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The capitulation ceremony - 15 May

Prelude to the formal surrender

The staff of the German 18th Army contacted the Dutch General Headquarters during the night [of 14/15 May] and requested General Winkelman to attend the capitulation proceedings at May 15. Winkelman would be met by a German delegation at the Maas-bridges in Rotterdam. From there onwards the Dutch delegation would be escorted to Rijsoord, a small village southeast of Rotterdam where Student's headquarters had been situated during the battle.

Four Dutch officers would attend the meeting: General Winkelman [commander-in-chief], Major-General Van Voorst tot Voorst [Chief-of-Staff army], Captain Schepers [head of legal affairs at the General Headquarters] and Lieutenant-Commander van Doornick [representative of the navy].

The ceremony

Around 0900 hours the Dutch officers arrived in Rijsoord, escorted by the Germans. They had witnessed the blazing inferno Rotterdam had turned into and had been utterly shocked.

The proceedings would take place in a small school along the main road (causeway) in the village. Originally it was intended that the proceedings would be chaired by Generaloberst von Bock [commander of Heeresgruppe B]. He was delayed however and that's why the main chair was taken by General [der Artillerie] von Küchler [commander 18th Armee]. Six other German officers attended, as well as a translator and the inevitable German war-reporter. Last but not least the Dutch Colonel de Vries [representative of the commander of Group Utrecht] attended as fly on the wall.

The German General read the capitulation terms out loud. The situation in Zeeland - as well as the exact limits of the area that would be excluded from the capitulation-treaty - was determined. A discussion developed when the Germans told the Dutch that Dutch pilots who had not surrendered [but fled] would be considered "franc-tireurs" [outlaw fighters]. Winkelman strongly objected and stated that Holland and Germany did not make peace and that the war would go on. he stated that the armistice would only be mandatory for the Dutch forces in The Netherlands; specifically excluding all forces outside the Dutch territory. The Germans accepted this. And they should have, for the German demand was in default with the international lex belli.

The Germans further demanded that the Dutch would immediately cease all activities related to destruction of war-materials and war-production related industries. This was accepted by Winkelman. The balance of the proposed terms was accepted by the Dutch delegation.

At 1000 hours the official capitulation of the Dutch forces in The Netherlands was signed and countersigned. The battle of Holland [with exception of Zeeland] had then officially ended.

Winkelman later summarized his deed very powerful by saying the words: "Capitulated, laid down the arms, but not defeated." His attitude towards the new rulers would be a personal proof of those words. He did everything within his power to frustrate German occupational measures, but within a month's time the Germans had him arrested and sent off to a POW camp for senior officers. He would spent the entire war behind bars.


The Dutch armed forces that had surrendered during the five day's war had been taken prisoner of war. These men had been transported to Germany or they were in the logistic process of such. These men, mainly the men that had actually fought the battles in the outer defence-lines, were concentrated in a couple of POW camps in Germany and Poland. Brandenburg Lager received the largest concentration.

The far majority of troops, that had become prisoner of war due to the consequences of the armistice, were assembled in their original barracks and the better part of them was demobilised into civilian life again within a few weeks. The Führer had decided that the "brother people" of The Netherlands - after all also Germaniums - would not have to share the fate of being held as ordinary POW's of the German army. It was a first endeavour to win the hearts and minds of the Dutch for the greater German cause. Eight weeks after the capitulation all Dutch POW's were released and transported back to the Netherlands.

Some of the Dutch forces were not demobilised but incorporated in the "Opbouwdienst" [Resurrection Service], mostly on the basis of the fact that they were unemployed in civil life, sometimes voluntarily. This force was extensively assigned to clear all the remains of [obsolete] defences and debris of battle and destruction. The professional Dutch officer corps was also released, but these men had to undersign a petition that they would never directly or indirectly raise arms against Germany again. Refusal to sign would mean indefinite POW-ship in a German "Offizierslager".

The Germans would only realise in 1942 that Holland would never become the "brother state" that the Germans had hoped for. That year, first the officers would be called back into POW-ship, later also the regular soldiers.

The Dutch industry saw a great opportunity when the new rulers took over. The far majority of factories and industrial plants already accepted German orders before the ink of the armistice agreement was dried. The large docks and ship yards started accepting German orders in May 1940 still. In Augustus 1940 the German Material Commando contently concluded that Belgian and Dutch yards had managed to prepare many hundreds of ships for the planned operation against England. Hundreds of buoys to mark the projected crossing paths on the Northsea had been cut and welded, and were stacked by the hundreds on Dutch and Belgian quays. Even navy ships - originally ordered by the Dutch navy - were finished for the Germans. Obviously an entire shut down of the Dutch industry would have crashed to economy and left many hundred thousands of families in dire straits. But the stamina of the Dutch industry peaked so much that 1940 and 1941 would grow to be the best economic years of the century until well after 1945! Their is a middle road between full compliance with an occupation power and share sabotage. That middle road was not found by the Dutch. After all - business is business ...    

Dutch society quickly adapted to the new order. Perhaps too quickly and too easily. That 'easing in' was facilitated by economic wealth - due to Germany boosting the local economy - and the smooth and mild German regime that would last until February 1941. In that month the extreme measures against the Jews co-provoked mild Dutch resistance which grew into a general strike. This strike - still today a yearly returning day of remembrance - was not entirely a baken of resistance, as some Dutch authorities like to claim. The general strike was a result of a blended account of arguments, some plain politics, some of economic motives and finally the matter of Jewish suppression. Anyhow - as off February 1941 one could say that the burden of occupation actually began.