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Netherlands 101

Americans often refer to the Netherlands as Holland. But actually Holland is an old country which later became two provinces (North and South Holland) within The Netherlands. These provinces hosts the nation's three largest cities; Amsterdam (the capital), The Hague (government seat) and Rotterdam (Europe's largest port).

Some of the Dutch people don't mind being called Holland (as long as you are smiling) but there are those who don't appreciate that at all. It's like someone referring to the United States as being either Washington DC, New York or New England.

Netherlands literally means low or lower lands. Here three of Europe's major rivers, the Rhine, the Waal and the Maas, empty into the North Sea. These strategic ports connecting these rivers to the sea turned this country into one of the world's major trade centers.

Hitler knew this so naturally he wanted it. His forces invaded the Netherlands on 10 May 1940 and for five days the Dutch Army put up a strong fight. After the Luftwaffe heavily bombarded Rotterdam, killing many civilians, and threatened to start bombing other cities, the Netherlands were forced to surrender.

But not all was lost. The Netherlands had colonies, most notably the Dutch East Indies, and with those troops plus their navy and merchant marines, they were able to make a valuable contribution to the war.

For those stranded in the Netherlands, many joined the Dutch Resistance and did what they could to help win the war. Their stories are heroic. Interesting is how they used their windmills to relay information.

The Netherlands is probably best remembered as being the battle ground for the failed Operation Market Garden, intended to liberate them.

Perhaps no one knows the price of freedom better than the Dutch as they suffered the highest per capita death rate of all Nazi-occupied countries in western Europe and they lost another 30,000 in the Pacific Theatre. They earned their freedom.

Paul Arnett


This WWII Article was last modified on Tuesday, September 20, 2011
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