World War II in the West Suriname, The Netherlands Antilles and Aruba 1940-1945

World War II in the West Suriname, The Netherlands Antilles and Aruba 1940-1945

Project start
Project end
Partner country(ies)
long description

World War in the West is an intense exhibition about a special subject. Suriname and The Antilles were not occupied as such, but were involved in the war nevertheless. Both areas were of crucial importance to the allied warfare. Without the oil from the Antilles and the bauxite from Suriname, the allied forces might even have lost the war.

The exhibition tells the forgotten story of the war in the West. The story of bauxite and oil, but also of the German submarine attacks, of the care for Jewish refugees, of the detention camps for Germans and NSB-members (the Dutch Nationalist Socialist Movement), of activities to support the motherland and the rise of political organisations that strived for autonomy with the slogan "boss at home".

Mr Gerbrandy, prime minister of the Dutch government in exile, said in November 1941 on Radio Oranje (Orange, the name of the Dutch royal family): "The war shall be won on waves of oil and mountains of bauxite". He referred to the importance of Suriname, The Antilles' and Aruban industries to the allied air forces. Sixty percent of the planes were manufactured of aluminium from Suriname bauxite and eighty percent of the fuel came from refineries on Curacao and Aruba.

American troops protected these important industries. Their presence changed daily life drastically: economy boomed, infrastructure bettered and social interaction loosened. Ties with the Netherlands had been broken and the inhabitants were more self-reliant. Their outlook broadened. All this led to a strong and lasting impulse to the strive for independence.

This historical event is clarified with quotations and stories of inhabitants, the military and other eyewitnesses. How did they experience the war? And what about Suriname and Antilles people living in the Netherlands during the war? Many of them joined the resistance. Their stories are told as well in this exhibition.