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Location: Washington State, United States

08 October 2006

The Hunger Winter

Another re-run due very little time. This is a little more about my family history and the "Hunger Winter" in Holland (1944-45.)

The "war" in the Netherlands lasted only three days- they capitulated on 10 May 1940. They then endured five years of Nazi occupation. My father was born in 1932 in Utrecht, which is geographicaly the center of the Netherlands. He spent the war years in Bilthoven, which is about 4 miles east of Utrecht. Bilthoven is next to the airport at Soesterberg, which the Germans used as a weapon depot. Consequently, the Allies strafed the town regularly. My dad showed me the bullet wounds on the trees when we went back in 2001. He remembers that there were never any windows in his house because of the constant bombings.

My mother was born in 1936 in Den Haag (The Hague.) She spent the war years in Ede, which is east of Bilthoven. Her father, grandmother and grandfather all died in her house during the war. She remembers that a Jewish family down the street was sent off to the concentration camps, and the neighbors were asked to keep their furniture for when they came back- they never came back. The house was still there when I went back in 2001. Her mother was forced to house German POWs during the war. My mother remembers having to walk for miles to beg for food for the family.

In September 1944, there was an Allied plan to move north into Holland to end the war quickly. "Operation Marketgarden" (A Bridge Too Far) failed miserably, and so Holland had to wait for 8 more months to be liberated. During this last winter, the weather was very cold and there was no food. Over 16,000 people starved to death during this time. The Germans made a virtual wall around Northern and central Holland and no food or other humanitarian aid could enter. My father had to eat his pet crow and tulip bulbs, among other things. The house he lived in (pictured) had no windows because the Allies strafed the town almost every day. My father never knew if he would be alive for another day. Finally, when it was obvious that Germany was going to lose the war, a tentative agreement was reached that Allied planes could come and drop food over pre-determined sites to help the people.

The operation was called "Operation Chowhound" for the Americans and "Operation Manna" for the British. The planes (B-17's and Lancasters) were in instructed to fly between 300-400 feet over the drop sites. Even before the papers were signed, planes began the food drops. The Germans had anti-aircraft weapons in case the Allied were going to bomb instead of drop food. Although the food drops were maybe too late to prevent much of the starvation, they did wonders for the morale of the people. The Canadians were then able to liberate Holland on the fifth of May 1945. My mother remembers riding on the Canadian tanks when they liberated Ede. There is still avery special bond between the Dutch and their liberators. After the war, the restoration of Holland was very diffiicult. Most of the infrastructure was completely destroyed. A new government was set up (Socialist) and a new economy was established. The rebuilding was slow and hard. Much farmland had been destroyed, and housing was at a premium for many years.

Since this is a long post, I will continue the story later. Please let me know if you find this interesting!

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Blogger Lizza said...

*waving hands frantically*

I find it fascinating! I've read stories of the German occupation in the Netherlands (Anne Frank, of course, and some others). But it's always great to find out more. History buff that I am, I know some Dutch history (as well as those of some other European countries). I'm sorry your parents had to go through such a trying period. I'm glad the house is still standing.

Thanks for sharing!

09 October, 2006 09:03  
Blogger Benny said...

Hello! You have a very nice blog!
I want to exchange links with your blog, here is mine:
Let me know if you want to link exchange with me, simply write the comment, and add my blog to your links, and i will add your blog to my link!
Thank You,
Keep the good work!

15 October, 2006 09:39  
Blogger INAMINI said...

Lizza and Benny- thanks for visiting!

16 October, 2006 16:17  
Blogger KJP said...

I used to spend a great deal of time travelling around Holland back in the 1960's. One of my favorite places was Delft.

In Delft was a little restraunt where all of the walls were covered with burlap bags. I asked the owner what was up with that and she told me that the bags were what were used to drop food supplies to them. I guess the story you just related!

The bags were each marked with what the product was and where it came from. Potatoes from Boise, Idaho; flour from Portland, Oregon; etc, etc.

She had a great love for all Americans, never forgetting why she survived the war and the tough period afterwards.

If you make it to Holland - give my love to Hardewijk - best town ever....

17 October, 2006 17:50  

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