Queen in 1848. The press caption read, "Queen Juliana of the Netherlands cast aside the royal reserve for a whirl of fun with children at an Amsterdam orphanage. She joined them in a round dance and had as much fun as they did."

The term displaced children is not the best term to used to describe what Dutch children expeienced during World War II. We have, however, tended to use this section as a general assessment of the situation faced by children during the War. Jewish children were among the Jew which found refugee from the Germans before the War. As a result the number of Jews in the ciuntry invresed substatially. Theywere the children most affected by the German occupation. Sone 75 oercent of the Jews in the Netherlands were killed ny the Germans as part of the Holocaust. Jewish children deported were almost all killed in the death camps. Dutch children for the mot part were not endanger during the Germanoccupation. The Germans considered them valuable genetic material and intended to annex the Netherlands to the Reich after they won the War. As the war contnued and rationing became more severe, children were affected. Food was the greatest problem. Some individual children were affected by the arrest of family members or the conscription of brothers and fathers for work. But for the most part the vast majority of children were not terribly affected until after D-Day when Allied armies began liberating the Netherlands. When the Allies were stopped at the Rhine, half of the country were ledt in German hands. Because of the Dutch support for the Allies, Hitler decided to punish them by curring off food supplies to the cities. The result was the Hunger Winter. Here the children and he elderly were the groups most affected. People starved as a result abd Dutch children were permanently affected. After the War, orphanages were opened. The British estabkished a special programfor at risk Dutch children.

Before the War

Jews fleeing NAZI Germany escaped by crossing the Dutch border. The Germans like the French for the mot part did not send them back. Here children were involved, but they generally crossed as part of family groups. There were very few unaccompanied minors, but there were large number of german Jews in the Netherlands, including children. Many of the German Jews were attempting to ger visas to other countries. The Dutch set up camps, but many of the Jewish refugees were assisted and lived with family and friends.

German Invasion

Few hildren were affected when the Germans invaded the neutral Netherlands (May 1940). The Dutch capitualated after only 3 days of fighting. Excet in Totterdam,the pgyscal samage was limited and few cgildren were harme. The Dutch Army was still in the field. But the Germans tratened to repeat the terror bombing of Rotterdam with other Dutch cities. There wre few refugees as the invasion was a shock and there was little time to flee.

German Occupation

The Dutch for racial reasons were not one of the occupied peoples countries targeted by the NAZIs for destruction. Children were still affected. The Germans as was common in the West, began the occupation and gradually racheted uo the degree of control. German control would last 4-5 years depending on here they lived in the country. This was in part because the the War began to grow against the Germans and they needed to extract more from the occupied countries. In addition,they assumed that the Duth because of the racial bonds would come over to their way of thinking. This did not occur. The Dutch NAZIs were able to recruit only a small minority of the Dutch people. So the NAZI response was to increase the use of force. Dutch Jews were arrested as were Dutch politicans that were anti-NAZI as well as Ressiastance members. Jewish children were the least likely to survive the Holocaust in the Netherlands. Many children had fathers or brothers interned as POWs. Some parents and relatives were drafted for slave labor in Germany. Many Dutch government and cultural institutions, however, were allowed to function as long as they did not interfere with occupation policies. Unlike countries in the east, the schools, for example, were allowed to continue opoerating. A Dutch reader who was a schoolboy at the time tells us that during the occupation, "We were not bothered by their propaganda at school, but the teachers learned to keep their mouths shut in regards to the occupying forces. The general atmosphere was very anti-German and more anti-Nazi, but the Germans did not try to 'educate' Dutch children like they did in their own country." Of course if the War had gone differently, the NAZIs would have made major changes in Dutch schools along the lines of their own education ststem. I was a boy during the German occupation of the Netherlands (1940-45).

Liberation (October 1944-April 1945)

Despite the German attitudes toward the Dutch racially, the Netherlands and Dutch children still suffered terribly during the War. The Allies reached Belgium (September 1944). Soon Allied troops entered the southern Netherlands. The major effort cme as part of Market Grden). This was a major effort to cross the Rhine which cuts through the Netherlands. The offensive failed at Arnhem with the bridge over the Rhine. Because of the Dutch support for the Allies, hitlrer decided to punish them by curring off food supplies to the cities. The result as the Hunger Winter. Here the children and the elderly were the groups most affected. A Dutch reader who was a boy during the War writes, "We suffered terribly and nearly died of starvation. I could write a book about it. We did not live far from a village, Putten, where the entire population was killed as a reprisal for the murder of some high ranking Germans in that area. As far as I know Putten was the only place in Holland where women and children were shot. But nearly every occupied country had its "Putten", Ouradour in France, Lidice in Czechoslovakia come to mind." [Stueck] Dutch children were primarily affected at the end of the War where the civilian population east of the Rhine was close to statvation by the times the Allies liberated them in 1945. A reader reports, "We in occupied Holland were certainly happy to see the Canadian liberators. We were starving to death."

After the War

After the War there were orphans that needed care. We do not know just how many. We know orphanages were set up, but have no details at this time. We know that the British took in many at risk children, but again have few details on the program. We note the British care program for at risk Dutch children (March 1945). This was before the Allies reached the starving Dutch north if th Rhine and the end of the War. Refugees may not be the best word for these children. After 5 years of NAZI occupation and the food shortages resulting from the occupation there were many children whose health was affected. Children and the elderly are the most vulnerable in such circumsrances. In the immediate aftermath of partial liberation, the provisional Dutch Goverment did not hve the capability to offer the care that these children needed. The Dutch south of the Rhine did not suffer the Hunger Winter that those north of the Rhine had to endure, but mny children were in bad shape. So the British brought some of these children to Britain where they could receive the food and medical care they needed. They were brought to Britain by the Royal Navy and were cared for by both families and in hostels.


Stueck, Rudi. E-mail message, September 5, 2004.


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Created: 7:34 AM 1/20/2018
Last updated: 7:34 AM 1/20/2018