Red Cross relief action

After the liberation, the Betuwe was left as one of the worst affected areas of the Netherlands (see map). As in Zeeland, the damage was caused by both violence and (deliberate) flooding.

The Dutch Restoration of The People (N.V.H.) was the most important organisation of social work in the first post-war years. She took the lead in the organisation of social care. The Foundation for the Dutch People's Restoration owes its origins to the overwhelming scale of the problems of liberation, which none of the existing social-charitable organisations were up against, and the work ethic and zeal of illegal care groups. They carried out most of the work in the preparations, after which their initiative was taken over in modified form by social-charitable institutions.

The HARK was created in the autumn of 1944 by joint action of the R.K. Housing Committee, the Red Cross, the Episcopal Relief And the Interchurch Consultation.

On 24 January 1945, the HARK Foundation was installed. It was separate from the Red Cross and went to work to bring unity in the relief effort of war victims. Fundraisers appealed to the sense of togetherness to get goods and money. The HARK (450 employees, 10,000 volunteers and 1,000 local committees), distributed clothing, footwear, household goods and was active until 31 May 1947.

The following passages show that not everything went smoothly.

"Repatriation was criticised for giving goods to the Betuwe and not to Limburg. The Limburg rake wanted everything south of the rivers to go to Limburg. Goods from the Nijmegen region benefited the Betuwe; this was the easiest transport technically and goods coming from repatriation centres in the South went to North Limburg. A fair distribution was ensured, although this was difficult to prove until there was a breakdown of the total number of goods".

"The distribution of the other goods from Repatriation between the HARK and the National Bureaux was equally unsused due to a lack of cooperation. The need was so high everywhere that there was nowhere to be seen. What the HARK was able to provide to textiles was far from sufficient and from what became available through other channels, the prices were too high and the population too poor.

First, material had gone to the Betuwe. The region gave a bleak sight: almost all the houses were destroyed, there were remnants of household goods everywhere, weeds were rampant and of the orchards there was not much left. The evacuees were happy to be back, even if it was in a chicken coop or shed, but the need was huge and beds and utensils were also missing here. Electricity, gas or water supply had not yet been restored.. It was also decided to send Social Liaison Groups to Arnhem, Lent, Geldermalsen and North Limburg as well as Bath & Laundry Units. (The British Red Cross had transferred it on departure) The Section directed four groups of the Women's Relief Corps to Arnhem, Tiel, Nijmegen and the Veluwezoom and Queen's Messenger convoys went to Tiel and Elst. In doing so, the Military Authority positioned itself that these services were complementary to local relief efforts and not to take them over.

The HARK came up with an adoption plan that involved Friesland, Groningen, Drenthe and Overijssel taking care of Gelderland, Limburg and Zeeland (specifically Friesland adopted the Betuwe, see pamphlet, LJS). The intention was that 'wild assistance' would be a thing of the past and that actions would be better aligned.

The adoption plan was further refined to the municipal level. The plan to adopt an ailing municipality by one that had suffered less from the war was received with enthusiasm, but the organization threatened to collapse. There was also the problem that adoptions that had already been agreed were difficult to reverse by a higher-level action'.

Sources
“Het Circus Kruls. Militair Gezag in Nederland 1944-1946” D.C.L. Schoonoord, NIOD (2011)
Moving images:
De Betuwe” RVD (1945) 
Vijf Jaren” (De “HARK-film”) (1945)

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