On this day in 1963 Dutch exporters became millionaires overnight with clever foresight

In 1949 the Netherlands annexed the German town of Elten as compensation for WWII damages. For years there were negotiations about how Germany could get their land back but finally, in 1957 it was agreed that Germany would pay 280 million Deutsch Marks to have Elten and Tüddern returned back to them on 1 August 1963.

A boundary marker being painted in Elten, 1949 (Source: Joop van Bilsen from Wikipedia. Nationaal Archief number 903-3274)

What was the clever foresight?

Businesses knew that Elten would return to German territory on 1 August 1963 and so the night before, Dutch and German exporters filled their vans to the brim with goods like coffee and butter and quietly slept overnight in the town.

When they woke up, the trucks were automatically on German territory and no border crossing was necessary. Therefore, no import duties could be paid and as a result, the business saved an estimated 50 to 60 million guilders (roughly €22,700,000).

The wee village of Elten is now renowned for the “Eltener Butternacht” (Elten butter night).

Source: rodeopix on Pixabay

Freya Sawbridge
Freya Sawbridge
Freya was born in Edinburgh but raised in New Zealand (cue every person she meets saying “oh I have always wanted to go there but it’s so far away!”). A restless and curious nature has led her to move countries 5 times in the last 3 years in attempt to find a place she can call home. She contacted DutchReview on a whim and arrived in the Netherlands in summer 2019 to start her internship.


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