Book 'V2-VERGELTUNG' from The Hague
This year it is precisely 61 years ago since the first two V2-rockets were launched from Wassenaar to engage in their mission of destruction on London. Because it looked as if they were losing the war, the Germans focussed every effort on their last hope - new ‘secret weapons’ - one of which was the A4 rocket. The minister of propaganda Goebbels gave these weapons the letter ‘V’ for propaganda reasons: the ‘V’ for revenge or 'Vergeltung' for the never-ceasing Allied bombings of German cities. The V1 was the flying bomb of the German Luftwaffe, a type of ‘cruise missile’, mainly launched from France but also from the Netherlands. The V2 was a ballistic rocket developed under the name A4.
Between the 8th of September 1944 and the 27th of March 1945 more than a thousand V2 rockets were launched from different locations in and around The Hague1. Twelve missiles came down in built-up areas of the city shortly after being launched, destroying almost everything. More than 60 people lost their lives. The new buildings in, for example, the Indigostraat, Riouwstraat, Willem de Zwijgerlaan and the Westduinweg, indicate were the V2s came down into the inner city.
It wasn't only London that was targeted by the V2s. However, also Antwerp was to be a main target. More than 1600 V2s were launched towards this Belgian city. As the advance into France was so successful, Eisenhower, supreme commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, wanted to occupy Antwerp as soon as possible to enable his troops to receive supplies. Without the facilities of this city’s harbour, it was impossible to push through into Germany as the artificial harbours in Normandy were too far away and their capacity was not large enough to cope with the logistics of such an operation. On the 4th of September the Allied Forces entered Antwerp and the harbour fell into their hands almost undamaged. However, in order to be able to use the harbours, the River Scheldt was needed to be a safe shipping lane: hence a huge landing operation was launched on Walcheren, in October/November 1944. Only after capturing Walcheren could the Allied ships use the River Scheldt.
To stop the Allies using the harbour, the Germans fired V1 flying bombs and V2 rockets at the city. The German Ardennes Offensive was a last attempt to recapture the harbour of Antwerp. Because the Americans held out in Bastogne, the Germans could be beaten at the end of January 1945.
In London the rockets caused many casualties and widespread material damage. Because the rockets were very difficult to stop in their path, and the V1s performed a devastating job with no mercy, the spirit of the Londoners was stretched to the limit. The Allies tried every means to stop the launching of the rockets. The resistance and spies were much in demand to supply target information to planned air raids on V2 targets in the Netherlands. Regularly bombing raids were carried out on supply-routes, depots and launching sites.
Consequently, the inhabitants of The Hague and its surroundings were under great pressure, as they were in danger of losing their lives not only from the unsuccessful German V2 launches but also from the Allied bombings. Every inhabitant listened anxiously when a rocket was launched: 'Will the V2 follow its path or will it drop nearby?' By launching the rockets from a densely built-up area, the Germans were in fact using the civilian population as a human shield against the expected air raids. It was almost an impossible task to destroy the movable V2 launching installations. This is why the Royal Air Force was reluctant to use heavy bombs. They preferred to use these to destroy the rail infrastructure in the German hinterland. Heavy bombers were only three times used to bomb V2 targets in the West of the Netherlands. The best known case was the one on March 3rd 1945, resulting in the destruction of a large part of Bezuidenhout district. The inhabitants of the urban agglomeration also suffered a hunger winter with a shortage of food, clothes and fuel and there were a lot of razzias. Death was everywhere. Germans were rounding up civilians to build field-fortifications or to perform other forced labour tasks
It can be clearly seen from present material how great an impact the V2 launches, the failed launches and the bombings on the areas, from where the rockets were launched, was. On the other hand, on opening the East German archives after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the connection became visible between the suffering of prisoners in the concentration camps, who were forced to work on the V2 production lines in Dora, and the testing of the V2 rocket engines in Laura, among whom were Dutch victims, including a few from The Hague. Another group of Dutch civilians fell victim to the Germans. Out of curiosity, or completely unaware of what had happened, they had entered the spot where the V2s had dropped and were instantly executed. Such was also the fate of the Dutch radio-pioneer Idzerda.
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First English edition, Almere – The Hague, August 2005
Translation: Dily Damhuis, Paul Fowlie, Sylvia en Johan van Oosten en Trees Teunissen.
Original Dutch version published, Almere – The Hague, September 2003 (2nd edition)