The life in occupied Netherlands


On Mai 15 1940 the Dutch government surrendered to the Germans and during the four-day campaign, about 2,300 Dutch soldiers were killed and 7,000 wounded, while over 3,000 Dutch civilians also died.

The invading army lost 2,200 men killed and 7,000 wounded. In addition, 1,300 German soldiers captured by the Dutch during the campaign, many around The Hague, had been shipped to Britain and remained POWs for the rest of the war.

Following the refusal of the Dutch government to return, the Netherlands was controlled by a German civilian governor, unlike France or Denmark which had their own governments, and Belgium, which was under German military control. The civil government, the Reichskommissariat Niederlande, was headed by Hitler’s countryman, the cripple Austrian Nazi Arthur Seyss Inquart.

The German occupiers implemented a policy of Gleichschaltung (“enforced conformity”), and systematically eliminated non-Nazi organizations. In 1940, the German regime more or less immediately outlawed all Socialist and Communist parties; in 1941, it forbade all parties, except for the Dutch National Socialist party NSB , under Anton Mussert 

Gleichschaltung was an enormous shock to the Dutch, who had traditionally had separate institutions for all main religious groups, particularly Catholic and Protestant, because of decades of pillarisation. The process was opposed by the Catholic Church in the Netherlands, and, in 1941, all Roman Catholics were urged by Dutch bishops to leave associations that had been Nazified.

A long-term aim of the Nazis was to incorporate the Netherlands into the Greater Germanic Reich. Hitler thought very highly of the Dutch people, who were considered to be fellow members of the Aryan “master race”.


The winter of 1944–1945 was very harsh, which led to ‘hunger journeys’ and many cases of starvation (about 30,000 casualties), exhaustion, cold and disease. This winter is known as the Hongerwinter (literally, “hunger winter”) or the Dutch famine of 1944. In response to a general railway strike ordered by the Dutch government-in-exile in expectation of a general German collapse near the end of 1944, the Germans cut off all food and fuel shipments to the western provinces in which 4.5 million people lived. Severe malnutrition was common and 18,000 people starved to death. Relief came at the beginning of May 1945.


By the end of the war, 205,901 Dutch men and women had died of war-related causes. The Netherlands had the highest per capita death rate of all Nazi-occupied countries in Western Europe (2.36%). Over half (107,000) were Holocaust victims, deported and murdered Jews. There were also many thousands of non-Dutch Jews in the total, who had fled to the Netherlands from other countries, seeking safety. Another 30,000 died in the Dutch East Indies, either while fighting the Japanese or in camps as Japanese POWs Dutch civilians were also held in these camps.