In the early morning of 10 May 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands. The purpose of the ‘Battle for The Hague’ was to conquer the airports and the city and to capture both the Queen and the Cabinet. Thanks to fierce resistance, with George Maduro and others fighting against the invaders, the German attack failed. But euphoria over the victory was short lived as the Netherlands was eventually nonetheless occupied. Queen Wilhelmina, her family and the government fled to England. The Hague, with the Binnenhof and Plein, became the centre of German rule in the Netherlands. The German Reichskommissar, Dr Arthur Seyss-Inquart, moved into the Logement van Rotterdam at Plein 4.
In 1943, construction of German coastal defences commenced with the Atlantic Wall. This anti-tank trench, running through large parts of The Hague and Scheveningen, left a trail of destruction in its wake. Nor was The Hague spared the horrors of the war. Its Jewish community, the second-largest in the Netherlands, was almost completely exterminated; Sinti and Roma residents were also deported to Auschwitz and almost none of them returned.
From The Hague, Engelandvaarders braved the crossing to England. One of the best known was ‘Soldier of Orange’ Erik Hazelhoff Roelzema. But for those arrested in the resistance, the Oranjehotel was the place where the Germans passed judgement. Prisoners who were sentenced to death were executed on the Waalsdorpervlakte.
In autumn 1944, there was famine in The Hague. Around 2,100 people died of hunger in 1945 alone. In 1944, the Germans also launched a new weapon: the V-2, the first unmanned guided ballistic missile. An Allied attempt to destroy these V-2 rockets went disastrously wrong, leading to wide-scale bombing of the residential neighbourhood of Bezuidenhout on 3 March 1945.
On Saturday, 5 May 1945, the Germans capitulated, but the Allies’ official entry into the Hague did not take place until 8 May. The procession was led by units from the Princess Irene Brigade, a Dutch army unit that formed part of the First Canadian Corps and fought alongside the Allies. Queen Wilhelmina returned to The Hague on 6 July 1945.
Until 1943, Rabbijn Maarsenplein, later renamed after one of the victims, was the heart of The Hague’s Jewish quarter. Today, it plays host to two memorials, the Jewish Monument and the Jewish Children’s Monument, which commemorate the city’s 12,000-plus Jews who were murdered in concentration and extermination camps.
The ‘Oranjehotel’ was the nickname of the Polizeigefängnis, or police prison, the house of detention in Scheveningen during World War Two. More than 25,000 people were imprisoned here between 1940 and 1945.
The Waalsdorpervlakte is located in the Meijendel dune area near The Hague. During World War Two, more than 250 people, including many members of the Dutch resistance, were executed here by the occupying Nazi forces. The Waalsdorpervlakte is one of the most important Dutch war memorials.
George John Lionel Maduro survived almost until the end of the war, when he died in a weakened state in Dachau. Maduro distinguished himself by his conduct during the Battle for The Hague and through his resistance, imprisonment and multiple escape attempts. But betrayal ensured that he did not survive the war. The miniature village of Madurodam in The Hague is a tribute to this unflinching and determined fighter.
Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema, ‘Soldier of Orange’, experienced the war very differently to most of his fellow Dutch citizens. He was involved with the student resistance and was imprisoned but managed to escape. Aside from resistance activities in London as well, Roelfzema also spent time with the secret service and the RAF and took part in landings at Scheveningen. He went on to become an aide-de-camp to Queen Wilhelmina, with whom he returned to Dutch soil on 2 May 1945.
An estimated 1,800 Dutch citizens, the so-called Engelandvaarders, attempted to escape to England during World War Two. Some fell victim to the ‘Englandspiel’, whereby Allied secret agents who returned to the Netherlands from England were betrayed, captured and forced to maintain communications with England but through messages written by the Germans.