The Legacy of Nazi Occupation: Patriotic Memory and National Recovery in Western Europe, 1945-1965

By Pieter Lagrou | Go to book overview

3
A nation of heroes: the Netherlands

During the war years the fears of the governments-in-exile had been focused on the transition, the chaotic period between the German withdrawal and the re-establishment of public order, the probably protracted period of liberation struggles when irregularities could occur and subversive forces might be tempted to seize local power. During this period, the military command would take control of the situation and share administrative responsibility with the exile governments according to 'Civil Affairs Agreements'. Conservative resistance movements of career soldiers like the Armée Secrète in Belgium and the Ordedienst (OD) in the Netherlands had also prepared for this period, wanting to impose their own authoritarian conception of law and order, which could only increase the apprehension of the governments-in-exile. The Belgian government was spared the realisation of its worst fears by the hazards of military strategy: the invasion forces had been contained in the Normandy bottleneck from 6 June 1944 until early August, but once the German defence was broken on the Normandy front the Allies rushed forward to the next barrier, formed in the north by the great rivers in the Netherlands, which they reached in less than two months' time. The airborne landing at Arnhem on 17 September 1944 hit a strong SS tank division and ended in costly defeat for the Allies. The offensive had to be postponed until the next spring and the logistics problem forced the Canadian troops to clear the Scheldt estuary downstream from German resistance in a slow and costly operation.

The strategic deadlock of the Allied offensive halfway across the Dutch territory divided the country in two: the liberated south, and the occupied central and northern part. Throughout the whole country the Allied offensive had led to a wave of expectations and panic amongst the German occupation forces and the collaborationists. Rumours of the imminent liberation of the entire country culminated in 'mad Tuesday', 5 September 1944. About 65,000 NSB members (the Dutch national socialist party) and their families fled to Germany and people gathered in the streets with Dutch and British flags to welcome

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