On 17 September 2019, it had been exactly 75 years since the Dutch government called a railway strike among NS employees. The Railway Museum decided to mark this anniversary by creating a small permanent exhibition and website about the Dutch railway during World War II. The presentation is entitled ‘Versteeg’s children’. The Railway Museum will be exhibiting its collection of posters, photos, panels, medals and other small objects from World War II. Comprehensive information is also available on the website www.kinderenvanversteeg.nl.
The title ‘Versteeg’s children’ refers to the secret code agreed upon by the NS, the Dutch resistance and the Dutch government in exile, to be used in the event that the Dutch railway must shut down train traffic to support an Allied invasion. The complete code went: ‘De kinderen van Versteeg moeten allen onder de wol’ (‘It’s time for Versteeg’s children to go to bed’). ‘Versteeg’ was the alias of acting director of the NS Willem Hupkes, whose children were all NS employees. Because the railway strike was not an isolated incident and must be viewed in the broader context to be understood, the role of the NS during World War II is the primary focus of the ‘Versteeg’s children’ presentation. The presentation begins in the year 1939, when the Dutch railways played an important part in mobilisation efforts. It tells the story of the Netherlands’ brief war period from 10 to 15 May and its subsequent capitulation and occupation – highlighting a few dilemmas, decisions and key moments along the way – before arriving at the climactic railway strike and finally the liberation of the country by Allied forces. The exhibition will illustrate these themes using objects and documents from the museum’s collection, making use of as many personal accounts as possible.
Previously, in 2013, the Railway Museum opened ‘Loaded Trains’, which explores the wartime deportation by train of Jews, Roma and Sinti in greater depth. This exhibition is a permanent part of the museum, as is the website www.beladentreinen.nl.