9. WWII and Architecture

The war was really interesting to learn about as the Netherlands is not at all mentioned when we learn about it in history at school. It is also interesting to learn about a country under occupation as obviously for us it is all about fighting the war and the great British morale everyone had during the Blitz. Germany never broke us etc. I did not know that Germany attacked the Netherlands and Belgium without warning and that they bombed Rotterdam anyway. This explains the huge disgust the Dutch give, so my grandpa tells me who works in a castle, when you mistakenly identify the Dutch as German. Though I have asked a few people on UCU whether they are offended if I was to say they are German and most of them say they would be a little annoyed, but not as offended as the older generation. It’s good to see that views of the war are changing.

For our remembrance day on 11th November I do not think it is as discussed who the day is for. I just gather it is for all the veterans of any war since then. I would like to think that the subject of the boy’s poem would be able to be included as a thought in our remembrance, though I am not sure if others would think the same. I think it is much more personal and the idea is for you to remember and not specifically to talk about victim groups and who they were. On our day we meet at our town memorial and speeches are given by a minister of the church and then representatives of various local organizations, such as the Scouts, each lay a poppy wreath down at the memorial for the victims and then there is a 2 minute silence at 11am.

It was also interesting as I talked about WWII with a Dutch friend here and she said she didn’t get why people were wearing poppies for a long time before all the lead up to remembrance for what she said was months. Though I guess it would only be a few weeks. She said that she didn’t even know when it was, which surprised me as I assumed it was a common thing to know what happened on November 11th at 11am. I had never considered how other countries showed respect to their war veterans beforehand. I assumed it was all the same, but obviously that wouldn’t make sense for the Netherlands as they were neutral in WWI so why would they have that date as a special day?

Something I’ve noticed about the Netherlands a lot more than at home is the amount of architecture around. It seems that any building is either traditional or very architectural and I think this defines the Netherlands quite a bit. Especially with places like Rotterdam with the cube houses etc. which is especially known for its superb architecture. I also really enjoyed visiting the Rietveld Schröder House. It is crazy to believe it was built nearly 100 years ago when it is so modern, even for today. I especially liked the flexible walls and black for things you touched so they wouldn’t get dirty. Very clever. I had mistakenly thought, though, that the house was based on the painting by Piet Mondrian because of the use of white and black with the primary colours, though I was wrong.

I do not think the UK goes in for architecture in such a big way, perhaps because we have so many beautiful old buildings, that having modern ones against it would be an odd combination. We do have many ugly 70s tower blocks though, which are horrible. I was however happy to read in the book that architects wanted to build on the English garden city principle which I was very pleased about as my town at home is the world’s first garden city, Letchworth, and hence was the template for the rest of these garden city developments. It was interesting for me to hear this as people at home go on about it all the time, but it has made me realise that this principle was a big deal and something that other cities in other countries really wanted to put into action.

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