The Kingdom of the Netherlands (Dutch: Koninkrijk Der Nederlanden) is a country in Western Europe. It is bordered to the east by Germany and to the south by Belgium. It possesses the overseas territories of Suriname, Curaçao, and the Dutch East Indies.
At the advent of the Great War, the kingdom of the Netherlands stood before a harsh choice; to join arms with the French, the British, or the Germans -- they were caught in a position with seemingly no escape. Troops were evenly divided across the borders -- the western coast, the southern border with Belgium, and the north and western coast and border with Germany. During this time, the parliament decided on neutrality politics, appeasing every side of the conflict that would take a scale that was larger than life. To this end, general Snijders was selected to fulfill the role of supreme commander of the Dutch armed forces. Immediately this caused tension; Snijders was of the opinion that an attack by the Germans was undefeatable, and advised that the Netherlands should form an alliance with -- and fight on the side of -- the German empire.
This tension rose throughout the entire war, and parliament tried to relieve him from his position many times only to find their attempts thwarted by the queen Wilhelmina, who shared Snijders' opinion in no small part due to her blood ties to the German crown. Due to this, and despite Snijders' offers to resign, disallowed by the queen, Snijders remained in charge of the armed forces of the Netherlands throughout the Great War.
The Great War saw much activity for the Netherlands who, inadvertently, profited greatly off of the Great War through contracting with the warring nations, providing an access port for domestic trade -- and occasionally a safe harbor to repair military vessels in for both sides -- through it's ports. The ports of Amsterdam and Rotterdam expanded exponentially during this time, as the Netherlands was one of the few neutral nations in northern Europe that provided access routes to areas that were otherwise inaccessible.
Moreover, the Great War also displaced a great many people who moved to the Netherlands as refugees -- from France and Belgium primarily, and later on from Germany too. Although these refugees originally had intended to return to their homelands, it soon became apparent that the war would not come to an end any time soon. By the time the war was over in 1927, these people had built up new lives in the Netherlands, and not many were willing to give this all up to return to a country that would still be war-torn and offered few chances for them. The influx of refugees -- who, by then, were as much citizens as anyone else -- provided the Netherlands with a large population growth of all classes -- whether it be labourers, intelligentsia, or otherwise.
By 1921, it had become obvious that the Great War was lasting too long: the refugees that had been assumed would go home in fact did not end up going home. As more and more refugees from Belgium, France and Germany flooded the Netherlands, it soon became obvious that this could go on no further. It's own population of roughly 6.9 million in 1921 meant that they could utilize all of the country -- and then have room to spare. Housing, feeding and generally making space for an influx of some 2-3 million refugees from 1914 to 1921, however, was a challenge that the Dutch government had been ill prepared for.
In January 1921 this "issue" of the refugees became a furious argument in parliament; this culminated in a physical argument between Paul de Groot of the Communistische Partij Holland and Roelof Kranenburg of the Vrijzinnig Democratische Bond that was stopped just before it came to blows by other members of parliament. From henceforth onwards, the refugees became a true political issue in the Netherlands that came to be known as the Refugee Question.
In April that same year, when the first ceasefires were written up, the Dutch member of parliament Age Buma put forth a motion to ask for the research on whether it was possible to drain the Zuiderzee. Normally such a request would have been met with stern disagreement, but in the past 3 months the Refugee Question had turned from just another issue into the only issue that was currently plaguing the Netherlands. Buma proposed, in his motion, that the land made available by the drainages would be enough to house the refugees, and by developing agricultural investments in the area, feed them too.
While the flames of war were fanned around the Netherlands, it turned inwards, towards its own. Age Buma created a research team spearheaded by Cornelis Lely.
Several old plans were revisited, and it was decided that the 1866 plan "Stieltjes" would be used as a blueprint for the project that would be dubbed Zuiderzeewerken. Queen Wilhelmina gave the project her stamp of approval and openly supported the project once she became aware of it, calling it a "great project of ingenuity that will make the Netherlands into the prosperous nation we all want it to be." While there were great conflicts between Wilhelmina and parliament -- most importantly over the axis-aligned supreme commander Snijders -- she enjoyed the popular support of not just the Dutch people, but also the refugees that now lived in the Netherlands; due to this, it was hard for the politicians of parliament to change their minds on the project. The Zuiderzeewerken were finally proposed to parliament in October 1922, and approved. A year later preparations were complete, and construction was started on a large dam across the sea between Noord-Holland and Friesland. This construction was simple enough on it's own if it were to function like an actual dam, but there were several requirements from an engineering perspective that made the project much harder. First of all, the depth of the sea fluctuated heavily, from 4 meters to 20 meters. An optimal route had to be charted, performed by Cornelis Lely himself (aided by mathematicians and field measurement equipment, of course) during the preparations. A secondary challenge was that the dam had to be able to open and close; ship traffic to ports -- most importantly Amsterdam -- could not be impeded. It took four years -- to 1926 -- to create this dam. During this time the polders for the land reclamation projects were also started, creating the basis for the actual land reclamation process. Construction on the polders (and the prerequisite equipment to begin reclaiming land) was complete by 1927, and the process to take water out of the polders begun. From 1914 to 1927, Snijders never wavered from his duties as the supreme commander of the Dutch armed forces, but it was not a surprise when he was fired from his position in 1927, after the war ended, the reason being cited as defeatism. Queen Wilhelmina gave up her support for Snijders at this time, as the war was over and her (and Snijders) opinions on Germany were no longer relevant. Snijders accepted the outcome of his service and was commemorated later that year with a plaque showcasing his face, lined with the text "een leven in dienst van zijn Land en zijn Volk," placed in Scheveningen, and paid for by the queen herself. He went on to take part in the authoritarian right-wing political party Verbond voor Nationaal Herstel but ultimately gave up his seat in parliament. As one of the few countries in Europe that had managed to remain neutral throughout the conflict, the peace that followed the Great War was signed in Rotterdam -- a city that, despite the war around it, had managed to become Amsterdam's rival. It was apparent that neutrality and peace had done the Netherlands much good -- and queen Wilhelmina, albeit silently, wished that this would convince the other powers in Europe to fare a similar course. With the end of the war, however, the Refugee Question became even more pressing -- the obvious truth now became simply a truth, and many of the refugees indeed did not feel much for moving back home to their war torn countries. For example, Amsterdam now knew not only the Jodenbuurt, but also the Duitsenkwartier and the Franse Wijk, where many of these people had settled in the years prior. These areas were, at the time, impoverished and intended to be temporary housing that had slowly managed to become permanent. The Flemish Belgians settled massively in Noord Brabant, a region they were intimately familiar with for the most part -- having lived in Southern Brabant and surrounding regions themselves. They were well received in the region, sharing a language and parts of a culture, and had no trouble finding a new home in the region. Most of them took up jobs at local farms, others settled in the cities and found employment quickly. The Wallonians, on the other hand, settled in cities further north, often taking up residence in the French neighborhoods in Den Haag, Amsterdam and Rotterdam.
In and of itself this was not a problem -- the Dutch prided themselves on their (misplaced) notions of tolerance -- but it became more and more obvious that there was simply a lack of housing, and agricultural production was unable to keep up, leading to a massive decrease in agricultural exports, which ended up hurting the Dutch economy. But the Zuiderzeewerken would need time and effort to be able to be completed -- time and effort that, unfortunately, would outlast the creator of the plan, Cornelis Lely. In 1929 he passes away, leaving behind a legacy that would inspire future generations of Dutchmen -- but, at the time, it seemed like a hollow sacrifice in the face of a lack of housing and space -- the polders had begun emptying the polders two years before, and process had been slow, slower than anticipated. The water was slowly draining, but not fast enough to make a difference in the difficult refugee situation. Come 1930 and that situation had worsened considerably. With the communist uprising in Germany so close to their homes, many people began to worry that another war was soon upon them. The flood of new refugees from the east only furthered this worry, as rich German aristocrats began arriving daily. Many of these aristocrats settled in Amsterdam -- albeit not in the Duitsenkwartier -- and Den Haag, often close to universities and other well-off areas. They did not fit into the Dutch system, where the aristocrats were aristocrats, but otherwise simply people. Rich people -- often times, very rich people -- but people all the same. Their arrival could not have been more ill-timed. Following their arrival, people took to the streets in the Hague, marching to the Malieveld to express their discontent at the arrival of even more refugees -- much more so rich aristocrats who felt, according to the Dutch, like they were god's gift to the Dutch.
Willem Albarda of the Sociaal-Democratische Arbeiderspartij saw his chance in the uproar, and expecting support from the eastern neighbors in Germany, declared that in five days time there would be a revolution if parliament did not secede to his demands. He declared such in the middle of the large gathering and received mixed responses then and there, but he continued his speech. The next days were uneventful; the speech had roused a response from the government that had begun arming the local police departments with carbines, and attached an extra cavalry detachment to the Amsterdam police department to contain any threat in the capital, but otherwise did not seriously respond to the threats or the list of demands that was delivered to them. Meeting with his organization, Albarda once more delivered a speech. The attendants -- those close to Albarda, mostly -- left the meeting feeling roused, but calm. The next day the "storm" would break loose. They would wake to affidavits stuck to the walls in every city, reading: The revolution -- much like its lead-up -- was uneventful. There were more contra revolutionaries than revolutionaries, and in light of this the government decided to suspend the Landstorm and instructed the police to continue their normal duties. Later on, Albada made apologies, saying he did not speak the word revolution once. It became apparent that many of the people in the Netherlands were perfectly happy with the situation as it was following the peaceful survival of the Great War -- a glance to the east, west and south made apparent to all that lived in the Netherlands that things were not quite so bad, and even the proletariat was in agreement that a revolution would not make matters better -- most socialist parties agreed that from henceforth socialist ideals would be furthered in the democratic process. The SDAP boycotted any debate about this topic to save themselves from embarrassment. With the communist uprising averted and the Zuiderzeewerken in full swing, the Netherlands entered a period of relative quiet and comfort, and the Zuiderzeewerken were completed in 1932, although much of the lands in the Flevopolder had already been taken into use five years prior to that, developed by parliament and occupied by farmers looking to expand on new and cheap agricultural lands. The Markerpolders, or at least the areas close to Amsterdam, were turned into a mixture of industrial and residential areas with small-scale agriculture, to provide a peripherie to Amsterdam. The straight-lined canals that ran through the reclaimed land area were perfect for an increase in size for the Amsterdam ports, and in the long term, this provided Amsterdam with an edge it needed to once again jump ahead of Rotterdam as 'the port of Europe.' This passive attitude of investment and life-improvement would continue in the Netherlands, even as eyes in Indonesia began to turn to the Sino-Japanese conflict when it arose. When this war ended in 1944, eyes averted once more; some with relief, some with anger. It was an open secret that a large portion of Indonesians were slowly becoming tired of the Dutch, and the only thing that had been keeping them in check was the KNIL -- which had seen a surge of reinforcements from the continent back home during the years in which there was a housing shortage -- living in warm, sweaty Indonesia where half the locals hate you was still preferable over living in a cramped space in the Netherlands, especially when the KNIL command fed you and kept a roof (or tent) over your head. And so, the Indonesians' eyes averted with anger -- anger that the Japanese had not continued their conflict and seized control of Indonesia like they had Vietnam and given them their "freedom" under a military government. And the KNIL averted their eyes with relief that they did not need to fight the trained war machine of the Japanese empire. April 3rd, 1945 would be the date ingrained into the memory of every soldier in the KNIL, however. While the declaration of war was quick to arrive in the Netherlands, news did not travel so quickly across a multitude of oceans and continents back, and while the Dutch government was still gathering itself, the KNIL was already fighting the Japanese imperial forces, unaware that war had even been declared. By then, however, it was more than obvious. The first invasions were swift -- caught off guard in positions that were poorly fortified, the Japanese overran most of the border regions in areas of Indonesia that had been deemed "strategically unimportant" to the Dutch. For the most part, these were regions that provided little to no actual monetary gains to them. But these routs quickly cascaded, and as one region fell, many of the KNIL soldiers trapped behind enemy lines and aware of what happened to POW's from what had happened in the Chinese-Japanese war, the next would quickly fall too, it's defenses not bolstered by the men that the Indonesian command had expected to arrive as part of the retreat. The saving grace of the KNIL forces that were essentially trapped on Indonesia was the navy, and while it could not rival the Japanese navy in size nor poundage, it made effective use of it's tools, and hindered the Japanese invasions where possible. It was this naval aid that allowed the KNIL to regroup in key positions, such as Batavia and Surabaya. From here on out, it was a losing battle, marred by the occasional outbreak or victory, but mostly marred by a bitter sense of dread -- it became more apparent as the years dragged on that British help was out of the question, and the Australians no longer had any interest in helping the Commonwealth and, in turn, the Dutch. Surabaya, one of the most important trade hubs in Indonesia, fell to the Japanese after a bitter fight in 1954 -- a bitter fight in which it had to be said that the KNIL made the Japanese pay for every step they set inside of their city. The situation, however, wasn't tenable, and the command was given all the way from the Netherlands by queen Wilhelmina herself to "abandon this reckless attempt at heroism and save your selves, that you may fight to defend the crown jewel another time." The North Sumatra 1st Garrison battalion, 2nd Garrison battalion and the Sabang detachment began preparing for a massive evacuation from Surabaya while the fighting was raging, during which the Japanese saw the destruction of the entire North Sumatra 1st Garrison, who sacrificed their lives to hold the line against the Japanese. By the time the Japanese broke through, preparations were only halfway complete, and the 2nd Garrison turned to fight the Japanese, offering the Sabang detachment a chance to continue preparations. Over half the 2nd Garrison battalion lost their lives before the evacuation order was given. Under constant fire, the men of the KNIL abandoned the city -- a city that would soon fly Japanese colors, but would always be a Dutch territory. Among the men of the Sabang detachment was cpl. Setiawan Krisna, an otherwise indistinguishable Indonesian soldier who, among the giants of the Netherlands, looks like a dwarf. Despite this, his senior officers claimed he fought off an entire house worth of Japanese soldiers while the rest of his men prepared a small boat for the evacuation. Embellished or not, the Dutch were aware of their lacking support among the Indonesians, as they only enjoyed Indonesian support in the larger cities that had been "enriched" by the Dutch presence, and not the countryside province that had mostly enjoyed a lack of representation and the disdain of the Dutch who saw them as little more than rice-growing savages. To this end they provided Setiawan Krisna with a knighting as a knight 4th class in the Militaire Willems-Orde. Immediately, they began spreading news of this among the few locations they still held in Indonesia; propping up Setiawan Krisna as an Indonesian war hero who did his part in the fight against Japanese imperialists. But the Japanese are not the only threat. The Partai Komunis Indonesia has recently reared it's head, and they do not care whether it is a Dutchman, an Indonesian, or a Japanese head on the Indonesian snake; what matters is their alignment to the cause of the proletariat. Thus far, faced with a far more credible and present threat, the Dutch have not made any large steps in eradicating or pacifying the PKI, and while queen Wilhelmina has not actively flirted with communism yet, she has also not been outspoken against it -- there are yet chances for rapprochement, though the windows of opportunity are closing fast. Despite the war, elections in the Netherlands have continued as they always have; the current leading party is the Staatkundig Gereformeerde Partij who have, with a coalition of likeminded center-christian parties, taken over the position of the government. The prime minister, Rody Broodman, was elected under vague promises of military reform to aid the situation in Indonesia, but has thus far not performed much and seems to be happy to let the situation ride the course it rides. Queen Wilhelmina, bitter about being forced to lose her "crown jewel" Indonesia, has petitioned aid from the first and second chamber of parliament, in a request to hand over control of the country to her under a provisional arrangement in which the prime minister and her temporarily switch roles -- she will determine the course the Netherlands fares for the duration of the war, and the prime minister will temporarily take the role of ratifier, the man who will approve all these actions. The proposal was pushed through -- with approval and encouragement of Rody Broodman himself, who was seemingly far less equipped to handle the war than he originally thought -- with a thin 66% to 34% margin in the second chamber, and an even thinner 58% to 42% margin in the first chamber, which was still held by a liberal and democratic majority. The deciding factor therein was that queen Wilhelmina was eager to face the Japanese emperor, whereas Rody Broodman was, quite simply put, not. But, besides for her willingness to face off against the emperor of Japan, the queen has also recently vented frustrations about Great Britain and it's unwillingness to participate in the conflict. While a token force of soldiers has been sent by the Brits, continued support from the Brits has remained out, and it has come down to the Dutch and only the Dutch to stop the Japanese war-machine. With oil and rubber production being not just threatened, but downright taken over by the Japanese, Wilhelmina seeks to act fast - and perhaps do so with the aid of a broken Russia. It is clear that, should Great Britain stay the course, Wilhelmina will be none too pleased and will potentially even blame any negative outcome of the Japanese-Dutch wars on the Brits. Apart from her ties to Russia, she has also expressed interest to her close confidante's that she is interested in pursuing closer ties with the Chinese if Russian aid is not enough. There currently exist no diplomatic channels -- but it is possible that Wilhelmina seeks to open more channels in the future. Lastly, she has called upon the restoration of the once positive Japanese-Dutch relations during the times in which the Dutch were the only European power allowed to trade with Japan on the artificial island of Dejima. She recounted the fact that once the ties had been "so good" -- glossing over the many conflicts that arose in this time -- that there were even Dutch studies (a phenomenon known to the Japanese as Rangaku). His name went unmentioned by Wilhelmina personally, but when she said "Japanese, call upon your emperor to stop this madness, that we might become friends motivated by mutual profit and investment," it was quite clear she was referring to the many candidates for the prime ministership of Japan, petitioning them to call for an end to this war.