The Netherlands / Story
The impending liberation triggered a huge movement of Nazi sympathisers. Fearing a day of reckoning, collaborators sought safety in flight. For example, the village of Zurich received a visit from NSB leader Anton Mussert, who was on his way to the Afsluitdijk.
With liberation approaching, tens of thousands of German soldiers, National Socialists and their Dutch sympathisers were deeply concerned about their fate. What would happen to them, now that a German defeat seemed inevitable?
Fleeing towards 'the fatherland' seemed the best option, but the Allies pushed so fast northwards that Germany became unreachable for many. To the still occupied western part of the Netherlands then, and wait out the rest of the war there.
In the final days before liberation, Friesland saw many fleeing collaborators pass through, including notorious war criminals. They tried to get away by boat in Lemmer or Stavoren, or by car via the Afsluitdijk.
In the chaos of the last weeks of the war, the village of Zurich, a stone's throw from Harlingen, was visited by a procession of luxury cars. Some twelve men, two women and two little girls got out. "Can you entertain my company here today?" one of the men asked the café owner. "We want to travel on across the Afsluitdijk tonight." It was NSB leader Anton Mussert, en route from his Almelo estate to North Holland.
The car they were travelling in contained a large supply of drinks. The group was soon intoxicated and ended up on the seafront, laughing uproariously. The NSB members gave an impression that they no longer cared. There was swearing. The café owner's 20-year-old daughter witnessed it. "Don't you to stand in front of me, asshole!" someone shouted at a colleague. One of the women said: "My husband wanted high, he will hang high".
However, the NSB members were not the only ones who had some to drink. The liquor car was subjected to close scrutiny by villagers. One of them said: "I got drunk on Mussert’s drink," after which he was put to bed. The next day, the company drove on, towards the Afsluitdijk.
The Wadden Islands also became a haven for collaborators. There were still many German soldiers there, and they hoped that they could be evacuated from there by other means. Personnel from the infamous Scholtenhuis, the SD headquarters in Groningen, for example, ended up on Schiermonnikoog, where the last German soldiers remained until 11 June.
Florentine Rost van Tonningen-Heubel, the wife of NSB leader Meinoud Rost van Tonningen, fled to Terschelling, heavily pregnant. "The Black Widow," notorious in her own right for never distancing herself from National Socialism after the war, gave birth to a son on 28 April in the village of Midsland. The delivery caused a commotion: when the islanders found out that a Rost van Tonningen had been born in their village, a small popular uprising ensued. But in the end, it all fizzled out.