Friday, February 5, 2010

De tussenoorlog

Chapter 8 opens with a tragically optimistic front page from the May 13, 1940 Sumatra Post, "In spite of intensive airborne tactics, the Netherlands is the master of the situation."

The title of this chapter might be best rendered as, "The Interim War." It covers the posturing and intrigue leading up to and including Germany's invasion of Holland in 1940. It had been planned for 1939, but weather and other difficulties for the Germans intervened. The invasion was delayed many times.

In American texts, the war starts in 1939, with Hitler sweeping across Europe after double-crossing Stalin. Mak writes the Dutch view, with hopes of neutrality there. In the rest of Europe, there were monuments to the legions who died just over 20 years earlier. Nobody could quite believe it was happening again. There was some time between the pact with Stalin and its betrayal. Poland was crushed by both Germany and the Soviet Union. It was ground down for quite a while.

The interim time has also been written up as "The Phoney War." All sorts of plans were being made. Dutch intelligence knew that an occupation was coming. Plans were made to get the Royal Family out. Gold deposits were moved to London and New York. Still, people clung to the idea of neutrality. Minister-President Dirk-Jan de Geer gave a stirring speech anyway.

In 1939, the Maks travelled to the Netherlands from the colony. They left a couple of the older kids behind before going back to the Dutch East Indies. There was more heartbreak, as their vacation went through Switzerland. It made me wonder what might have been if they had decided to stay and sit out the war. They made their way back at the beginning of 1940, stopping in Italy. They could see soldiers everywhere, and the war was definitely on.

One issue that Geert Mak doesn't tackle is the ridiculous position some of the kids were in on that trip. They were going home to the Netherlands, a place where they had never been before. Such things often happen with expats and colonists.

The chapter closes with words from his brother Hans about events closing in. Incredibly, their last vacation was in 1941. Everyone talked of the war, and there was talk of capitulation. Although money was going to buy Spitfires, it was too little, way too late. Like the Netherlands itself, the Dutch East Indies was waiting to be picked off.

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