5 questions: Remembrance of the Dead en Liberation Day

The National Monument on Dam Square in Amsterdam is a monument to commemorate the Second World War in the Netherlands. Beeld Jean-Pierre Jans

What does the National Remembrance of the Dead on 4 May signify?

All the victims of the Second World War and other wars and peace missions are remembered every year on National Remembrance of the Dead on 4 May. During the Second World War there were many victims among the Jews, Roma and Sinti, resistance fighters, communists, homosexuals, Jehovah Witnesses and soldiers. Two minutes of silence are observed at the National Monument on Dam Square and at other monuments in the city at 8 o’clock in the evening. Commemorations are also held in other municipalities, and public transport comes to a halt. Flags are flown at half-mast on this day.

In Amsterdam, hundreds of people walk in silence from Jonas Daniël Meijerplein, along Nieuwe Keizersgracht through Kerkstraat, Utrechtsestraat, Rembrandtplein and Rokin to reach Dam Square by 8 pm. Flowers and wreaths are then laid.

National Remembrance of the Dead on Dam Square Beeld ANP

What is the National Monument on Dam Square?

The National Monument on Dam Square in Amsterdam is a monument to commemorate the Second World War in the Netherlands. It was designed by the architect JJP Oud and unveiled in 1956. The statues are by the sculptor Johannes Rädecker. At the front, two lions guard the monument, which has four manacled male figures in relief by Paul Grégoire on its face. National Commemoration Day has been marked here since 1961.

The inside of the memorial wall has lines by the Dutch poet Adriaan Roland Holst that conclude with a tribute to freedom.

What does 5 May signify?

The liberation of the Netherlands in 1945 is marked by countrywide celebration on 5 May. The Netherlands comes to a halt on this day for people to show their respect for the values of freedom, democracy and human rights. Amsterdam and the rest of the country play host to all kinds of festivities, including musical events, liberation festivals and freedom banquets. The flags are now hoisted to the top of the flagpoles.

In the evening, a 5 May concert is held in front of the Carré Theatre on the Amstel in the presence of the king and queen. The day was declared a national holiday in 1990.

“Bevrijdingsfestival” or Liberation Festival in Westerpark Beeld Amaury Miller

The Holocaust in the Netherlands

The Netherlands was occupied by Nazi Germany from 1940 to 1945 during the Second World War. In the Netherlands more Jews - seen by the Nazis as inferior - fell victim than anywhere else in relative terms. There were 140,000 Jews in the country, with more than half - 80,000 - living in Amsterdam. One in 10 of the residents of Amsterdam was Jewish.

Approximately 102,000 Dutch Jews were murdered in Nazi death camps. In May 1945, the country was liberated by US, British and Canadian troops.

Anne Frank was one of the many victims of the Holocaust in Amsterdam. Beeld ANP

The Dutch Resistance

There were various resistance groups in the Netherlands that rose up against the Nazis. They provided hiding places for Jews and others in danger. Among other activities, they printed forged identity documents, wrote and disseminated illegal resistance newspapers, like Het Parool, liquidated traitors or important German military officers, blew up railway lines and bridges and set fire to buildings like the Amsterdam population registry.

Het Parool was one of the resistance newspapers that were founded during the Second World War. Beeld Rink Hof
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