Frame II  Sea becomes land

For a long time, there had been plans regarding the reclamation of the Zuiderzee (Southern Sea), but it was not until the 19th century that these plans were actually feasible. Still, it was not just a matter of technique: possibly an even greater obstacle was finding the financial means to realize such a huge project. Eventually, Cornelis Lely, blessed with political ingenuity, was able to turn his technical plan into the Zuiderzeewet (Southern Sea Law) of 1918. This law became the basis for the Zuiderzeepolders (Southern Sea polders), including the Noordoostpolder (Northeast polder). Without Lely, who was a unique combination of technician and politician, the Noordoostpolder would never have existed.

Film: How it all began: the Noordoostpolder. Except from the film ’35 jaar Noordoostpolder’ (35 years Noordoostpolder), released in 1977. The film shows us the reclamation of the Noordoostpolder since 1942

Between publishing the plans for reclamation in 1891 and passing the law (Zuiderzeewet) is a gap of 27 years. After passing the law it would take another 18 years before they finally began the reclamation of the Noordoostpolder, the second largest polder in the project. First, the Great Depression of the thirties had to be overcome. The construction and draining of the Noordoostpolder still show signs of the aftermath of that crisis: the polder was built plain, but with a lot of drive and energy.

The Second World War

The reclamation coincided with another tragic chapter in the history of the 20th century: the Second World War. The Noordoostpolder was reclaimed during these dreadful times. The workforce was mostly formed by men who, through this work, escaped forced employment (Arbeitseinsatz) in Germany. The ease with which exemptions were extended, shows us that the Germans acknowledged the importance of a rapid development of the Urkerland, which was the Noordoostpolder’s official name from 1944 to 1948.

Dutch Paradise for People in Hiding (Nederlands Onderduikers Paradijs)

At the same time, some of the people and authorities working on the cultivation of the Noordoostpolder were organizing the (armed) resistance and aided in hiding certain people from the Germans. The polder’s wilderness in the early years of the reclamation provided excellent shelter for those who had to stay out of German hands. In those years the abbreviation N.O.P. (meaning NoordOostPolder) was also interpreted as Nederlands Onderduikers Paradijs (Dutch Paradise for People in Hiding).

At the end of the war, the occupying force ceased its tolerant attitude with regard to the Noordoostpolder. Two raids followed and there was even a brief moment when they considered blowing up the new dyke. On April 17th 1945, Albert Knipmeijer, head of the resistance, entrusted the authority to bailiff Smeding, the highest representative of the civil administration. This happened on a public square, now called Harmen Visserplein (Harmen Visser square) named after the resistance fighter who died near Schoterzijl the previous day.

Film: ‘Register van de dag van gister: het verhaal van een polderpionier’ (Register of yesterday: the story of a polder pioneer). Made by two students attending the Zuyderzee Lyceum.