Hans Rauter, Holland and the Hunger Winter 1944

Holland’s World War 2 Resistance movement has often been overlooked due to the fame of their French equivalent – however the operations carried out in the Dutch area of Gelderland – chosen for its large amounts of woodland that made hiding easy, were arguably just as important in the Allied effort to end the war.

1944 was, for Holland, one of the harshest winters that the country had experienced for many decades – thousands of people were forced to walk for days in search of meagre amounts of food – such people were known as hunger walkers. Many died of starvation and frostbite that year. It was into this context that groups of SOE agents were parachuted in order to further the Allied battle against the Nazis from the inside.

Such agents were named after groups of rivers, vegetables – anything that was distinctive but still ambiguous enough to go un-noticed by the Germans. Such agents were kept alive by their own wit and the precarious supply drops of the RAF – operating radios from secret rooms and abandoned sheds – transmitting the movements of Dutch resistance groups back to places such as Bletchley Park.

Perhaps one of the most terrifying operations of that winter of ’44 and following year was the mistaken identity and consequent murder of Hans Albin Rauter – the chief for the whole of the Nazi occupation of Holland – he was on a trip home from a barracks on the evening of the 7th March when he was fatally ambushed and his car filled with 234 rounds of machine gun fire by reisitance fighters. Such things did not go un-noticed.

The same amount of Todeskandidatan – death candidates – were rounded up from all over Holland and shot at dawn the next day – 134 of which were shot and laid out along the road beside Rauter’s wrecked staff car. The resistance fighters responsible for Rauter’s death were not amongst the dead.

The events of the Hunger winter of 1944 and the dutch resistance are used as the basis and inspiration for Mal Peet’s brilliant novel ‘Tamar’ – a proper yarn. Read It.

Image: Rauter’s gunned car – you can see the shear amount of bullet holes.

Thanks for reading!

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