Refugees in Holland 1914-1918

Belgian refugees

Belgian refugees in Holland

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During the First World War, tens of thousands refugees poured into Holland. Russian prisoners of war, British marines, German deserters, and Belgian civilians were sheltered there.
As a neutral country, the Dutch government was obliged by law to detain soldiers of belligerent nations. Thus, 35,000 military men spent the war (or part of it) in Dutch prison camps behind barbed wire.
The civilians among the refugees - for the most part Belgians (ca. 100,000) - were housed in tents and camps spread throughout the country. Former prisoners of war and deserters (thousands of Russians and Germans) lived in cheap hotels and boarding-houses in Rotterdam.

The repatriation of all these refugees was a giant operation that would only finish in the course of 1919. Several monuments and names of streets (such as "Engelse Kamp" in Groningen) still remind us of this episode. Also, many newspapers and newsletters that were written, illustrated, and published by the refugees themselves have been preserved in the collections of the IISH and the Press Museum.
See the illustrated overview of reviews below.

The British in GroningenThe British in Groningen

The Russians in RotterdamThe Russians in Rotterdam

The Germans dispersedThe Germans dispersed

The Belgians everywhereThe Belgians everywhere

Further reading:

Evelyn de Roodt, Oorlogsgasten. Vluchtelingen en krijgsgevangenen in Nederland tijdens de Eerste Wereldoorlog. Zaltbommel 2000.

Text: Margreet Schrevel