It is exactly eighty years ago that the April-May strikes began: the ‘underexposed strikes’ in the Second World War. They will not immediately ring a bell with many Dutch people, but historians see the actions as a turning point in the Dutch attitude towards the occupier.
These strikes are now being commemorated on a national scale for the first time, in Hengelo, around the site of the Stork factory where the strike started eighty years ago. About fifty relatives of 184 killed victims gather.
“There have always been commemorations here and there,” says Hans Morssinkhof of the National Memorial April-May Strikes Foundation. But there was no mutual connection yet.
Anyone who had had any faith in the Germans before that had now lost it.
One of the reasons for the lack of attention for the strikes is that no one has “claimed ownership of the strikes,” says Morssinkhof. The February strike has therefore become much more famous. “That is partly because during the war, the communist party had already claimed ownership.”
In addition, during the war there was the idea that the strikes had failed. “They had produced nothing concrete, at least not something that was visible at the time,” says the historian. “They were brutally beaten down, almost 200 people were killed, and that was it.”
But the strikes were a turning point in the war. Because of the brutal way in which the occupying forces put down the strikes, the realization arose that it was impossible to negotiate with the Germans. “Anyone who had any faith in the Germans before, had now lost that,” says Morssinkhof. The occupier not only murdered strikers, but also random civilians.
“I fervently hope that the commemoration will lead to a sequel, and that more stories will be released about the strikes, because there must be,” says Morssinkhof. “And I hope that the realization of the importance of those strikes will now sink in, that they will have a place in our national collective memory.”
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