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Prior to 1940, the Netherlands was a neutral country, generally on good terms with Germany. In May 1940 Queen Wilhelmina escaped to London; the Dutch government under Prime Minister De Geer would follow a day later, after the German invasion. The government was established at Stratton House in the Piccadilly area of London, opposite Green Park. Initially their hope was that France would regroup and liberate the country. Although there was an attempt in this direction, it soon failed, because the Allied forces were surrounded and forced to evacuate at Dunkirk.
The government in exile was soon faced with a dilemma. After France had been defeated, the Germans had installed the Vichy French government, which collaborated with Hitler. This led to a conflict between De Geer and the Queen. De Geer wanted to return to the Netherlands and collaborate as well. The government in exile was still in control of the Dutch East Indies with all its resources: it was the third largest oil producer at the time (after the US and the USSR). Wilhelmina realised that if the Dutch collaborated with Germany, the Dutch East Indies would be surrendered to Japan, as French Indochina was surrendered later by orders of the Vichy government.
Because the Netherlands' hope for liberation was now the entry of the US or the USSR into the war, the Queen dismissed her prime minister and replaced him with Pieter Sjoerds Gerbrandy, who worked with Churchill and Roosevelt on ways to smooth the path for an American entry. Aruba together with Curaçao the then world-class exporting oil refineries were the main suppliers of refined products to the Allies. Aruba became a British protectorate from 1940 to 1942 and a US protectorate from 1942 to 1945. On November 23, 1941, under an agreement with the Netherlands government-in-exile, the United States occupied Dutch Guiana to protect the bauxite mines. An oil boycott was imposed on Japan, which helped to spark the Pearl Harbor attack.
The Queen's unusual action was later ratified by the Dutch parliament in 1946. Churchill called her "the only man in the Dutch government".