TWO great postwar questions have been educating the Dutch people in the realities of foreign relations: What is to be the future of their next-door neighbor, Germany? What is to be the future of their distant overseas territories in Indonesia?
Those who have lived for five years under German occupation have found in German pillage, imprisonments and executions plenty of reason to hate the Germans. To such persons "the German problem" is not academic. But its real significance became clear to the Dutch people only gradually, and the forms which it took in Dutch eyes changed more than once. Initially, the Dutch spoke about an annexation of German territory. Then they talked about the desirability of occupying militarily a sector of western Germany. Now the question is focused on Dutch economic relations with Germany -- and in this form, indeed, the problem is seen to be one almost of life and death.
Annexation was a most unusual idea for the Dutch Government to entertain. Never during the last three centuries had the Netherlands made any claim to other people's territory. After the Dutch "Golden Age" in the seventeenth century, various territories had been lost, until a static condition was reached following the Napoleonic wars. When some portions of Germany were offered to the Netherlands after the First World War, the Government declined them: the Dutch had no wish to create a German irredenta within their borders.
But in the summer of 1944, the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs in the London Government, Dr. Eelco van Kleffens, suggested first in an article in FOREIGN AFFAIRS,[i] and afterwards through diplomatic channels, the possibility that the Netherlands might annex German territory in order to make good the injury the Germans had done to Dutch soil by wanton flooding. The Government did not make an outright claim, wishing to leave the matter open for action by Parliament; it simply reserved the right to ask for some annexation. The question was much debated in Holland in the
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