March 6

This Day in History

World War II

Mar 6, 1945:

Dutch Resistance ambushes SS officer—unwittingly

Members of the Dutch Resistance who were attempting to hijack a truck in Apeldoorn, Holland, ambush Lt. Gen. Hanns Rauter, an SS officer. During the following week, the German SS executed 263 Dutch in retaliation.

The Dutch Resistance was one of the fiercest of all the underground movements in Nazi-occupied Europe. "The Dutch never accepted the German contention that... the war was over," wrote the Dutch foreign minister in a postwar account of life under Nazi occupation. "[T]heir acts of resistance and sabotage grew more audacious as time passed."

Those acts of resistance and sabotage included harboring Allied soldiers and pilots who either parachuted or crash-landed within Dutch territory, harboring Dutch Jews, and killing German troops. The Resistance was composed of representatives from all segments of Dutch society, ranging from the most conservative to communists.

Rauter was head of the SS in Holland and answered directly to Heinrich Himmler, the SS commander. In 1941, during a strike that broke out in Amsterdam among Dutch workers to protest the round-up of almost 400 Dutch Jews, Hauter ordered the SS and German troops to open fire on the strikers, killing 11. The Jews, whom the strikers were trying to protect, were deported to Buchenwald. All were dead by the fall.

Rauter was riding in an SS truck, filled with food destined for the Luftwaffe (the German air force) based near Apeldoorn on March 6, 1945, when some young members of the Dutch Resistance ambushed the truck. The closing days of the war had left much of occupied Holland close to famine conditions, and the guerrillas were determined to co-opt the food. They did not know Rauter was in the truck when it was attacked; Rauter was shot during the heist attempt but lived. In retaliation, the SS proceeded to round up and execute 263 Dutchmen, some of whom were Resistance fighters who were already being held in prison.

Rauter was tried for war crimes by the Dutch court Den Haag. He was found guilty and sentenced to death. He appealed the sentence at Nuremberg in 1949, but the sentence was upheld and he was executed that year.

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