I was struck by the image of German troops singing in Amsterdam in 1940. As the troops stand in the square and sing, passerbys seem to turn their heads in vague acknowledgement of the occupiers; nobody in the picture stops to listen.
The Dutch were very cautious during the Second World War, surrendering quickly to German forces and avoiding antagonizing their Nazi occupiers. Yet, under the veil of docility was a quiet bravery. Though they did not openly rebel against the Nazis, they showed support for liberation. For example, Ajax’s annual report for 1941-1942 contained an implicit show of support for their Jewish members who had been taken away.
This could equally be seen as weakness. Perhaps the Dutch did quietly oppose the Nazis, but they did little to actively repel them or undermine their influence in the Netherlands. And these discreet acts of rebellion weren’t uncommon: Kuper says “Boasting about minor acts of wartime resistance is a Dutch custom” (105).
In my view, the picture says something more about the Dutch perspective. Though they allowed the German troops to sing in their square, not a single Dutchman paid them any heed; though the Germans were allowed to control their country, they were never allowed to dominate the Dutch soul.