“The winter famine in Arnhem, 1945”, Alexandre Mitchell, 2022
(Canson, 180g, 42 x 59cm, Indian ink)

Towards the end of the Second World War the Allies had succeeded in liberating the southern part of the Netherlands from Nazi occupation but their advance into the north was halted with the failure of Operation Market Garden, the attempt to seize a bridge across the Rhine at Arnhem.

On the ground, after the Dutch national railways went on strike to further the Allied liberation efforts, the German General Friedrich Christiansen, ‘Supreme commander of the Wehrmacht in the Netherlands’, retaliated by placing an embargo on all food transports to the western Netherlands.

About 4.5 million civilians were affected by this decision and over 20.000 people starved to death. The famine was alleviated by the liberation of the provinces by the Allies in May 1945. At the end of the war, F. Christiansen was tried for war crimes. He was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment in 1948 in Arnhem for war crimes but was released early in December 1951.

His native town, Wyk auf Föhr, tried to reinstate a street sign that honoured his heroics during the First World War (the street sign had been changed by the British military administration in 1945), but there was such a public outcry in Germany and the Netherlands that the town council bowed down in 1980.

Further reading

  • Badsey, S., Arnhem 1944: Operation Market Garden, London, Osprey Publishing, 1993.
  • Beevor, A., Arnhem: The Battle for the Bridges, 1944, London, Viking, 2018.
  • Bijvoet, T., Van Arragon Hutten, A., The Hunger Winter, 2013.
  • Hart, N., “Famine, Maternal Nutrition and Infant Mortality: A Re-Examination of the Dutch Hunger Winter”, Population Studies 47/1 (March 1993) 27–46.
  • Smith, C., “The effects of wartime starvation in Holland on pregnancy and its product”, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology 53/4, 1947, p. 599-608.
  • Stein, Z. et al., Famine and Human Development. The Dutch Hunger Winter of 1944–45, 1975.

  • Operation Market Garden | Wikipedia