On this day 75 years ago, 5 May 1945, The Netherlands was finally freed from Nazi occupation after almost exactly 5 years of occupation. The Netherlands was invaded on 10 May 1940, and fell to the German forces 5 days later – making it and Norway two of the countries that were occupied for the longest period of time during WWII.

Infantry of the Regiment de Maisonneuve moving through Holten to Rijssen, the Netherlands on 9 April 1945. Photo Credit: Lt. D. Gurevitch, cataloged under the National Archives Identifier (NAID) 541913


The campaign for the liberation of the Netherlands was also very lengthy – lasting from September 1944 through April 1945 – and saw the Dutch civilian population suffer terrible food shortages and other deprivations at the hands of the occupying German forces. The Germans themselves were in pretty desperate straights as they were basically cut off from reinforcements and resupply after the failed Ardennes Offensive in the winter of 1944.

A column of Canadian Alligator amphibious vehicles passing ‘Terrapin’ amphibious vehicles on the Scheldt River near Neuzen, Belgium on 13 Oct 1944. Photo Credit: Donald I. Grant. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada PA-114754


Despite the shortages of supplies and reinforcements, the German Army in the Netherlands and Belgium fought stubbornly until the very end. The First Canadian Army played a major role in defeating them and liberating large areas of territory in both Belgium and the Netherlands, culminating in the Canadians accepting the unconditional surrender of German forces in the Netherlands on this day 75 years. More than 7,600 Canadians died during the eight months it took to achieve that victory.

A convoy of Canadian trucks full of food rolling into German occupied territory in western Netherlands on 3 May 1945 near Wageningen. Photo Credit: Alexander M. Stirton/Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA-134419


The civilian population of the Netherlands suffered even worse – especially during the “Hongerwinter” (literally: ‘hunger winter’) famine during the winter of 1944-45 when the German occupiers cut off all food and fuel shipments to the western provinces of The Netherlands. The occupation forces cut off supplies to the country in retaliation for a general strike that had been called for by the Dutch government in exile in late 1944. Estimates of civilian casualties during the Hongerwinter range from 18,000 – 30,000 dead.

Canadian Lt. General Charles Foulkes (on the left side of the table) accepted the surrender of all German forces in Holland from General Blaskowitz in the Hotel de Wereld in Wageningen. Prince Bernhardt of the Netherlands was also present (nearest to camera on the left). Prince Bernhard was German by birth but when he married Dutch princess Juliana in 1937 he swore allegiance to the Dutch House of Orange and cut off any contact with members of his family who were Nazis. As a representative of the Dutch Crown, Bernhard also refused to speak German during the surrender negotiations. Photo credit: Alex Stirton; Library and Archives Canada a138588