Liberation Day

May 5th Liberation Day

Today it is Liberation Day in the Netherlands. A day the whole country celebrates that we became free again in 1945 after the capitulation of the Third Reich.

In the Netherlands we celebrate that on May 5  Germany capitulated in the western Netherlands. On that date the capitulation supposedly should be signed between the German General John Blaskowitz and the Canadian General Charles Foulkes. This happened in Hotel De Wereld (The World) in Wageningen, in the presence of Prince Bernhard. The agreement was signed on May 6 at the adjacent to Hotel The World placed Auditorium of the then Agricultural College. Prince Bernhard was not present there. The deed itself, presently in the Municipal Wageningen, is dated Wageningen May 5, 1945. Actually it was merely an agreement on the technical development of German troops in the Netherlands in accordance with the capitulation of German troops on 4 May in north-west Europe. This fact is not widely known in the Netherlands.

Despite what some Americans think, the Netherlands was actually just partially liberated by US forces.

The southern part of the Netherlands – down the large rivers – was liberated in the fall of 1944. On September 12, 1944 , the Americans entered South Limburg and the first Dutch municipalities were liberated ,Eijsden , Mesch , Mheer and Noorbeek. On September 14, 1944 Maastricht was liberated .

Operation Market Garden was subsequently deployed, a risky plan to cross over the river in one go and thus draw into Germany . Obviously Netherlands would then be liberated in the process . The operation ran from 17 to September 25, 1944 , and ended in a German victory in the Battle of Arnhem . In the fall of 1944, the remaining part of the Netherlands south of the river , except for the area east of the Meuse , was liberated , mainly to get free access to the important port of Antwerp

The Germans resisted fiercely and particularly in Zeeland. Walcheren was flooded by the Allies in November 1944 by bombing the dikes. This drove the Germans out of their positions . The front was now positioned at the major rivers and the Allied advance stalled temporarily in the Netherlands.

Then the worst winter in the history of our country followed.The Dutch famine of 1944, known as the Hongerwinter (“Hunger winter”) in Dutch, was a famine that took place in the German-occupied part of the Netherlands, especially in the densely populated western provinces above the great rivers, .A German blockade cut off food and fuel shipments from farm areas. Some 4.5 million were affected and survived because of soup kitchens. About 22,000 died because of the famine. Most vulnerable according to the death reports were elderly men

Towards the end of World War II, food supplies became increasingly scarce in the Netherlands. After the landing of the Allied Forces on D-Day, conditions grew increasingly worse in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands After the national railways complied with the exiled Dutch government’s appeal for a railway strike starting September 1944 to further the Allied liberation efforts, the German administration retaliated by placing an embargo on all food transports to the western Netherlands.

In search of food, people would walk for tens of kilometers to trade valuables for food at farms. Tulip bulbs and sugarbeets were commonly consumed. Furniture and houses were dismantled to provide fuel for heating. From September 1944 until early 1945 the deaths of 18,000 Dutch people were attributed to malnutrition as the primary cause and in many more as a contributing factor. The Dutch Famine ended with the liberation of the western Netherlands in May 1945. Shortly before that, some relief had come from the ‘Swedish bread’, which was actually baked in the Netherlands but made from flour shipped in from Sweden. Shortly after these shipments, the German occupiers allowed coordinated air drops of food by the Royal Air Force over German-occupied Dutch territory in Operation Manna. The two events are often confused, even resulting in the commemoration of bread being dropped from airplanes, something that never happened.

The northern part of the Netherlands was only released in the spring of 1945 . This second phase of liberation began outside the Netherlands after the Allied capture of the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen in Germany on March 7, 1945, British-Canadian forces bent down to eastern Netherlands . On March 23, 1945 , the first Allied units entered in Dinxperlo Netherlands and Elten , which was a hard battle.

At this time there was no longer a regular front . The Canadians used a kind of ‘relay’ tactiek which involved the forward units getting relieved by units behind them.They tried to advance as far as possible with blockades and reinforcements circumvented and success exploited directly.About flank security the allied units no longer could be bothered This was almost no longer necessary since the defending German forces consisted largely of unmotivated old men and young boys who were also poorly stocked .

Conversely, the city of Groningen ,on 14 , 15 and 16 April was defended fiercly by thousands of fanatical German and Dutch SS . In the ensuing battle , the north side of the Market went up in flames . Groningen was not the only example : part of the occupiers and collaborators indeed defended themselves to the end.

After the capitulation the Allied forces could finally enter the remaining part of the Netherlands to flush out the remaining resisting German and Dutch fighters.The island Schiermonnikoog was the last municipality in the Netherlands, on June 11, 1945, that was liberated. When in April 1945 the province of Groningen was liberated by the Canadians, a group of about 120 SS fled to the island, which had still a German garrison. On June 11, the last 600 German troops on Schiermonnikoog were taken by the Canadians.

So you see, the liberation of the Netherlands was a matter of different countries working together and we owe these countries a great deal. And I like to think that we do show it when possible. Many WWII Veteran, be it a Canadian, British or American (and let’s not forget the Polish forces in English service), that has visited our country after the war will be able to attest to that. Today the whole country will celebrate in honor of those that fought and gave life and limb for our freedom. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts

Every Day Heroes: S.E Dogs

Every Day Heroes. When we think of heroes we tend to think people. Alanya and Lijda for example in my last two EDH blogs but also people like Fireman, Policeman, Nurses and Teachers will be counted among them by most of us. However not every Every Day Hero is a human.

In the title I used S.E. Dogs. Now you could read that as Special Edition dogs since a lot of dogs I am talking about are very “special edition” but it stands actually for Seeing-Eye Dog also known as Guide dogs.

Some History first.

References to guide dogs date at least as far back as the mid-16th century; the second line of the popular verse alphabet “A was an Archer” is most commonly “B was a Blind-man/Led by a dog” In the 19th century verse novel Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the title character remarks “The blind man walks wherever the dog pulls / And so I answered.”

The first guide dog training schools were established in Germany during World War I, to enhance the mobility of returning veterans who were blinded in combat, but interest in guide dogs outside of Germany did not become widespread until Dorothy Harrison Eustis, an American dog breeder living in Switzerland, wrote a first-hand account about a guide dog training school in Potsdam, Germany, that was published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1927. Earlier that same year, U.S. Sen. Thomas D. Schall of Minnesota was paired with a guide dog imported from Germany, but the guide dog movement did not take hold in America until Nashville resident Morris Frank returned from Switzerland after being trained with one of Eustis’s dogs, a female German shepherd named Buddy. Frank and Buddy embarked on a publicity tour to convince Americans of the abilities of guide dogs, and the need to allow people with guide dogs to access public transportation, hotels, and other areas open to the public. In 1929, Eustis and Frank co-founded The Seeing Eye in Nashville, Tennessee (relocated in 1931 to New Jersey).

USA and Canada…. click here

The first guide dogs in Great Britain were German shepherds. Four of these first were Flash, Judy, Meta, and Folly, who were handed over to their new owners, veterans blinded in World War I, on 6 October 1931 in Wallasey Merseyside. Judy’s new owner was Musgrave Frankland. In 1934 The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association in Great Britain began operation, although their first permanent trainer was a Russian military officer, Captain Nikolai Liakhoff, who moved to the UK in 1933.

UK click here

Australia click here

Now of course the Seeing Eye dog is the most well known of the support dogs but there are also dogs that are trained to help other people then blind. I am thinking not only disabled people but, like we do here in the Netherlands, dogs can be trained in the following areas as well:

Kids with Autism:

Autism Service Dog

Some children with autism become mesmerized when on the streets. They suddenly run away or stay standing in one place. This can result in dangerous and difficult situations. As a parent, you are forced to always hold your child close by . Going out with your child or family together, can therefore be a big problem. Do you recognize this? By linking your child to a trained autism service dog, the danger of running away disappears and takes some of the stress off. I will list some organizations at the end of this article where more info can be found about these special dogs

Cope with life again

Buddy dog for (former) Armed Forces

Some (former) military personnel, agents or people with similar professions, are struggling with anxiety, nightmares, insomnia, social isolation and other PTSD symptoms. A specially trained dog buddy can be a solution. H/she ensures peace, regularity and ease of movement. The buddy dog also knows  practical skills with which he supports his buddy. For example waking up his buddy when he has a nightmare. These dogs can actually prevent homelessness and avoid institutionalization among those that have returned from active duty in Iraq ad Afghanistan. In the USA they are called Battle Buddy Dogs.

Battle Buddy Dog

These dogs are ALL Every Day Heroes but here is a helpful hint: I am sure that if you see such a dog helping his/her “master” you are eager to pet and praise the dog. DO NOT DO THIS unless you have gotten permission from its owner. It is very simple, these dogs are working, let them do their work please. If you see one of them resting first ASK if it is ok to approach and/or pet the dog. DO NOT GIVE IT TREATS

Besides the seeing eye links already given here are some more informative links about these dogs.

Dutch organization (all types)

Uk Organization (Dissabilities/Autism)

USA organization

Australian Organization (kids, Autism, special needs)

(Australian, similar as above)

UK organization

Worldwide Organization. All types

Many more organizations are to be found worldwide. I have only listed the Dutch, USA, UK, Canadian and Australian Organizations (and not even all of them)  since most visitors to this blog come from these countries. However google is your friend if you live in another country then mentioned.

To close this article I would like to ask if you can think of anyone/thing more deserving for the honorary title of Every Day Hero?….not?…. thought so as well 😀 A big Wolf Hug to ALL the trainers and Dogs out there, you are AMAZING