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
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
Today, the Net herlands is
a country focused on the
protection of human rights
and on national defense.
Dutch civilians during the Hongerwinter