Liberation Children

A special group within the post-World War II Dutch baby boom were children fathered by the Allied soldiers, our liberators.  These are the “liberation children” (in Dutch, “bevrijdingskinderen”).    

Allied soldiers

The Allied soldiers who arrived in the Netherlands were healthy men who looked handsome and heroic in their uniforms. And the cigarettes, chewing gum and chocolate in their pockets added to their appeal. With the last fighting done, these Allied soldiers were in need of diversion.

Brigade on duty - Album Museon
Brigade on duty - Album Museon

And young Dutch women had not had interesting male company for some time, as most Dutch men between 18 and 45 had been in Germany as labourers or as prisoners of war, in hiding in the east or north of the Netherlands, or had hardly been out in months because of raids by the Germans.

Dansen Bevrijdingskinderen - Album Museon
Dancing - Album Museon

Even in the last months of the war when liberation was on the way, there had been little entertainment in The Hague. You were not allowed on the street in the evening, and at home there was little to do.  Without electricity, there was no radio, nor light to read by.  Food and heating fuel remained hard to obtain. Without food and in the cold the atmosphere at home must have been very tense.

Moral decay

In the newspapers, there was much commentary on the free relations of Dutch women with Allied soldiers. For example, on 31 May 1945, Het Binnenhof (at that time the ‘Roman Catholic Daily Newspaper for ‘s-Gravenhage and surroundings’) featured an editorial with the title “Women’s honour”.

In it, the editor expresses dismay about the behaviour of young Dutch women towards Canadian soldiers. The writer understands that this is a reaction to five years of terror, deprivation and few pleasures.

Canadese soldaten met Haagse meisjes bij het stadhuis - 8 mei 1945 - H.A.W. Douwes - Coll HGA
Canadese soldaten met Haagse meisjes bij het stadhuis - 8 mei 1945 - H.A.W. Douwes - Coll HGA

But he goes on to warn that this momentary intoxication would result only in the moral misery of failed lives and ruined souls. ‘May the parents watch closely!’

Prophylactics

At that time, there was little or no sex education in the Netherlands, let alone availability of contraceptives among the population. However, the Canadian and U.S. governments had begun issuing condoms to their military forces during the First World War.

Legerposter Protect Yourself

It must be said that these governments did not do this primarily to prevent pregnancies among women in liberated areas. Rather, the purpose  was to prevent major outbreaks of venereal diseases (VD) in many army units, as these diseases affected the fighting strength of the troops.

Liberation children

Despite army-issued condoms, an estimated 7,000 children conceived by Allied soldiers were born in the Netherlands. It took some time before there were enough ships to bring all Allied soldiers, especially Canadians, back to their country.

It was not until January 1946 that this repatriation was complete. Some of the mothers married the father of their child; the Canadian Embassy at Sophialaan in The Hague had set up a special section to arrange transfer of wives and fiancés of the soldiers to Canada.

Oorlogsbruidje - Album Museon
Oorlogsbruidje - Album Museon

But many liberation children never knew  their fathers or did not know them until much later. On Youtube you can find a very interesting documentary about this so called ‘Bevrijdingskinderen‘ (in Dutch).

And there you will also find recordings of a song that was very popular at the time: ‘Trees heeft een Canadees (‘Trees has a Canadian’ – Trees is a first name, short for Teresa). 

Do you want to know more about The Hague during the Second World War? I have a special walk and a bicycle tour with this theme.

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1 thought on “Liberation Children”

  1. Doreen Burras

    A very interesting item – my father was stationed in Noord Brabant towards the end of the war as an 18 year old UK soldier and spoke fondly of his time in the company of welcoming Dutch families.
    But he always denied that we’d ever find Dutch siblings!

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