Nights on the Street
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Political & Social History, Music & Photography
Le Patron spotted this photograph in a bric-a-brac shop in Haarlem in 2005, and bought it for €1.50. For a while he didn’t realise the significance of the photograph, until he discovered that on the 10th of May, 1940,the day after the photograph was taken by an on-looker, German forces attacked Holland, and Belgium, 75 years ago this month.
It is conjecture when the person with the camera handed in the roll of film for developing and printing, and in what Dutch town this was, (it was not necessarily Haarlem) but she or he probably got the prints back after Holland had been forced to surrender on 15 May, 1940. The day before, 14 May, 1940, the Germans had blitzed central Rotterdam, and had demanded that if Holland did not capitulate they would flatten Utrecht the following day.
The photo has been printed on the Belgium made Gavaert ‘Ridax’ photographic paper. Without consulting the Belgium Parliament, the Belgium King, Leopold III, ordered Belgium Armed Forces to surrender on 28 May, 1940. Writing in his diary at the time, the soon to be Director-General of the British Political Warfare Executive Robert Bruce Lockhart wrote:
“Reynaud has spoken on Paris radio at 8.30 a.m. “I have grave news to announce. King Leopold of the Belgians capitulated to Germany this morning at 4 a.m.” A day of gloom, although Leopold has always been suspected. Frank Aveling (friend of Leopold) who knows him better than any Englishman has always told me that the King is (1) a totalitarian in his political views and (2) a Peace Pledge pacifist in his religious and sociological views!” (1)
Although a German, and with a brother in the German Army, Prince Bernhard didn’t intend to be part of a Dutch capitulation to German National Socialist forces. A keen photographer he took the following photographs “between raids” at the Palais Noordeinde in Den Haag (The Hague) the day after the German attack, on 11 May, 1940.
“During the German Invasion, the Prince, carrying a machine gun, allegedly organised the palace guards into a combat group and shot at German planes. The Royal Family fled the Netherlands and took refuge in England. In disagreement with Queen Wilhelmina’s decision to leave the Kingdom, the young Prince Consort, aged 28, is said to have refused to go initially and wanted to oppose the Nazi occupation within its borders, but eventually agreed to join her as head of the Royal Military Mission based in London. Once safely there, his wife Juliana and their children went on to Canada, where they remained until the end of the war.” – source, Wikipedia entry “Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld.”
Prince Bernhard went on from flying Spitfires in the 322 “Dutch Squadron”, to flying a variety of planes in missions over France, Italy and the Atlantic.
King Leopold III of Belgium continued to live in Belgium as the ruling monarch, with the assent of the National Socialists.
Another monarch, the war hungry absolutist Kaiser Wilhelm II, had been living in forced exile in a country mansion in the Dutch village of Doorn (near Utrecht) since 1918. When Hitler invaded Poland, and when the German forces occupied Paris, the ex-Kaiser sent letters of congratulation to Hitler. Kaiser Wilhelm II had been regarded with contempt as a military strategist by his equally belligerent German Army Officer class since 1908, and Hitler, who was anti-monarchist, shared their sentiments. When the Germans invaded Holland, both London and Berlin invited him to move to their countries. He declined. He died at Doorn in 1941.
Princess Juliana and Prince Bernhard are no longer the centre of attention as the photo was taken. Note that two women in the crowd are smiling and looking at the person or people who is/are behind Juliana and Bernhard. The Queen, Wilhelmina? If so, the photographer will not have had time to wind the film on and manually cock the shutter for the next shot. Why would she or he be more interested in snapping the Queen’s daughter and husband?
It’s a warm late spring day, with the sun shining in from the left hand side of the photo, and Juliana and Bernhard are lightly dressed. The onlooking boy wears short trousers.
Who is the man walking in front of Juliana and Bernhard. A plain clothes policeman? Then why is he looking down, and not up, and alert?
Bernard has his hand on the winding arm of a 16mm ciné camera, possibly either the American Bell & Howell, or a German Agfa. Going by the shape of the camera case, Juliana has a German Leica 35 mm camera. In general, the feeling is that this is not too formal an occasion.
There are no clues in which Dutch town this is.
The date on the reverse of the snap says 9-5.1940, which gives the photograph the significance, but the detail that caused Le Patron some unease was the pollarded trees with no foliage. On the 9th of May? Other photos of the day of invasion show trees with foliage. There are shadows of young leaves, for instance, in the photo with the Royal Family resting between air raids, taken on 11 May, 1940. On 19 May, 2015, mulling this worrying detail over, on a bench by the brook known as the Dawlish Water, Le Patron looked up and almost next to him he was suddenly aware of a tree that was showing similar characteristics, when all the trees around him were well in bloom, and even the characteristically late ash trees were pushing out foliage. He took a couple of photographs of this tree and sent them to a horticulturist friend. This was his reply:
“Definitely either a Black Poplar (Populus nigra), or alternatively an Aspen (Populus tremula).
If I had to guess, from the pics and the look of the not quite fully out leaves and the bud shape/spacing,….I’d say the former, as its’ a larger tree generally, as your example is!
Having consulted my Hilliers reference book, both these are “late “ to come into leaf, in the U.K.”
This isn’t to suggest the pollarded trees in the “Juliana & Bernhard 9-5-1940” photo are black populars, but does show that some trees can be very late, compared with others.
After the Allies had landed in Normandy in June 1944, in anticipation of their advance, Heinrich Himmler ordered that the Belgium King Leopold III and his family be moved to Germany. When the war in Europe finished on 8 May, 1945, in anticipation of serious political instability in Belgium the Allies did not allow him to return and his brother Charles acted as Regent. When he was allowed to return in 1950 the country was violently divided, with three people shot dead by Belgium police at a demonstration during what has been described as the most violent General Strike in the history of Belgium. The King was forced to abdicate to his son, Baudouin.
Because of a cruel twist, western Holland (including Amsterdam and Haarlem) remained occupied until the end of the war (with a dreadful famine in the winter of 1944 and spring of 1945 that is estimated to have killed 18,000 people). Prince Bernhard arrived with liberating forces and was closely involved in the surrender negotiations of the occupying German forces in Holland in 1945, and deliberately chose to speak Dutch, and not German – his native tongue – in the surrender negotiations with the occupying German forces.
Queen Wilhelmina had remained in England during the war, and returned to liberated Holland in May, 1945. Princess Juliana also returned, from Canada, to Holland in May 1945. The Dutch Royal Family were feted by crowds where ever they went.
The Hongerwinter (Hunger Winter), besides the estimated 18,000 deaths, had a permanent effect on the growth of many young people (including Audrey Hepburn), pregnant women, and their babies. Many people were forced to eat sugar beet and tulip bulbs, although not, as far as is known, tree bark, that had happened in the famines in the Ukraine and China.
1. The Diaries of Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart, Volume 2, 1939 – 1965. Macmillan, 1980.
All photos taken by Prince Bernhard and of the Dutch Royal Family are from Het Fotoarchief van prins Bernhard de Jaren 1940 – 1945, Verzetsmuseum Amsterdam, 2005. ISBN 90-74159–75-3.