First World War in the Netherlands: neutrality and sweets


While Dutch children celebrate Sint-Maarten, knocking door to door at night, carrying hand-made lanterns and singing songs for sweets (sounds familiar?), a Canadian like me sees 11 November as Remembrance Day, the day we commemorate the millions of fallen during the First World War.

The Dutch were neutral during the First World War. When brought up in casual conversation, most people politely shrug and move the conversation to the Second World War, as if the first didn’t concern them, when it fact, they know very little about it. As well, the War of 1914-1918 wasn’t called the first until the second came because having a first meant a second was coming.

Available online for free under the Creative Commons license, why not read a Dutch take on the First World War, this one entitled “The Art of Staying Neutral: The Netherlands in the First World War, 1914-1918” by Maartje M. Abbenhuis. Abbenhuis explains that even though the Netherlands’ neutrality was maintained, they still feared an invasion, they still sent men to the front, they still had to watch the destruction in Belgium and France, they had to deal with rations and become a fertile breeding ground for spies, including figures like their very own Mata Hari.

Today, it’s been 100 years since the First World War. Sorry kids, I won’t be home to give you sweets, I’ll be reading.

(Photo: Photo of Poppies by Eric Hill, some rights reserved)

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