Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

World War II & the Holocaust in the Netherlands

Despite declaring neutrality at the outset of the war, the Netherlands was invaded by Nazi Germany on 10 May 1940. Four days later the Dutch army was forced to surrender as a result of their defeat in the Rotterdam Blitz. The Dutch government and the Royal family moved to London. The majority of  Dutch Siniti, Roma and Jews were sent to concentration camps in the east. After an especially harsh winter, from which many thousands died of starvation, relief came in April 1945 when the Allied forces crossed the Rhine River in Operation Plunder, beginning 23 March 1945.

Anne Frank House

The Anne Frank House offers insight into one of the more harrowing chapters of modern history. This is where the Frank family and four others hid from persecution during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. After they were discovered, they were sent to extermination camps, where Anne was killed. Her diary was posthumously published in 1947, with the House opening in 1960. Although queues to see the space where the young author scripted her famous journal tend to be long, it is an altogether unique experience.

Atlantic Wall Centre - Huisduinen

The striking Neoclassical building constructed in 1942 was the administrative centre and German Naval Officers’ quarters during the German occupation of the Netherlands. Until 1992 the controversial building was used by both the Artillery of the Royal Army and the Royal Navy. Following a fire in 2009 it became a centre for learning about Den Helder and the Atlantic Wall. Interactive displays, original artefacts and eyewitness accounts tell the story of the Wadden Area during the war.

Bunkers at Burgh Haamstede

To the west of Burgh Haamstede are the remains of a vast and complex system of bunkers and underground shelters, interconnected by concrete tunnels. This was the command headquarters of the ‘Stützpunktgruppe Schouwen’. It was from here that operations over the entire Schouwen-Duiveland area were directed. The area played a crucial role in the final months of the war. In particular from 4 September until 8 November 1944 during the Battle for the Scheldt, when the Allies sought to take control of the route into Antwerp.

Casemates Museum

Still accessible by car or public transport, the Kazemattenmuseum (Casemates Museum) is situated on the afsluitdijk: the 32 kilometre long dam which separates the Zuiderzee from the North Sea. This dramatic landscape feature was the setting of one of the lesser known battles of World War II, the Battle of the Afsluitdijk in May 1940. Thanks to the casemates, another term for fortified gun emplacements, this was one the few places where the German Blitzkrieg was successfully halted. Visitors can learn more at the visitor’s centre before exploring the casemates themselves.

De Punt Bunkers - Widerstandsnest 220 H

The WWII complex bunkers at De Punt, Widerstandsnest 220 H, were entirely covered by the shifting dunes. Although the delta island of Goeree-Overflakkee delta was not strategically important, it was an essential part of the Atlantic Wall. The clear trajectory for cannon fire towards the entrance of the Grevelingen between Goeree and Schouwen called for a heavy infantry post here. Thanks to the work of volunteers, the complex of 15 bunkers is once again visible, and accessible throughout the year, with tours offered on memorial days.

Freedom Museum

Inside a 12 m high dome, resembling the appearance of a parachute, the Freedom Museum explores the concept of war freedom with a focus on the Second World War. Besides the permanent exhibition, the museum also hosts temporary exhibitions on related themes. The museum is located in the area where two important operations on the Western Front took place in WW2, namely Market Garden and Veritable. A balcony in the museum allows visitors to view the historic landscape.

Grebbeberg Casemates

Grebbeberg is the southern end of what is known as the Grebbeline; a defensive line ending at Ijesselmeer, established in 1745 to defend the Netherlands. In 1939 various new trenches and casemates were constructed against a possible German invasion. The invasion started on 10 May 1940. The remains of many of these casemates, used by the Dutch during the Battle of Grebbeberg, 11 to 13 May, can be visited. The best preserved is SZW FR Kazemat-GLZ17, a casemate armed with machine guns, with 3 frontal loopholes.

Grebbeberg War Cemetery

A few kilometres east of Rhenen is the site of the Battle of Grebbeberg, which took place in early May 1940. The battle is named after the hill on which it was fought, and today the location of the cemetery for around 400 Dutch soldiers who died in that conflict defending their country against the German invasion. Dutch soldiers who died elsewhere in the Netherlands during May 1940, and then placed in isolated cemeteries, have since 1946 been reinterred here. There are now more 850 Dutch soldiers buried in the cemetery.

Hotel De Wereld

Although there has been a hotel on the site since 1669, it is the current building of 1852 (restored in 1975 and 2004) that is of particular significance. Here, on 5 May 1945 Canadian General Foulkes met German Colonel General Blaskowitz in what is now called the Grote Capitulatiezaal to negotiate the German capitulation in the Netherlands. The pen used to sign the document is now in the Museum De Casteele Poort. Today, a 4* hotel, De Wereld is praised for its character and proximity to the sites of historical interest in the city of Wageningen.

Marine Flak Battery Fiemel

Termunten has long been recognised by various armies for its strategic importance, including the Germans in WWII. The battery at Fiemel was built in 1943 for the Stützpunkgruppe Delfzjilk. Made up of about 40 buildings, which included bunkers, barracks and foundations for artillery. Many of these were destroyed when the dyke was widened in the 1970s. A good place to start is at the nearby Groninger Landschap, where you can get an overview of this section of the Atlantic Wall, and follow a number of routes to see the various remains that still survive.

National Holocaust Names Memorial

Netherland’s national memorial for the Holocaust and Porajmos is located in the former Jewish quarter of Amsterdam. The memorial names the 102,000 Jewish and 220 Roma and Sinti victims who were arrested by the Nazis during the German occupation of the Netherlands and sent to their death in the Auschwitz and Sobibor death camps between 1940 and 1945. Visitors walk through a labyrinth of corridors made up of red bricks. On each brick is the name, date of birth and age at death of a victim.

National Military Museum

Occupying the former Soesterberg Air Base is the National Military Museum of the Netherlands. And with over 300,000 artefacts, ranging from flint arrow heads to modern fighter jets, this is the largest military collection in the country. Exhibition include five interactive themed galleries, 19 aircraft, and an exhibition exploring what life was like for school children during WWII. On show in The Treasury are numerous old paintings and many different types of classic weapons. There are also indoor and outdoor activities for children.

Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial

The American cemetery in Margraten is the only American military cemetery in the Netherlands. In just over 65 hectares, 8288 American service men have been laid to rest. The names of a further 1722 soldiers who were never recovered are recorded on the walls of the Court of Honour at the entrance to the cemetery. At the centre of the Court is the memorial tower. In the visitor building large engraved maps illustrate the military operations of the American armed forces in the area.

Oorlogsmuseum Overloon

The museum is located on the site of the WWII Battle of Overloon between Allied and German forces in September and October of 1944. Opened on 25 May 25 in 1946 as the National War and Resistance Museum, this is one of the oldest museums in Europe dedicated to WWII. In the main exhibition hall there are over 150 examples of vehicles, planes and other large military equipment, many of which were used in various conflicts of the Second World War. A number of items relate to the Cold War in Europe.

Westerbork Remembrance Centre

Westerbork camp was built in 1939 to house Jewish refugees fleeing Germany and Austria. Following Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, the camp became known as the ‘Gateway to Hell’; a transit camp where hundreds of Sinti, Roma and Jewish people were sent before being transferred to concentration camps such as Auschwitz and Sobibor. Following the liberation of Europe Westerbork became an internment camp for ‘bad Dutch’ and members of the SS. In the 1950s and 1960s it served as a camp for Indo-Ducth citizens being repatriated from the newly independent Indonesia. Through personal stories, the Herinneringscentrum Kamp Westerbork tells the layered history of the site.