The Dutch famine of 1944–45, known in the Netherlands as the Hongerwinter (literal translation: hunger winter), was a famine that took place in the German-occupied Netherlands, especially in the densely populated western provinces north of the great rivers, during the winter of 1944–45, near the end of World War II.
The Netherlands is a country located mainly in Northwestern Europe. The European portion of the Netherlands consists of twelve provinces that border Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest, with maritime borders in the North Sea with Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom. Together with three island territories in the Caribbean Sea—Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba—it forms a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The official language is Dutch, but a secondary official language in the province of Friesland is West Frisian.
A famine is a widespread scarcity of food, caused by several factors including war, inflation, crop failure, population imbalance, or government policies. This phenomenon is usually accompanied or followed by regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality. Every inhabited continent in the world has experienced a period of famine throughout history. In the 19th and 20th century, it was generally Southeast and South Asia, as well as Eastern and Central Europe that suffered the most deaths from famine. The numbers dying from famine began to fall sharply from the 2000s.
World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 70 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.
A German blockade cut off food and fuel shipments from farm towns. Some 4.5 million were affected and survived thanks to soup kitchens. Loe de Jong (1914–2005), author of The Kingdom of the Netherlands During World War II , estimated at least 22,000 deaths occurred due to the famine. Another author estimated 18,000 deaths from the famine. Most of the victims were reportedly elderly men.
Louis "Loe" de Jong, a Dutch historian, specialised in the Netherlands in World War II and the Dutch resistance.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands During World War II is the standard reference on the history of the Netherlands during World War II. The series was written by Loe de Jong (1914–2005), director of the Dutch Institute for War Documentation, and was published between 1969 and 1991. The series contains 14 volumes, published in 29 parts. De Jong was commissioned to write the work in 1955 by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. The first volume appeared in 1969, and de Jong wrote his last in 1988. The final volume, containing critique and responses, appeared in 1991.
The famine was alleviated by the liberation of the provinces by the Allies in May 1945. Prior to that, bread baked from flour shipped in from Sweden, and the airlift of food by the Royal Air Force, the Royal Canadian Air Force, and the United States Army Air Forces – under an agreement with the Germans that if the Germans did not shoot at the mercy flights, the Allies would not bomb the German positions – helped to mitigate the famine. These were Operations Manna and Chowhound. Operation Faust also trucked in food to the province.[ citation needed ]
The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the United Kingdom's aerial warfare force. Formed towards the end of the First World War on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world. Following victory over the Central Powers in 1918 the RAF emerged as, at the time, the largest air force in the world. Since its formation, the RAF has taken a significant role in British military history. In particular, it played a large part in the Second World War where it fought its most famous campaign, the Battle of Britain.
The Royal Canadian Air Force is the air force of Canada. Its role is to "provide the Canadian Forces with relevant, responsive and effective airpower". The RCAF is one of three environmental commands within the unified Canadian Armed Forces. As of 2013, the Royal Canadian Air Force consists of 14,500 Regular Force and 2,600 Primary Reserve personnel, supported by 2,500 civilians, and operates 258 manned aircraft and 9 unmanned aerial vehicles. Lieutenant-General Al Meinzinger is the current Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force and Chief of the Air Force Staff.
The United States Army Air Forces, informally known as the Air Force, was the aerial warfare service component of the United States Army during and immediately after World War II (1939/41–1945), successor to the previous United States Army Air Corps and the direct predecessor of the United States Air Force of today, one of the five uniformed military services. The AAF was a component of the United States Army, which on 2 March 1942 was divided functionally by executive order into three autonomous forces: the Army Ground Forces, the Services of Supply, and the Army Air Forces. Each of these forces had a commanding general who reported directly to the Army Chief of Staff.
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Towards the end of World War II, food supplies became increasingly scarce in the Netherlands. After the landing of the Allied Forces on D-Day, conditions grew increasingly bad in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands. The Allies were able to liberate the southern part of the country, but these efforts came to an abrupt halt when Operation Market Garden, the attempt seize a bridge across the Rhine at Arnhem, failed.
The Allies of World War II, called the United Nations from the 1 January 1942 declaration, were the countries that together opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War (1939–1945). The Allies promoted the alliance as a means to control German, Japanese and Italian aggression.
Operation Market Garden was a failed World War II military operation fought in the Netherlands from 17 to 25 September 1944. It was the brainchild of Field Marshal Sir Bernard Law Montgomery, planned primarily by Generals Brereton and Williams of the USAAF. The airborne part of the operation was undertaken by the First Allied Airborne Army with the land operation by XXX Corps of the British Second Army. The objective was to create a 64 mi (103 km) salient into German territory with a foothold over the River Rhine, creating an Allied invasion route into northern Germany. This was to be achieved by seizing a series of nine bridges by Airborne forces with land forces swiftly following moving over the bridges. The operation succeeded in liberating the Dutch cities of Eindhoven and Nijmegen along with many towns, creating a 60 mi (97 km) salient into German-held territory limiting V-2 rocket launching sites. It failed, however, to secure a foothold over the Rhine, halting at the river.
The Rhine is one of the major European rivers, which has its sources in Switzerland and flows in a mostly northerly direction through Germany and the Netherlands, emptying into the North Sea. The river begins in the Swiss canton of Graubünden in the southeastern Swiss Alps, forms part of the Swiss-Liechtenstein, Swiss-Austrian, Swiss-German and then the Franco-German border, then flows through the German Rhineland and the Netherlands and eventually empties into the North Sea.
The Allied advance into Germany was delayed by supply problems as the port of Antwerp was not useable until the approaches had been cleared in the Battle of the Scheldt. But Montgomery had given priority to "Market Garden"; and to the capture of the French Channel ports like Bolougne, Calais and Dunkirk, which were resolutely defended and had suffered demolitions, see Operation Market Garden .
The Battle of the Scheldt in World War II was a series of military operations by Canadian, British and Polish formations to open up the shipping route to Antwerp so that its port could be used to supply the Allies in north-west Europe. Led by Lieutenant-General Guy Simonds, the battle took place in northern Belgium and southwestern Netherlands from October 2 to November 8, 1944.
Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein,, nicknamed "Monty" and "The Spartan General", was a senior British Army officer who fought in both the First World War and the Second World War.
After the national railways complied with the exiled Dutch government's appeal for a railway strike starting September 1944 to further the Allied liberation efforts, the German administration (under Wehrmachtbefehlshaber Friedrich Christiansen) retaliated by placing an embargo on all food transports to the western Netherlands. By the time the embargo was partially lifted in early November 1944, allowing restricted food transports over water, the unusually early and harsh winter had already set in. The canals froze over and became impassable for barges.
Nederlandse Spoorwegen is a Dutch state-owned company, the principal passenger railway operator in the Netherlands. Founded in 1938, NS provides rail services on the Dutch main rail network. The Dutch rail network is the 7th busiest in the European Union, and 16th busiest in the world.
Friedrich Christiansen was the commander of the German Wehrmacht in the occupied Netherlands during World War II. He was convicted for war crimes after the war. During World War I, he was flying ace who claimed shooting down twenty planes and an airship; he was credited with thirteen of those claims.
Food stocks in the cities in the western Netherlands rapidly ran out. The adult rations in cities such as Amsterdam dropped to below 1000 calories (4,200 kilojoules) a day by the end of November 1944 and to 580 calories in the west by the end of February 1945. Over this Hongerwinter ("Hunger winter"), a number of factors combined to cause starvation in especially the large cities in the West of the Netherlands. The winter in the month of January 1945 itself was unusually harsh prohibiting transport by boat for roughly a month between early January 1945 and early February 1945. Also, the German army destroyed docks and bridges to flood the country and impede the Allied advance. Thirdly, Allied bombing made it extremely difficult to transport food in bulk, since Allied bombers could not distinguish German military and civilian shipments. As the south-eastern (the Maas valley) and the south-western part of the Netherlands (Walcheren and Beveland) became one of the main western battlefields, these conditions combined to make the transport of existing food stocks in large enough quantities nearly impossible.
The areas affected were home to 4.5 million people. Butter disappeared after October 1944, shortly after railway transport to the western parts of the Netherlands had stopped in September due to the railway strike. The supply of vegetable fats dwindled to a minuscule seven-month supply of 1.3 liters per person. At first 100 grams of cheese were allotted every two weeks; the meat coupons became worthless. The bread ration had already dropped from 2,200 to 1,800 and then to 1,400 grams per week. Then it fell to 1,000 grams in October, and by April 1945 to 400 grams a week. Together with one kilogram of potatoes, this then formed the entire weekly ration. The black market increasingly ran out of food as well, and with the gas and electricity and heat turned off, everyone was very cold and very hungry. In search of food, young strong people would walk for tens of kilometers to trade valuables for food at farms. Tulip bulbs and sugar beets were commonly consumed. Furniture and houses were dismantled to provide fuel for heating.
In the last months of 1944, in anticipation of the coming famine, tens of thousands of children were brought from the cities to rural areas where many remained until the end of the war. Deaths in the three big cities of the Western Netherlands (The Hague, Rotterdam, and Amsterdam) started in earnest in December 1944, reaching a peak in March 1945,but remained very high in April and May 1945. In early summer 1945 the famine was brought quickly under control. From September 1944 until May 1945 the deaths of 18,000 Dutch people were attributed to malnutrition as the primary cause and in many more as a contributing factor.
The Dutch Famine ended with the liberation by the Allies of the western Netherlands in May 1945. Shortly before that, some relief had come from "Swedish bread", which was baked in the Netherlands from flour shipped in from Sweden. Shortly after these shipments, the German occupiers allowed coordinated air drops of food over German-occupied Dutch territory by the Royal Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force from 29 April to 7 May (Operation Manna), and by the U.S. Army Air Forces from 1 to 8 May (Operation Chowhound). The Germans agreed not to shoot at the planes flying the mercy missions, and the Allies agreed not to bomb German positions. Operation Faust also trucked in food to Rhenen beginning on 2 May, utilizing 200 vehicles. Rhenen was also occupied by the Germans
The Dutch famine of 1944–45 was a rare case of a famine which took place in a modern, developed, and literate country, albeit one suffering under the privations of occupation and war. The well-documented experience has helped scientists to measure the effects of famine on human health.
The Dutch Famine Birth Cohort Studyfound that the children of pregnant women exposed to famine were more susceptible to diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, microalbuminuria and other health problems.
Moreover, the children of the women who were pregnant during the famine were smaller, as expected. However, surprisingly, when these children grew up and had children those children were thought to also be smaller than average.This data suggested that the famine experienced by the mothers caused some kind of epigenetic changes that were passed down to the next generation. Despite this, a subsequent study by the same author failed to find a correlation between maternal exposure to famine and birth weight of the next generation.
The discovery of the cause of coeliac disease may also be partly attributed to the Dutch famine. With wheat in very short supply there was an improvement at a children's ward of coeliac patients. Stories tell of the first precious supplies of bread being given specifically to the (no longer) sick children, prompting an immediate relapse. Thus in the 1940s the Dutch paediatrician Dr. Willem Dickewas able to corroborate his previously researched hypothesis that wheat intake was aggravating coeliac disease. Later Dicke went on to prove his theory.
Audrey Hepburn spent her childhood in the Netherlands during the famine and despite her later wealth she had lifelong negative medical repercussions. She suffered from anemia, respiratory illnesses, and œdema as a result.
Subsequent academic research on the children who were affected in the second trimester of their mother's pregnancy found an increased incidence of schizophrenia in these children.Also increased among them were the rates of schizotypal personality and neurological defects.
Some studies have suggested that epigenetic damage caused by the famine has caused increased morbidity in the grandchildren of Hongerwinter survivors.
The European theatre of World War II, also known as the Second European War, was a huge area of heavy fighting across Europe, starting with Germany's invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939 and ending with the Soviet Union conquering most of Eastern Europe and Germany’s unconditional surrender on 8 May 1945. The Allied powers fought the Axis powers on two major fronts as well as in a massive air war and in the adjoining Mediterranean and Middle East theatre.
Anton Adriaan Mussert was one of the founders of the National Socialist Movement in the Netherlands (NSB) and its formal leader. As such, he was the most prominent Dutch fascist before and during World War II. During the war, he was able to keep this position, due to the support he received from the Germans. After the war, he was convicted and executed for high treason.
The Western Front was a military theatre of World War II encompassing Denmark, Norway, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Germany. World War II military engagements in Southern Europe and elsewhere are generally considered under separate headings. The Western Front was marked by two phases of large-scale combat operations. The first phase saw the capitulation of the Netherlands, Belgium, and France during May and June 1940 after their defeat in the Low Countries and the northern half of France, and continued into an air war between Germany and Britain that climaxed with the Battle of Britain. The second phase consisted of large-scale ground combat, which began in June 1944 with the Allied landings in Normandy and continued until the defeat of Germany in May 1945.
Despite being neutral, the Netherlands in World War II was invaded by Nazi Germany on 10 May 1940, under orders of Adolf Hitler. On 15 May 1940, one day after the bombing of Rotterdam, the Dutch forces surrendered. The Dutch government and the royal family saved themselves by going to London. Princess Juliana and her children moved on to Canada for additional safety.
The Netherlands entered World War II on May 10, 1940, when invading German forces quickly overran them. On December 7, 1941, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Netherlands government in exile also declared war on Japan. Operation Market Garden, which started in 1944, liberated the southern and eastern parts of the country, but full liberation did not come until the surrender of Germany on May 5, 1945.
The Vietnamese famine of 1945 was a famine that occurred in northern Vietnam in French Indochina during World War II from October 1944 to late 1945, which at the time was under Japanese occupation from 1940 with Vichy France as a puppet government. Between 400,000 and 2 million people are estimated to have starved to death during this time. The demographics vary from French estimates of 600,000-700,000 dead, to official Vietnamese numbers of 1,000,000 to 2,000,000 victims.
The military history of Greece during World War II began on 28 October 1940, when the Italian Army invaded from Albania, beginning the Greco-Italian War. The Greek Army was able to halt the invasion temporarily and was able to push the Italians back into Albania. The Greek successes forced Nazi Germany to intervene. The Germans invaded Greece and Yugoslavia on 6 April 1941, and overran both countries within a month, despite British aid to Greece in the form of an expeditionary corps. The conquest of Greece was completed in May with the capture of Crete from the air, although the Fallschirmjäger suffered such extensive casualties in this operation that the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht abandoned large-scale airborne operations for the remainder of the war. The German diversion of resources in the Balkans is also considered by some historians to have delayed the launch of the invasion of the Soviet Union by a critical month, which proved disastrous when the German Army failed to take Moscow.
Upon defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, the victorious Allies asserted joint authority and sovereignty over 'Germany as a whole', defined as all territories of the former German Reich west of the Oder–Neisse line, having declared the destruction of Nazi Germany at the death of Adolf Hitler. The four powers divided 'Germany as a whole' into four occupation zones for administrative purposes, under the United States, United Kingdom, France and the Soviet Union respectively; creating what became collectively known as Allied-occupied Germany. This division was ratified at the Potsdam Conference. The four zones were as agreed in February 1945 by the United States, United Kingdom and Soviet Union meeting at the Yalta Conference; setting aside an earlier division into three zones proposed by the London Protocol.
The Dutch resistance to the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands during World War II can be mainly characterized as non-violent, and was organized by the Communist Party, churches, and independent groups. A peak of over 300,000 people were hidden from German authorities in the autumn of 1944, tended to by some 60,000 to 200,000 illegal landlords and caretakers, and tolerated knowingly by some one million people, including a few incidental individuals among German occupiers and military.
The Military Administration in France was an interim occupation authority established by Nazi Germany during World War II to administer the occupied zone in areas of northern and western France. This so-called zone occupée was renamed zone nord in November 1942, when the previously unoccupied zone in the south known as zone libre was also occupied and renamed zone sud.
Herzogenbusch concentration camp was a Nazi concentration camp located in Vught near the city of 's-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands. Herzogenbusch was, with Natzweiler-Struthof in occupied France, the only concentration camp run directly by the SS in western Europe outside Germany. The camp was first used in 1943 and held 31,000 prisoners. 749 prisoners died in the camp, and the others were transferred to other camps shortly before the camp was liberated by the Allied Forces in 1944. After the war the camp was used as a prison for Germans and Dutch collaborators. Today there is a visitors' center with exhibitions and a national monument remembering the camp and its victims. The camp is now a museum.
Dolle Dinsdag took place in the Netherlands on 5 September 1944 after broadcasts alleging that Breda had been liberated caused rumours to spread across the occupied Netherlands that the liberation by Allied forces was at hand, prompting celebrations.
The Hunger Plan was a plan developed by Nazi Germany during World War II to seize food from the Soviet Union and give it to German soldiers and civilians; the plan entailed the death by starvation of millions of "racially inferior" Slavs following Operation Barbarossa, the 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union. The premise behind the Hunger Plan was that Germany was not self-sufficient in food supplies, and to sustain the war and keep up the domestic morale it needed to obtain the food from conquered lands at any cost. It was an engineered famine, planned and implemented as an act of policy. This plan was developed during the planning phase for the Wehrmacht invasion and provided for diverting of the Ukrainian food stuffs away from central and northern Russia and redirecting them for the benefit of the invading army and the population in Germany. The plan resulted in the deaths of millions of people. The plan as a means of mass murder was outlined in several documents, including one that became known as Göring's Green Folder, which quoted a number of "20 to 30 million" expected Russian deaths from "military actions and crises of food supply."
Willem Karel Dicke was a Dutch paediatrician who was the first to develop the gluten-free diet and to show that in coeliac disease some types of flour cause relapse.
American food policy in occupied Germany refers to the food supply policies enacted by the U.S., and to some extent its dependent Allies, in the western occupation zones of Germany in the first two years of the ten-year occupation of Western Germany following World War II.
Air Commodore Andrew James Wray Geddes was the senior Royal Air Force officer during World War II who led the planning for Operation Manna, the air drop of food supplies to the starving population of the Netherlands.
The Great Famine was a period of mass starvation during the Axis occupation of Greece, during World War II (1941–1944). The local population suffered greatly during this period, while the Axis Powers initiated a policy of large scale plunder. Moreover, requisitions, together with the Allied blockade of Greece, the ruined state of the country's infrastructure, and the emergence of a powerful and well-connected black market, resulted in the Great Famine, with the mortality rate reaching a peak during the winter of 1941–42. The great suffering and the pressure of the Greek diaspora eventually forced the British to lift the blockade partially, and from the summer of 1942, the International Red Cross was able to distribute supplies in sufficient quantities; however, the situation remained grim until the end of the occupation.
Geertruida Wijsmuller-Meijer was a Dutch resistance fighter, who brought Jewish children and adults into safety before and during the Second World War. Together with other people involved in the pre-war Kindertransport, she saved the lives of more than 10,000 Jewish children. She was honored as Righteous among the Nations by Yad Vashem.
A decade ago, when the grandchildren of men and women exposed to the famine were studied, they, too, were reported to have had higher rates of illness.
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