In the Netherlands when you talk about the war, we are referring to the Second World War of WWII. This began for our country in May of 1940. Although the Netherlands had declared to be neutral, in the early morning of 10 May,1940 the Germans still invaded the country. The fighting lasted until 14 May and formed the start of a 5-year occupation of the Netherlands by the Germans.

Why did Germany attack the Netherlands? What were the reasons?

 Here are a few:

  1. The Germans wanted to secure their borders and northern flank. They wanted to make Europe into a closed fortress. That is why the Allied forces were unable to attack Germany from the air or over land.
     
  2. The Germans wanted to use the Dutch airfields to bomb France and England and to support their own troops.
     
  3. Germany could use the agricultural products from the Netherlands.
     
  4. The Germans could eventually make use of the Dutch professional population, as they did in the last years of the war.
     
  5. Germany used the NSB (a Dutch party with Nazi sympathizers who were loyal to Hitler). These people fought for Germany, also on the Eastern front.

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The Dutch army was poorly armed and had fewer soldiers than the German army. The Dutch fought the Nazis on the ground. The hope of the Dutch was that the French and British would quickly come to help. But only after one day of fighting the Germans had already reached the Afsluitdijk and were by the Grebbelinie, in the provinces of Utrecht and Gelderland.

 At the same time the Germans carried out air attacks near The Hague and Rotterdam.  Those attacks were intended to take control of the Dutch royals (Queen Wilhelmina) and the command center. Nazi parachutists also wanted to take control of the airports in these two cities. In Rotterdam they tried to overtake the large and important harbor. The first goal was the bridge over the Maas River. But that plan failed. The Dutch army faced them and fought fiercely against the Germans. Hundreds of German aircraft were brought down. The pilots and many of the parachutists were taken as prisoners of war and sent to England.

On 13 May the Dutch commanders realized that the situation was critical. They were cut off from the allied troops in the southern Netherlands. They were unable to continue to properly defend themselves anymore. The fighting continued while the queen and members of the government left for London.

On 14 May the Germans bombed Rotterdam. This resulted in 800 deaths and 78.000 people being left homeless. The Germans were advancing on all fronts. After bombing Rotterdam, the Germans threatened to do the same to Utrecht. After the bombing of Rotterdam the Dutch army surrendered. On 15 May the Netherlands surrendered to Germany.

Following the Dutch defeat, Queen Wilhelmina established a government-in-exile in England. During WWII some 250.000 Dutch people lost their lives. More than 100.000 of them were Jewish.