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LIBERATED!

NOS 75 years of liberation
Click on the image for some of the most stunning captured moments from the liberation
Click on the image for some of the most stunning captured moments from the liberation
1821 days of occupation. Eight months of battle. And an uncountable number of sacrifices. But it is finally over: Nazi-Germany has surrendered. The Netherlands has been liberated. Welcome to the 36th issue of our newsletter.
The week starts with a tense calm. Major battles are over in our country, the Allies focus on feeding those in need. Not only by air anymore (the message “many thanks, yanks” can be seen in a tulip field), but starting this week food is also delivered over land by the Canadians, driving their trucks trough Utrecht. The frail understanding between the Allies and the Germans was a clear portent of victory.
On the 4th of May it was Montgomery on the Lüneburger Heide who pushed through the capitulation of the German troops on his west flank, including the Netherlands. The German generals did not initially want to discuss such an extensive ceasefire. But after reviewing the British war maps they changed their minds.  
Montgomery started at the moment of arrival a psychological mind game
Montgomery started at the moment of arrival a psychological mind game
The news of our liberation spreads through the country like wildfire. Queen Wilhelmina receives the news late at night in Breda, where she had moved to two days prior. In the liberated areas people take to the streets everywhere to celebrate, even though the liberation of our country does not go into effect until the next day at 8 am.
The liberation also comes as a shock to the German troops that still occupy some parts of the country. General Blaskowitz initially sends a subordinate to the meeting in Wageningen where the Germans are to stand down. General Foulkes orders the commander to attend the meeting himself to properly work everything out. 
All the hawing by the Germans leads to delays. The western parts of the country are left confused. Everyone knows the peace is signed, but the German troops have not yet been replaced by Allied forces. The uncertainty leads to violence between local forces and German troops. On Dam square the bloodiest confrontation takes place when shots are fired at a celebrating crowd.
Only on the 7th of May (!) Allied forces advance through the former Festung Holland. The advance moves through the celebrating crowds, causing such a delay that the larger cities are not reached until a day later. In Amsterdam it is the Dutch soldier Niek de Bode who enrolled in the Canadian army that lays first contact with the Germans: Nick the conqueror of Amsterdam his colleagues nicknamed him. Also, these provinces stay shut off for most Dutch people. To prevent the spread of diseases they are placed under quarantine. 
Meanwhile people start settling scores. Anton Mussert and NSB-propagandist Max Blokzeil, who even held a broadcast on the 6th of May are arrested. Both of them will be executed within a year. Arthur Seyss-Inquart is arrested in Hamburg and is interrogated in Delden. He will be executed after the Neurenberg Trials in October 1946.
Click on the picture for a video on the return of the fallen governor
Click on the picture for a video on the return of the fallen governor
On different places people do not wait for a trial. Women that had dated a German are publicly humiliated. Sometimes even ending with violence. This week already the first traitors are executed. They received a few months prior the death penalty for collaboration with the Germans.
In Germany “human life is not worth much”, a Dutch forced laborer noticed in besieged Berlin. The same thing was seen in the empty camp of Neuengamme: a lot of the prisoners died just before they were freed in a misplaced bombardment on the Cap Arcona.
Even up to the present day it is still unclear why the message notifying the RAF of the presence of prisoners on the Cap Arcona never reached London. More information on the ship disaster is still under seal in British archives, until 2045.
On the 8th of May the official end of the war in Europe has arrived. VE-Day. The day lights went back on across our continent. 
VE-Day in Paris
VE-Day in Paris
We go on
The war in Europe might be over, but in Asia Japan is still resisting surrender. The coming months we will continue our liberation website and our newsletter. Not only will we cover the battle for the Dutch East Indies but also the start of reconstruction and the aftermath of the war: the return of the camp survivors, the disarming of defeated enemies and a summer of waiting for the Canadians. 
Not used on the site
The story seems so simple: on the 5th of May, the Germans capitulated in the Hotel De Wereld in Wageningen. However, even a decades later there is still discussion: “was is a capitulation?”, “Was it the 5th of May?”, “Was it in Hotel De Wereld?”
To start off general Montgomery had made the German troops surrender on the Lüneburger Heide a day prior. The capitulation, which went into effect at 8 AM on the 5th, covered the troops in the Netherlands, Denmark and the northwest of Germany.
The meeting in Wageningen was meant to discuss the handling of the capitulation, not a surrender. Foulkes wanted to talk over the plans with Blaskowitz of the short note that Monty had signed.
Since there was no typewriter to be found in plundered Wageningen, all official papers had to be rewritten for the next day. So Blaskowitz signed the day after, hidden from the eyes of the camera’s on the grounds of the Agricutural Institute.
Others say that Blaskowitz had agreed on the capitulation by answering “jawohl” in hotel De Wereld. Legally he had surrendered, on the 5th of May, in De Wereld, signature or not.
Blaskowitz’ adjutant Reichelt came forth in the 70s with a third version: the document itself was signed somewhere else, in an unknown ruin just outside Wageningen. “Bullocks” Foulkes’ adjutant Kitching reacted to this statement. He said that the former general was confused with a different meeting.
The trivia confusing was perhaps the result of what historian Loe de Jong called the “frayed ending” of the war. “This was not a militairy affair, but a very administrative one”. Paperwork instead of bullets. He did add “I do agree with all my heart on the celebration of the liberation on the 5th of May.”
75 years later: WO II and liberation news from 2020
It was a very special week of commemoration and celebration. King Willem-Alexander held a speech on an empty Dam square. It was the first time ever a head of state did this. “The results of war can be seen trough the generations.” Remarkably he talked about the shortcomings of queen Wilhelmina. “People felt left behind”, is what he said about his great-grandmother.
The special programs the NOS made about liberation can be found back here. The liberation newscasts can be found here.
The one hundred pictures chosen by the audience surprised the experts. “We expected a lot of pictures of the liberation. But the majority of the audience chose for a different set of pictures. The difficult confrontations during the war, the violence of the war.”
A special picture that couldn’t be voted for was the image taken of the wedding of Mussert: it was only found this week, together with other private documents of the NSB-leader.
Our appeal in last weeks issue led to a conversation with the 90-year-old Jan Vrijheid and Nassreddin Taibi (18): the formed did not receive a diploma due to the war, the latter due to corona.
In addition to Jan’s reaction we received many more. A few of them shall be used later on for a story in June,when in 1945 it becomes clear that the exams are canceled. Thank you for the reactions.
Preview
Next week the first full week of freedom. We will focus on the settling of scores, but also on the enduring food shortages. We also discuss an emotional commemoration in the synagogue of Amsterdam and cover a special interview with Mussert in his prison cell.
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See you next week, in the meantime please follow nos.nl/75jaarbevrijding. You can also follow our Instagram-account 75 years liberation for more photo’s and video’s.