Most schoolchildren are happy to be given an extra day off from classes. On October 6, 1945 the mayor of The Hague gave this treat to the city’s schoolchildren. The reason was the visit of an important man: General Dwight Eisenhower, commander-in-chief of the Allied forces in Europe during the recently-concluded Second World War.
Eisenhower – the Exterminator
General Eisenhower’s visit was widely advertised in the newspapers, which praised him as ‘the exterminator of the German war machine’ and ‘the victor of the West’.
Eisenhower came to The Hague by rail from Frankfurt via Utrecht on a train that clearly proclaimed victory, as it was composed of the salon cars of Hitler, Goering and Goebbels. Not all Nazi symbols had been removed yet. The flowers were in vases decorated with the swastika and the coffee cups also carried this image.
The train’s engineer had a special gift for the general: a pair of cufflinks made of old silver quarters and dimes. During the war, making and wearing these objects was a form of passive resistance. This reuse of coins taken out of circulation by the Germans was also a sign of support for the Dutch royal family.
On the train, Eisenhower had a conversation with Dutch journalists. He expressed great admiration for the Resistance, especially when he spoke about the battle of Arnhem. He promised that he would do everything in his power to ensure that what the Germans had stolen from the Dutch people would be returned to the Netherlands as soon as possible.
He also said that, when all this was over, he would prefer to live in a house in the woods. He wanted peace and no political career at all (!). He bid goodbye to the journalists with ‘Good luck to you all’.
Prince Bernhard was on time at the former State Railway Station (now The Hague Central Station) to receive the general and his party. Unfortunately the train was delayed, but at 10.50 am the general set foot on The Hague soil. At the station exit the Haags Matrozenkoor sang the Wilhelmus, the national anthem of The Netherlands.
The general went by car to the U.S. Ambassador’s official residence which in those days was at Buitenrustweg (now Tobias Asserlaan). After a short break the company set off again, this time to the Lange Voorhout Palace.
Both auto routes had been described in detail in the newspapers. As a result, residents of The Hague were ready with flags, mostly the Dutch flag, but also here and there the Stars and Stripes. Along the route Hagenaars cheered and threw flowers, many of them orange, and serpentine streamers.
The immediate area of the Paleis Lange Voorhout had been meticulously cleaned by workmen from the Municipal Cleaning Department. Since it was early autumn, leaves were already turning colour and the workmen swept away the newly fallen ones. At the palace, Queen Wilhelmina received the general and the company had lunch. Also present: Prime Minister Schermerhorn; the mayor of The Hague, De Monchy; and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Van Kleffens.
The general must have been a fast eater, because at 12.45 he was already leaving The Hague via the Benoordenhoutseweg for Amsterdam.