Remembrance a must after 64 years
The Dutch never want to forget World War II.
When the Dutch talk about ‘the war', they mean World War II. And even though this war ended 64 years ago, the Dutch public don't want to forget. Four out of every five Dutch citizens think it is important to commemorate the dead and celebrate liberation day each year, even when there is no one left alive who experienced the war firsthand.
On 5 May 1945, German General Blaskowitz signed the surrender of the German occupational forces in the Netherlands in Hotel De Wereld in the town of Wageningen. Five years of war had scarred the flat polder land: 7,900 soldiers, 88,900 civilians and 106,000 Jewish compatriots had perished.
Since 1946, the victims have been remembered each year on 4 May. Commemorations are held all across the nation. The national remembrance ceremony is held at the National Monument on Dam Square in Amsterdam. In the presence of the queen and the cabinet, wreaths are laid, speeches given and two minutes of silence are observed nationwide.
The official "memorandum"
The National Remembrance ceremony is in recognition of all those, both civilians and military, who lost their lives in the Kingdom of the Netherlands or elsewhere since the outbreak of World War II, in situations of war and during peacekeeping operations.
Nazi armies attack Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg
On the following day, 5 May, the whole country celebrates Liberation Day, which also includes solemn gatherings and speeches, but mostly children's parties and major music festivals.
A recent national survey sponsored by the organisation in charge of the national remembrance days, the 4 and 5 May Committee, shows that the Dutch are deeply attached to the traditional commemoration.
As the number of people who actually lived through the war dwindles, the committee regularly holds a survey to test whether there is still adequate support for the annual remembrance days. And the level of support is overwhelming: 86 percent of those interviewed think the commemoration of the victims of World War II is important, and 78 percent feel the same way about the annual celebration of the liberation, even after the last of the survivors has passed away.
50 percent take part
More than half of all Dutch citizens commemorate the victims of the war at eight o'clock on 4 May. Among young people, the percentage is 25 and about 40 percent of Dutch citizens of foreign descent take a moment to reflect on the war.
One in three Dutch citizens take part in a Liberation Day celebration on 5 May. Most of them mention the end of the war in 1945 as their main reason for taking part, but also the fact that "The Netherlands is a country where you can live in peace and liberty". Those interviewed who are of foreign descent mainly celebrate "Freedom in general".
Slightly more than half of all Dutch citizens believe that, 64 years after the war, reconciliation between the Netherlands and Germany is complete. A minority of just 14 percent still has a negative image of their German neighbours. A much larger group (36 percent) used to dislike Germans but don't anymore.
And, of course, the Dutch would not be the Dutch if a large majority did not feel Liberation Day should be a paid day off, and everybody should receive a free Dutch flag to raise on 5 May.
Radio Netherlands / Peter Veenendaal / Expatica