Did the Germans really steal all Dutch bicycles?

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Sarge3525
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Did the Germans really steal all Dutch bicycles?

Post by Sarge3525 » 25 Feb 2015 09:14

A bit of an unusual question in the war crimes section.
I used the search tool but couldnt find an answer.

In the post-war years (less now that most WW2 era people died), a common Dutch "attack against Germans" would be "Give us back our bikes". This is due to the belief/reality that the Wehrmacht when occupying the Netherlands, stole ALL the bikes of the Dutch civilians for their own bicycle infantry.

My questions:

1. Did this really actually happen? Did the Wehrmacht steal all the bikes? Is there documented official order for this?
2. Was it a war crime?

Many thanks...Couldnt find more info online except that "its common knowledge Germans took all the bicycles".

Knouterer
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Re: Did the Germans really steal all Dutch bicycles?

Post by Knouterer » 25 Feb 2015 10:10

They took a lot more than just bicycles, even the Amsterdam tramway cars were shipped to Vienna IIRC. The whole bicycle story concerns mainly "Mad Tuesday" (Dolle Dinsdag), 5 September 1944, when the BBC announced that the Allied forces had crossed the Dutch border. This caused a general panic among Germans and Dutch collaborators, who grabbed any and all vehicles they could find and fled. After a few days most drifted back again. A few (clandestinely taken) pictures are here:

http://www.saak.nl/dolle%20dinsdag/doll ... g%20nl.htm

On one of them you can see German soldiers in The Hague taking bicycles from civilians. Also children dancing, burning German signs, and crowds with flowers and flags waiting for the liberators who sadly didn't show up.

The bicycles became an "issue" in 1965 when it was announced that Crown Princess Beatrix was going to marry a German, Claus von Amsberg, and some people in Amsterdam hung out banners proclaiming "Eerst mijn fiets terug" (First, I want my bicycle back).

Obviously, the Germans did not take ALL bicycles - with a population of 10 million, there must have been some 4-5 million around at least. Because of the rubber shortage, by 1944 many of them had wheels made of wood (or some other unsuitable material) which must have been torture to ride.

In any case, the list of German war crimes is quite long enough without worrying about bicycles, it seems to me.
"The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man's observation, not overturning it." Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

history1
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Re: Did the Germans really steal all Dutch bicycles?

Post by history1 » 25 Feb 2015 15:24

I don´t see any proof that the Germans nor their dutch collaborateurs stole a bicycle in Knouterer´s link.
All I see is people/soldiers riding bicycles. But who knows if those are not their own?
On the other hand, did they really need to steel the bike? No, they can simple requisition them.
And that´s what most likely happened also in the photo which Knouterer mentioned "On one of them you can see German soldiers in The Hague taking bicycles from civilians".
The main subject in current law when talking about "theft" is that the thief want to enrich himself. As those soldiers wanted only flee from the area and save their life one can hardly talk about "theft of bicycles".

And as we can see in below link they didn´t only have bicycles but also mopeds in May 1945 (click on the photo to enlarge: Liberation in Baarn, Nederland). So forget this fairytale, Sarge 3525:
http://hetverhalenarchief.nl/bevrijding ... i_1945.jpg

To answer your 2nd question: NO it´was not a war crime as paragraph 52 of the Hague Convention states:
" Requisitions in kind and services shall not be demanded from municipalities or inhabitants except for the needs of the army of occupation.[...]"
Not only German signed and ratified this treaty in 1900 but also the Netherlands!
Therefore we can assume the Dutchmen knew what can be happen and that requisition/consication is a legal act.

Knouterer
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Re: Did the Germans really steal all Dutch bicycles?

Post by Knouterer » 25 Feb 2015 16:04

Yes, of course it would have made all the difference in the world to the owners of the bicycles if they had realized that the Germans who took them - in completely unorganized and arbitrary fashion, without orders, receipts or anything, as far as is known - were not "stealing" but only "requisitioning". :roll:

Or to put it another way: there is a subtle difference between "requisitioning" and "looting".
"The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man's observation, not overturning it." Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

Knouterer
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Re: Did the Germans really steal all Dutch bicycles?

Post by Knouterer » 25 Feb 2015 18:00

history1 wrote:I don´t see any proof that the Germans nor their dutch collaborateurs stole a bicycle in Knouterer´s link.
All I see is people/soldiers riding bicycles. But who knows if those are not their own?
.
Yes, who knows? Maybe all the hundreds of Dutch people in question only imagined that they lost their bikes? Maybe the German occupation of the Netherlands was just a collective bad dream and it never really happened?
"The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man's observation, not overturning it." Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

Bastafari
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Re: Did the Germans really steal all Dutch bicycles?

Post by Bastafari » 11 Jun 2016 15:38

http://www.dedokwerker.nl/fiets_inleveren_wo2.html Image
Bicycles were taken by official order, see example and story in Dutch.
Also, during raids/ razzias, they searched blocked-off streets for hidden Jews, men in hiding to avoid deportation and forced labour and to check for radios, metals and bicycles.

Like all measures, the demands increased and the punishments as well. I have no direct knowledge if people served time in jail for not handing over their bikes, but it would be more surprising if the occupiers showed lenience. They shot and killed a great grandpa for being out during curfew. He was no member of the resistance, just walking home.

The bicycle thievery worsened the Hongerwinter, as the most populous part of the Netherlands was starved* as Germans used collective punishment for Dolle Dinsdag and the railway strike (september 1944- may 1945). People travelled from cities to faraway countryside to find food, w/o cycling they walked for day. You might have heard stories about eating tulip bulbs and Operation Manna.

*The children born to women pregnant in the hongerwinter provide scientific insight in the effects of malnutrition, as no wellfed, homogene population experienced such a welldocumented period of famine across all social classes. I think one recent paper suggested dna-adaptations, as the children of these warchildren are smaller than average.

Bastafari
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Re: Did the Germans really steal all Dutch bicycles?

Post by Bastafari » 12 Jun 2016 16:11

I found a great article about the bicycle issue, and why it became part of the Dutch collective memory. Ironic it has to be a German source, punktlich wie immer. I translate it for what it's worth, check the source if your German is better than my Danglish( Dutch-English)https://www.uni-muenster.de/Niederlande ... tzung.html

The bicycle and the Netherlands(NL).

As the first chapter of the West Front Campaign the Germans invaded the Netherlands on may 10, 1940. During the following occupation the country undured the persecution and deportation of the Jews, industrial exploitation, deportation of able men to for forced labour in the German war industry and execution of hostages( example; if the resistance killed a German the nazis rounded up random male civilians, upto all men of the village of Putten for a dead top brass nazi.B ) After the growing pressure and the terror the Dutch faced during the occupation, the razzias and the Hunger Winter '44/'45, it may seem odd at first glance that one minor action of the occupying forces became pars pro toto for the occupation of '40/'45. When the Dutch imagine what their ancestors had to endure at the hands of the nazis they think of the empounding of all bicycles and other rolling stock at the end of the war.

The loss of a bicycle had immediate consequences, as cycling was the quitessential method of transportation, for commuting and searching for groceries.
Confiscation was on one side a heavy blow to the family, on the other hand it was sign of being subjected to random negative consequences at the hands of a -by then- desperate enemy.
Many covertly taken photos taken during "Dolle Dinsdag" show German soldiers cycling out of the Dutch cities in a collective panic, caused by rumours the Allies approached unhindered. (They came back and took revenge over the next months for that day's celebrations, B). When the German occupiers stole their bicycles, symbolically they robbed everything that was still left of the Dutch identity. Newspaper "Trouw voor West Friesland" of march 10, 1945, published an anonymous poem on the occupation titled " hand over your bicycle, here's the Wehrmacht!". The bicycle is the first in a long list of things the Wehrmacht takes away. The last on the list of Wehrmacht demands is their lives.

The theft of their bicycles is part of the Dutch collective memories. It lives on to this day in jokes, in the jabs at the Germans if the national soccer teams play eachother and in popular history programs. Germans make cars, Dutch cycle 24/7, the occupation still influences the stereotypes. The importance of the stolen bicycles expanded as personal and family experience became connected to it and the place bicycles have in Dutch society grew in retrospect. bicycles became the focal point of collective memory of individual hardship and loss of the Dutch people's self- determination during the occupation der bereits wesentlich früher geprägten nationalen Bedeutung des Fahrrads mischte. The German aggressor forcefully taking away their irreplacable transportation was already a well-known image, ANWB( like a trade union for personal transport; cars, bikes, hiking) used the image for propaganda purpouse during WW1.

( A bit repetitive in the end. I have no idea what's meant by that WW1 campaign in the last sentence, I think we mostly disliked the British a hundred years ago. B)

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