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Author Topic: Februari strike 1941  (Read 5474 times)
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« on: 23 February 2016, 17:53:10 »

Coming thursday marks the 75 year commemoration of the Februari strike 1941 in Amsterdam,The Netherlands.
Below a reconstruction of the facts that lead to the strike, the first and only general strike of its kind against Nazi Germany in western Europe.


The Netherlands surrendered to Nazi Germany in May 1940, and the first anti-Jewish measures (the barring of Jews from the air-raid defence services) began in June 1940. These culminated in November 1940 in the removal of all Jews from public positions, including universities, which led directly to student protests in Leiden and elsewhere. At the same time, there was an increasing feeling of unrest amongst workers in Amsterdam, especially the workers at the shipyards in Amsterdam-Noord, who were threatened with forced labour in Germany.
The Communist party (CPN) organized a small strike on 17th of februari in the metal factories to protest against these crimes against humanity.
After threaths to the Germans to organize more strikes on the 18th against this German decrete the Germans decreased this measurement.

First clashes

The CPN also organized resistance against the WA, groups of NSB sympathisers who molested jewish and communist people.
Throughout the jewish neighbourhood people organized and armed themselves to fight against these NSB thugs, often succesfull.
The first major clash erupted in Cafe Alcazar in Amsterdam, WA unit tried to remove jewish artists. This resulted in 23 wounded people and raised the first alarm to the Germans.
2 days later another incident occured. NSB man Koot died in figthings agains communist. The NSB party officials exaggerated his dead and the wounds he had. Tensions rose to a high level. The Jewish councel tried to intervene but with marginal results.
Than the Koco incident came, this time in the Woustraat. 2 brothers Kahn and Koco ( both refugees from Germany) ran an ice cream shop. When the green police (with help from German soldiers) tried to arrest people inside a major fight took place. 6 Soldiers were injured.
Most people inside including the owners were arrested. Kahn was shot ( first casualty to a firing squad) in march 1941, his friend Koco was transported to a concentrationcamp and died there.

German actions

For the Germans it was time to react.
Hans Bohmker, the second in command after Seyss-Inquart ordered the first actions tobe taken.
The neighbourhood was closed with barbed wire, bridges were opened and non jewish people were refused from entering.
Hanns Albin Rauter, Generalkommissar für das Sicherheitswesen in the Netherlands reported the events to Himmler, stating a tough reaction had to follow.
This resulted in the first razzia among the jewish population in Amsterdam.
The first German reaction to the events in icesalon Koco took place on 22 februari and  23 februari 1941. SS Obersturmbannführer Friedrich Knolle rounded up jewish people in the neighbourhood.
On direct orders from Himmler, Seyss-Inquart and Rauter 427 Jewish men between 20 and 35 were arrested and taken to concentrationkamp Mauthausen.
On the 23rd the Jewish sunday market was open, many people saw the arrests and wittnessed the razzia. This fed unrest and huge rage against the Germans. The Dutch police knew nothing about the raid and was angry as were most of Amsterdams inhabitants


The CPN saw an opportunity to move the people to commit the aborted 18 februari strike. The CPN argued the entire people of Amsterdam would support such actions because they all were against the Razzias.. Their motivation was just: an overtake of power by the NSB using the razzias against the Jews had to be stopped. Maybe the Germans could be persuaded to end the razzias by the strike and maybe th Germans would see that the NSB wasnt the right party to work with.
The head office of the CPN ordered preparations for the strike to start for the 24/25th of februari.

Prelude to strike

The first preparations to the strike took place on the 24th, in a meeting (Noordermarkt, Jordaan) with local resistance and the underground CPN the plans for the strike were announced by Willem Kraan.
Piet Nak and Dirk van Nimwegen agreed as well and convinced many people to join their cause.They asked the people who were present to hand out papers and to convince them to join the strike which had to take place on tuesday and wednesday.
On the early morning of 25 februari 1941 the trams stood stil in Amsterdam.
At the same time CPN members spread a manifest named 'Staakt, staakt, staakt!!!' among the Amsterdams corporations.
As a lightning bolt the strike spread throughout the city and to the other major cities around Amsterdam. At noon the 25th most companies, stores and city services were on strike.


From Amsterdam the strike spread out to Zaandam, Haarlem, Velsen, Hilversum, Bussum, Weesp, Muiden and Utrecht. The communist Vonkgroep also tried to organize the HTM ( The Hague tram company) Den Haag but these attempts lead to nothing.

German reaction

The German reaction came quick, with brutal violence, intimidation and ruthness actions.
9 strikers were killed, 24 were wounded badly and many were arrested.
After two days the strike ended due to the German recation, the degree of the CPN that the strike should last two days and pressure of the Amsterdam city counsil to go back to work.
The cities nvolved had to pay large sums of money to the Germans, Amsterdam 15 million, Hilversum 2,5 and Zaandam 500.000 gulden.

The hunt on the CPN members

After the strike the Germans started a manhunt on the members of the CPN.
A new strike set on march 6 could not go on because of the German hunt.
On march 5 the Jewish communist Leendert Schijveschuurder was caught when he posted strike papers on a wall.
He was shot the next day.
Also shot at the Waalsdorpervlakte 13 march were 3 other members, (Joop Eyl, Ward Hellendoorn en Herman Coenradi) among those 3 also 15 members of a newly formed resistance group were shot. (Geuzengroup)
21 CPN members were arrested and sent to German jails, two of them died in prison (Adrianus van Waert on 9 juni 1942 Rheinbach) and Jacques van Weezel on 23 april 1945 in Dachau.
After the war writer Jan Campert wrote the song "het lied der achttien dooden"in remembrance of the 3 CPN members and the 15 resistance fighters.
many people believed after the war that the mass scale hunt and arrests umong the communist party members were solely because of their role in the strike.
But later reports show that CPN members were arrested in many parts of the country.


The strike is yearly commemorated at the Amsterdam Daniel Meijer square.
The bronze statue (named the Dokwerker) on the square resembling a striker from the Amsterdam harbour was made in 1952 by Mari Andriessen.
Many people believe the strike was organized by workers, few knew it was organized by the CPN after the events at the Ice salon and the first razzias.
At the southside of the Noorderkerk a plaquette remembers of the forbidden public meetings held at the Noordermarkt.
Many years the communist leaders were not allowed to join the commemoration (main reasons, the cold war and general anti-communist feelings) so they held an alternative commemoration
It was in 1968 on the initiative of Ed van Thijn (later meir of Amsterdam) and Harry verhey they were welcome as well.
Thursday the 25th is the 75th anniversary, we will not forget!!


« Last Edit: 23 February 2016, 18:18:17 by stoffel » Logged

My topics are about my personal opinion, my thoughts and what I think. They do not reflect the official opinion of the ministry of defense of the Netherlands.
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