THE NETHERLANDS: The Woman Who Wanted a Smile

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Another example of Dutch vigor is Walcheren Island, whose dikes had been broken in 1944 by British bombing (TIME, Aug. 23). For almost a year the tides had washed back & forth across farms and villages. After the liberation Walcheren's soil was a mass of mud and sand. It looked as though the island would never live again. Last week, in Middelburg (Walcheren's chief city), all the buildings stood —the neat red brick branch of the Amsterdamsche Bank, the butcher's house, the general store, the photographer's shop. Along the quay, barges were unloading cement, bricks, steel and timber. In every street people were working on new houses. The land was green and farmers were harvesting. Only one thing was missing on this island which had once been called the orchard of Holland—the trees. When the flood receded, there had been mussels instead of fruit in the dead branches. The sea water had killed the trees and their skeletons had to be removed; now it was possible to look from one end of the twelve-mile island to the other.

The old story that in some of the villages boys were paid to blow the dust out of the cracks in the pavement four times a day was undoubtedly an exaggeration. But everywhere women were washing, scrubbing and dusting. In Westkapelle, barely 100 yards from where the dike had broken, rows of new brick houses stood in the bright August sun. Two disabled British tanks, "Red Toad" and "Dandy," were still standing on a street corner; village children played hide & seek in their turrets.

On the dunes stood rows of pillboxes—remnants of the Nazis' "Atlantic Wall." Most of the pillboxes were inhabited by families who had not yet been able to build new houses; many were decorated with flowerpots. One woman was doing her washing in front of her "villa." Said she: "It takes an awful lot of scrubbing to keep the concrete clean. But at least we are at home on our own land."

The Dutch have a very special attitude toward the land which they painfully wrest from the sea: it is a garden to be cherished. For miles, Holland is literally covered with glass houses sheltering peaches, tomatoes, grapes. Clean, dappled cows and well-brushed, long-maned Friesian horses graze in shaded pastures.

The Index of Rotterdam. Despite the country's health and vigor, Holland's magnificent start on reconstruction has run into serious difficulties. The Dutch eat adequately, but most of their food is still tightly rationed (bread & butter are about to be freed). Three-quarters of their yearly clothing ration is needed for a suit: they get only one pair of shoes every 18 months.

The causes of Holland's economic troubles are plain. Germany, before the war Holland's best customer, is still strangled by occupation. Worse still, The Netherlands has lost most of its trade with Java and the other East Indies. Normal trade cannot be restored while the present conflict between The Hague and the Indonesian nationalists continues. Both sides have agreed to set up a "United States of Indonesia," but the Dutch and the nationalists are still arguing over how to interpret this agreement.

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