Visual History of the World




From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists


The World Wars and Interwar Period 



The first half of the 20th century saw the world entangled in two global wars, conducted with an unprecedented brutality. The First World War developed from a purely European affair into a conflict involving the colonies and the United States. It altered Europe's political landscape and shifted the power balance worldwide. In World War II, the nations of Europe, Asia, the Americas, and Africa were drawn into the conflict through the aggressive policies of an ambitious Nazi Germany. The war was conducted with the most up-to-date weapons technology and cost the lives of more than 55 million people. The Holocaust, the systematic annihilation of the European Jews, represented an unparalleled moral catastrophe for modern civilization.


Pablo Picasso "Weeping Woman", 1937




Belgium and the Netherlands: Objects of German Power Politics 



While Belgium became the military invasion route for the German armies during both world wars, the Netherlands survived the Great War unscathed. In World War II, however, it could not hold off the attack of the Germans and became an occupied territory of the Nazi Reich.


The Netherlands between Independence and National Socialism

Despite economic problems, the Netherlands was able to assert its neutrality until 1940 and remained politically stable. After the country was occupied by German troops, the new rulers implemented Nazi policies in the Netherlands, including the deportation of Dutch Jews to death camps.


The Netherlands survived World War I without internal upheaval, and coped well economically despite sheltering almost a million refugees who flooded out of Belgium in 1914. However, the blockade imposed principally by the Royal Navy had a restrictive effect on Dutch maritime traffic with countries which Britain and France feared could supply Germany. A severe shortage of coal led to the near-paralysis of Dutch industry. With the introduction of universal suffrage in 1917, the constitutional monarchy was democratized further, though a socialist revolution instigated by Pieter Jelles Troelstra was unsuccessful. The outbreak of the world economic crisis in 1929 (p. 506) caused a rapid increase in unemployment in the kingdom, however.

Externally the Netherlands committed itself to strict neutrality, but it was naturally interested in maintaining good relations with its German neighbor. For this reason, the government granted asylum to Wilhelm II in 1918.

The 1933 victory of the National Socialists in Germany divided the Netherlands.

Dutch supporters of Hitler, who organized themselves under 7 Anton Adriaan Mussert, remained a minority, but after the first immigration wave of Jewish refugees, fears of 8 Judaization became widespread, particularly in Protestant circles.

The government followed news of German aggression with anxiety and ordered a general mobilization in 1939.

The army of the Netherlands was no match for the German attack in May 1940. After the bombardment of Rotterdam, the government capitulated and fled to London along with the royal family. The Nazi Reich's commissioner, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, began to align the Dutch state with the economic and social policies of the Nazi regime.

Dutch citizens had to do forced labor, the concentration camps Westerbork and Vught were set up, and the 10 systematic extermination of Jews began.

7 Meeting of the Dutch National Socialist
movement led by Anton Adriaan Mussert, 1941

8 Anti-Semitic caricature from the
Netherlands, 1939

10 Official sign during the German occupation
of Holland reads: "No admittance for Jews!",

While some volunteer 9 Dutch SS divisions formed and others collaborated, a resistance movement that fought the regime with raids and acts of sabotage also established itself.

9 Physical examination of volunteers for the
Dutch SS divisions, 1940

In September 1944, the Allies reached the Netherlands, and 11 liberated it on May 5,1945.

The Dutch East Indian colony, occupied by the Japanese in 1942, was returned after the war.

11 US forces liberate the Netherlands, 1945



The Bombardment of Rotterdam

Like Guernica, Coventry, and Dresden, the Dutch city of Rotterdam stands as a symbol of the terror of modern air warfare against civilian populations. During the German Luftwaffe air raid on May 14,1940, large parts of the city were completely destroyed, around 78,000 people were made homeless, and 90opeople were killed.

The city center of Rotterdam, flattened except
for the church of St. Laurentius, 1940



Ossip Zadkine
The City Destroyed


see also collection:
Ossip Zadkine



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