The end of the First World War (1914 - 1918)
On 11 November, 1918, the First World War ended in an armistice. This event took place in the middle of a tumultuous period for the neutral Netherlands. This tumult can be clearly seen in three films from the EYE collection:
In the early morning of Sunday, 10 November, 1918, a convoy of cars appeared on the Dutch border. When it turned out to be the German Emperor Wilhelm II and his entourage, the commotion was huge - both in the Netherlands and abroad.
International relations were far from stable: the end of the war had been in sight for months, but the Allies demanded the resignation of the German Emperor as a condition for peace talks. In hopes of avoiding this requirement, in late October he left Berlin for the German military headquarters in Spa.
At the same time, a revolution was underway in Germany, which was exhausted from the war. Wilhelm realized on 9 November that he no longer had the support of the government and the army, and decided to resign. But he would not be safe in Germany, and the Allies were looking for him. The choice to flee to the Netherlands was a pragmatic one: the Netherlands was neutral, and the border in Limburg was nearby.
In the Limburg town of Eijsden, the Emperor and his entourage waited for word from the Dutch authorities, as his imperial rail cars began pulling into the station at the same time. The armistice that ended the First World War was signed on 11 November, after which Wilhelm formally received asylum in the Netherlands.
This very short film is a shot of a busy demonstration that took place on 18 November, 1918, with a carriage carrying Queen Wilhelmina and nine-year-old Princess Juliana in the midst of a crowd. The horses are unharnessed, and the carriage is being pulled by soldiers.
This event marked the end of a ‘red’ week, during which the spirit of revolution hung in the air in the Netherlands. The unrest broke out when the circumstances under which the German Emperor had resigned became clear: all of the attention suddenly focused on a speech by SDAP leader Pieter Jelles Troelstra from a few days earlier, in which he had called for revolution.
Troelstra thought that the Dutch army was keen on the idea of revolution, after four years of mobilization and ever-smaller rations. Moreover, the commander of the Dutch army, General Snijders, was in an untenable position because of his proposal to seek an alliance with Germany. Queen Wilhelmina refused to dismiss him, which led to a stalemate.
After a few days of skirmishes, it became clear that Troelstra had misjudged the situation (‘Troelstra’s mistake’). There would be no November revolution in the Netherlands. The demonstration on the Malieveld was organized by unions and associations that wanted to show their loyalty to the royal family and to the government; the spontaneous turnout was enormous.
Nonetheless, the revolution remained a frightening spectre in the Netherlands. In particular, people were frightened by the October Revolution of 1917, which had changed Russia beyond recognition in barely one year. But Germany also remained unsettled: the year 1919 began with the bloody quashing of the Spartacist uprising.
Of course there were also many people in the Netherlands with socialist sympathies, including a smaller group who hoped to ‘import’ the revolution.
That is why the government continued to urge the population to remain calm throughout 1919. It seems that the cinemas were successfully used for this purpose. The cinema operators were made to understand that screening anti-revolutionary propaganda was in their own interest: if the revolution were to break out, that would mean that all public occasions would come to a close.
This film warns the public not to turn to revolution, like the Russians did. The rhyming text was followed by images of the chaos abroad.