The liberation of the Netherlands took just over seven months to complete. Though the liberation began when Allied troops entered Maastricht on September 13, 1944, the Dutch weren't completely liberated until May 5, 1945. After suffering harsh conditions under Nazi occupation, the Dutch enthusiastically welcomed Allied forces, led by the Canadian Army, as they made their way through the country.
Canadian Victory at Antwerp
In the fall of 1944, Allied forces launched an attack that secured the Belgian port of Antwerp. To gain control of the waterway, the Allies needed to take possession of Dutch coastal areas. The First Canadian Army cleared the shores of Nazi forces in a fierce battle that led to more than 6,000 Canadian soldiers being killed, wounded or captured. Though it cost the Canadians dearly, the campaign was key to the liberation of the Netherlands.
Allied Loss at Arnhem
Allied forces launched Operation Market Garden in September of 1944. The first attempt to take the east back from the Nazis, it was a bold land and airborne attack at Arnhem. The attack was unfortunately met with fierce resistance and Allied troops were denied access to Holland, located on the western side of the Netherlands. The winter that followed would be the worst for the Dutch people. Called "The Hunger Winter," it was marked by exhausted food and fuel supplies and increased death from starvation and cold.
Canadian Forces at the Front Line
Canadian troops held the front lines for three months before joining the final push for liberation. In February 1945, the first Canadian Army joined allied forces in pushing the Germans out of the Netherlands across the Rhine river. By April, the Canadian Army led Allied troops in a push north and west in a rapid sweep of the country. As they pushed Nazi forces out of the country, the Canadians air-dropped food and relief supplies for starving Dutch citizens.
Canadian Troops Liberate Holland
The Canadian Army continued to lead Allied troops through newly-abandoned towns as the war approached its end. German forces officially surrendered in the Netherlands on May 5, 1945 and Canadian troops were tasked with liberating western Holland. As Canadian troops freed important cities in Holland -- Rotterdam, The Hague and the National Capital, Amsterdam -- refugees filled the streets to cheer for their liberators and rooftops were painted with "Thank you, Canadians!"
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