A single telegram ended the peace. This small piece of paper meant the death of thousands of people. It was the Nazis declaration of war on the Netherlands. One of the most anti-Semitic regimes in recent history now occupied a country who had housed Jews for the last few centuries. Critics have blamed the large amounts of Jewish deaths on the lack of Dutch resistance to the Nazis. However, it was not the lack of moral responsibility amongst the non-Jews, but the insufficient finances and food supplies that caused the decimation of horrific amounts of Dutch Jews during World War II. The gentiles attempted to save the Jews, but the cost of hiding them was too extreme, leaving no choice other than letting the Jews be deported.
The Netherlands is famous for being one of the most resistant countries during World War II. Yad Vashem has honored more “religious gentiles” from the Netherlands than any other country. However, of the approximately 140,000 Jews in the Netherlands, 107,000 were deported. Only 5,000 of those Jews returned, and of the Jews in hiding, only 30,000 survive. This meant that 75% of the Dutch Jewish population was eradicated, the second largest amount after Poland.
Many question why so few Jews survived while so many people tried to save them. My hypothesis is that the limited amount of food and money made hiding the Jews to difficult and expensive for the non-Jews, giving them virtually no choice but to let the Jews be deported.
Initially the Netherlands attempted to stay neutral during World War II, as it had been in the First World War, however, the Nazis still attacked. The final Nazi-free moments for the Dutch were those on May 10, 1940, the day Hitler invaded the Netherlands. Heavy fighting continued for the next five days. Only after the Nazis had bombed Rotterdam, and massacred hundreds of soldiers, did the Dutch finally surrender. By now, Parliament, Queen Wilhelmina, and the Dutch Royal family had fled to England, leaving the government positions vacant. This allowed the Nazis to implement a civilian government by imposing their own officials in the unoccupied government, instead of the military government as they had in other countries such as Serbia and Poland.
At first, the Nazi government was very lenient on the Dutch population, since they saw them as perfect Aryans and wanted the Netherlands to become part of Nazi Germany. As the months progressed, the Nazis started to pass legislation against the Jews. Starting in October 1940, every government official was required to sign a document stating neither he nor any of his close family members were Jewish, thereby forcing almost all Jews out of the government. Four months later, in January of 1941, the Nazis demanded all Jews to register with the German authorities. They used this data to make maps of were all the Jews lived. The following month, the Nazis sectioned off and converted part of Amsterdam into a Jewish ghetto. This led...