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Dutch Hongerwinter of 1944
From the collection of John Birks

Obverse by van der Hoef

After the landing of the Allied Forces on D-Day, conditions grew worse in the Nazi occupied Netherlands. The Allies were able to liberate the southern part of the country, but their liberation efforts came to a halt when Operation Market Garden, the attempt to gain control of the bridge across the Rhine at Arnhem, failed. After the national railways complied with the exiled Dutch government's appeal for a railway strike to further the Allied liberation efforts, the German administration retaliated by putting an embargo on all food transports to the western Netherlands.

By the time the embargo was partially lifted in early November 1944, allowing restricted food transports over water, the unusually early and harsh winter had already set in. The canals froze over and became impassable for barges. Food stocks in the cities in the western Netherlands rapidly ran out. The adult rations in cities such as Amsterdam had dropped to below 1000 calories (4,200 kilojoules) a day by the end of November 1944. Over that winter, which has been etched in the Dutch peoples memories as the Hongerwinter ("Hunger winter"), as the Netherlands became one of the main western battlefields, a number of factors combined to starve the Dutch people: the winter itself was unusually harsh and together with the widespread dislocation and destruction of the war, the retreating German army destroyed locks and bridges to flood the country and impede the Allied advance, which ruined much agricultural land and made the transport of existing food stocks difficult.

In search of food people would walk for hundreds of kilometers to trade valuables for food at farms. Tulip bulbs and sugarbeets were commonly consumed. Furniture and houses were dismantled to provide fuel for heating. From September 1944 until early 1945 approximately 30,000 Dutch people starved to death. The Dutch Famine ended with the liberation of the western Netherlands in May 1945. Shortly before that, some relief had come from the 'Swedish bread', which was actually baked in the Netherlands but made from flour shipped in from Sweden. And shortly after that, the German occupiers allowed coordinated air droppings of food by the Royal Air Force over German-occupied Dutch territory in Operation Manna. The two events are often confused, even resulting in the commemoration of bread being dropped from airplanes, something that never happened. -- From Wikipedia