What is Remembrance Day in the Netherlands and what’s on to mark this day (4 May) and Liberation Day (5 May).
For the Netherlands, Remembrance Day (Dodenherdenking) is an important date in the calendar. Even though World War II ended 74 years ago, the Dutch people believe it important to remember and celebrate being liberated.
Across the country, four out of every five Dutch citizens choose to honor the fallen and observe a two-minute silence held at 20:00 on 4 May. Visit https://www.4en5mei.nl to see what is happening near you to commemorate Remembrance Day and celebrate Liberation Day.
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 with commemorations held across the nation. A remembrance ceremony is held on Dam Square in Amsterdam with the King and various representatives of both the Council of Ministers of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Parliament in attendance. Over 20,000 people attend this event and at 18:00, the flag is hung at half-mast. The King, lays a wreath just before 20:00, when the nation falls silent for two minutes.
Commemorating Remembrance Day
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.
On the following day, 5 May, the whole country celebrates Liberation Day, which includes both solemn gatherings and speeches, but also various festivals and music festivals in Amsterdam.
A recent national survey sponsored by the organization in charge of the national remembrance days, the 4 and 5 May National Committee, shows that the Dutch are deeply attached to the traditional commemoration. Eight out of ten surveyed regard the commemoration on May 4 and celebrating Liberation Day on May 5 as important.
As the number of people who actually lived through the war diminishes, the committee regularly holds a survey to ascertain whether there is still adequate support for the annual remembrance days. And the level of support is still high: 90% reflect on the commemorations on May 4 and 80% observe the two-minute silence. Those interviewed feel the same way about the annual celebration of the liberation, even after the last of the survivors will have passed away.
Slightly more than half of all Dutch citizens believe that, 74 years after the end of World War II, reconciliation between the Netherlands and Germany is complete. A small minority still has a negative image of their German neighbors but choose to believe that “The Netherlands is a country where you can live in peace and liberty”.
Remembrance Day is an annual observance but not a public holiday in the Netherlands.