PenDragon - the official magazine of Lyford Cay International School PenDragon Vol 4, Spring 2018 - Page 16

From Holocaust to Human Rights: The Lasting Effects of World War II in the Netherlands By Mandisa Wallé, Grade 12 Student Mandisa is a Dutch citizen and has a deep personal interest in how her country was shaped. Mandisa’s experience reading “The Diary of Anne Frank” led her to wonder how the traumatic events of the Holocaust affected the economic, political and social structures of the Netherlands. This paper provides a condensed summary of the research and analysis she conducted for her Extended Essay. The Extended Essay is one of the key components of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. Mandisa will be attending Hofstra University this fall on a Tennis Scholarship to pursue a career in law. The Pre-War Netherlands A goal of the Netherlands as World War II approached was to remain neutral, as the country had done in World War I. The Netherlands had long practiced tolerance for ethnic and religious differences. These qualities made it a safe haven for minorities fleeing from persecution. Prior to the outbreak of WWII, European Jews sought safety in the Netherlands. Dutch neutrality helped the nation escape WWI untarnished. It spent no funds on reparations after the war and had no need to rebuild, so the country was able to maintain a stable economy. Its neutrality also influenced its military expenses. The Netherlands did not add modern weaponry and machinery of war, but solely built their defensive capabilities. The guarantee of neutrality between the Netherlands and Germany held until 1940, when the Nazi forces overpowered Dutch military precautions and invaded. A Vulnerable Nation and People The Nazi invasion in May of 1940 was quickly victorious after only several days of battle. German forces occupied the Netherlands from their September 1940 invasion until the war ended in 1945. The Nazis ordered that the German and Dutch economies conjoin, which had a negative effect on the economy of the Netherlands. Once the Nazis had access to the wealth of the Netherlands, they put it to full use to support their own war effort. The Dutch nation was then forced to spend its own resources on weaponry and workers for the Nazi regime. After the Nazi invasion, the government and the Queen fled to the UK, leaving the country under Nazi occupation. Most Dutch Jews were based in Amsterdam and others occupied areas such as Utrecht, Groningen and Limburg. After the invasion, the Nazis began deporting Jews from the Dutch capital to concentration camps, one of their mechanisms for monitoring and isolating the community of Jews throughout Europe. By the end of the war in 1945, the Nazi regime had killed about two out of three Jews living in Europe. A majority of those who perished had been from the Netherlands. The Netherlands had the highest death rate in Europe during the Holocaust: 78% of the Dutch Jews were wiped out. In 1941, the census recorded the number of Jews living in the country as 154,887. By 1947, those numbers were reduced to about 24,000. As the war turned against the Nazis, they refused to cede the Netherlands and fought against the Dutch reclamation of their homeland. Nazis destroyed Dutch infrastructure including transportation services, which created a blockade that limited Rotterdam City Centre after German Bombing, 1940 Nazi Troops in the Netherlands surrendering to British Soldiers, 1945 (public domain) German troops invading The Netherlands, 1940 (public domain) the nation’s ability to import food. The winter of 1944 up until the end of the war in 1945 was referred to as the Hongerwinter, the “Hunger Winter,” as a result of the scarcity of food supplies. The destruction of infrastructure also included the destruction of housing as well as dams, rail service and bridges. In 1938, the Dutch economy had been running at an all-time high. By 1945, after the Nazi occupation, the economy was functioning at only 27% of its former level. The Netherlands had suffered up to 15 billion guilders in damage. The Nazi government also interfered with the Dutch currency. Prior to the war, the Dutch guilder was trading 1:1 with the U.S. dollar. By the end of the war, the guilder had lost value, causing inflation. Rebuilding for the Long Term The Netherlands suffered during World War II: a high death rate of its population, the devastation of its infrastructure, damage to its economy and its currency, the flight of its government and its Queen. These traumatic events caused significant changes in the country. New monetary policy was introduced to address their financial debt, budget deficits, currency crisis and inflation. Their political system changed and new laws were introduced to prevent discrimination and human rights catastrophes. After the war, the Dutch government designed a strategic plan that would allow for the rapid reconstruction of the economy. They created programs for distributing goods and for providing housing and aid. They also looked at methods to repair damaged infrastructure and to stabilize inflation. The Netherlands received aid from allied countries, including funds from the U.S. Marshall Plan. Between 1945-1960, the Netherlands rebuilt its economy and its national infrastructure. The Netherlands also entered into cooperative treaties, the Treaty of Paris (1951) and the Treaty of Rome (1957), with other war-torn nations in western Europe to ensure peace, unity, reconstruction and economic stability. At the end of the war, the Netherlands was restructured into a parliamentary democracy. After the traumatic events of the occupation and the Holocaust, the country was particularly interested in preventing a repeat of such traumas. Today, the Netherlands is a country focused on the protection of human rights and on national defense, to ensure that the country is strong enough to prevent the outbreak of a war from within or outside its boundaries. Today, the Net herlands is a country focused on the protection of human rights and on national defense. Rotterdam Today 16 Dutch civilians during the Hongerwinter (public domain) 17