UBC Theses and Dissertations
The nature and extent of antimilitarism and pacifism in the Netherlands from 1918 to 1940 and the degree to which they contributed to the quick defeat in May 1940. Bout, John Jacob
After May 1940 a national soul searching took place in the Netherlands to uncover the reasons for the quick defeat at the hands of the Germans. One of the reasons frequently mentioned was the antimilitaristic and pacifistic mentality permeating large parts of Dutch society during the twenties and early thirties. But no serious investigation was ever undertaken to prove or disprove this claim. This dissertation attempts to discover the degree to which antimilitarism and pacifism weakened the national will to resist an invasion in general and undermined the combat efficiency of the armed forces in particular. To determine the nature and extent of antimilitarism the wealth of contemporary pamphlets, newspapers and documents in the International Institute for Social History in Amsterdam and in the Peace Palace in the Hague were used. Antimilitarists and pacifists were categorized into five main groups: social democrats, those further left (anarchists, communists, syndicalists, etc.), religious groups, certain middle class groups including two major women organizations, and youths. The size of each category, its political and economic strength, and the extent each was able to influence Dutch society as a whole are described as accurately as possible. Information on the effect of antimilitaristic propaganda on the armed forces was obtained from documents and reports in the military Central Archive Depot in the Hague, the military archives in Schaarsbergen, the Sectie Krijgsge- schiedenis of the army, and the reports of the Central Intelligence Service. The conclusions reached were that in the early twenties antimilitarists were strong enough to force considerable reductions in the size of the conscripted army and the length of its service. Until the later thirties antimilitarists were influential enough to prevent an increase in the size of the armed forces and to block the allocation of sufficient funds for modernizations of material and weapons. Antimilitaristic propaganda was extensive and persuasive enough to convince a large segment of the population that the military forces were a useless and dangerous extravagance of a by-gone era. Professional soldiers were laughed at and as a result their morale was low and their efficiency slight. Conscripts were indifferent or belligerent and tried to do as little as possible during their tour of duty. The result was that training, discipline, skill and morale were insufficient and below standard. Since arms and equipment were also of an inferior quality and in short supply the Dutch forces, and specifically the army, quickly collapsed when the Germans invaded. Antimilitarism was not the sole cause of the Dutch defeat but it was the main reason for the rapidity of the defeat of the Netherlands.
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