Weeks ago, in southern Germany, we had seen lots of preparations for Hallowe'en, but the celebrations were much more muted in Amsterdam. We did see one group of adults going out wearing witch's black conical hats with wide brims, but that was it.
Anyhow, we got a late start from the hotel today, and eventually got to the Resistance Museum. We've chosen to title our report WW II because the museum covered the entire subject of the effects of the War on the Netherlands.
The Germans did not negotiate a takeover with the Netherlands as they did with Denmark; they just invaded. The Queen fled to England. The Netherlands quickly capitulated, and the Germans immediately released the Dutch prisoners of war. A Dutch Nazi party, the NSB, had been formed in 1931, and the Germans hoped to establish another Nazi state, but the NSB never grew to more than 100,000. The Austrian Nazi, Seyss-Inquart, nicknamed 6 1/4 by the Dutch, was brought in to rule the country.
In 1941 the Germans told the civil servants to draw up maps indicating where Jews resided in each of the cities in the Netherlands. Very few refused to comply; the museum displayed the map that was drawn up for Amsterdam. When Jews were then ordered to wear a six-pointed star on their clothing, there was a protest strike, and some non-Jewish Dutch took to wearing the star themselves.
Ultimately 78 % of the Jews in the Netherlands died. Those that survived fell into three categories: the very few that were transported to the camps and survived; those that went into hiding or pretended to be non-Jews; and small children who were raised by non-Jewish Dutch families.
The turning point for the Resistance came in 1943 when hundreds of thousands of men were ordered to work in war factories in Germany. Resistance activities included some spying, the publication of some 1300 different newsletters, forging ration coupons and identity papers (especially for Jews), and hiding and feeding wanted persons. The British Special Operations Executive did not oversee resistance operations in the Netherlands as they did in Denmark.
Only the southern Netherlands was liberated in the fall of 1944, and Resistance activities accelerated until the final liberation in May, 1945. During this time, record offices were burnt, and some trains were sabotaged. A few people fled the country, but the route was dangerous - over the Pyrenees to Spain or across the Channel to England.
After the near extermination of the Jews, the next most horrible thing that befell the Netherlands was the Hunger Winter. Transportation workers went on strike in the fall of 1944, and in reprisal the Germans totally cut off the supply of food; 20,000 starved to death in the winter of 1944-45.
In the spring of 1945, the outcome of the war was certain, and the Resistance forces grew to 60,000, under the command of Prince Bernhard. Nevertheless the Germans instituted a reign of terror, and held public executions without trial after every act of sabotage. After the liberation, the Resistance leaders helped round up 120,000 collaborators, who were imprisoned until their cases could be heard.
This Resistance Museum, which had been recommended to us in guides and by our fellow train travelers, is another example of the importance of imaginative museum design and intelligent curatorship. Material is, for the most part, in both Dutch and English, the exhibits are varied and very poignant (including the actual door which led into one hiding place, some children's shoes left behind at a transport center, false identity cards). Most important, the museum begins with a statement of its message: the many different possible responses to an occupying force and the difficulties involved for each individual trying to do the right thing. The subsequent exhibits spell out these alternatives, and the conclusion brings the dilemmas into the present time.
In some European countries the collaborators have tried to escape recognition, and denied their role in supporting the German war effort and the holocaust; we felt that this museum in Amsterdam was most forthright in addressing these issues.