The Hunger Winter in The Netherlands was the last winter of the Second World War from 1944 to 1945 with a great scarcity of food and fuel. It led, especially in the cities of the western Netherlands, to a large famine. At least seventy thousand people succumbed to hunger and cold.
Causes of the shortages
The famine in the west of the country was afterwards determined to be caused by three elements:
- Because of the liberation of the southern Netherlands it was no longer possible to supply coal from the Limburg mines. In the Netherlands, coal was necessary to heat the houses, but also to generate electricity and thus also to power the pumping stations. Because the pumping stations no longer worked, the water was no longer pumped away from the fields, so that the cultivation of vegetables in the West of the country literally rotted in the water. The cold of that winter, the lack of wood to keep the houses warm, and the lack of food led to diseases such as dysentery and diphtheria, which killed many elderly people and children.
- The order for a General Railway Strike in 1944, proclaimed on September 17 by the Dutch government in London. This railway strike meant that not only was it no longer possible to supply food from the east and north of the country, but also that 30,000 train personnel had to go into hiding, putting extra pressure on the emergency food supply. After two weeks, the Germans had more or less reestablished the train connections, with Dutch train personnel who sympathized with the Germans.
- The reprisals with which the German occupier responded to the strike: Food transport to the west was blocked for a period of six weeks simply by closing the Afsluitdijk, the bridges crossing the IJssel river and the Frisian/Overijssel IJsselmeer ports and no longer issuing transport permits. In this severe winter, the IJsselmeer froze quite quickly due to the lack of boats, which would normally keep the shipping routes open. After this blockade one had to wait for the thaw to set in before ships could cross the IJsselmeer again. This caused a famine of catastrophic proportions in the western Netherlands. (from wikipedia june 2021)
Research by the author, commissioned by one of the starving winter children who was put on transport, Dirk van Reenen, only provides 1 clearly identifiable cause: the government of the Netherlands in exile that allowed the railway strike to continue after it was clear that it had no effect on the occupiers. Points 1 and 3 have increased this effect and made the suffering worse.
In the document "Context Hunger Winter" more can be found.