In the first week of May, the Dutch pay tribute to the victims of all wars and mark the end of the Nazi occupation on two separate days: Remembrance Day (Dodenherdenking) on May 4.thand Liberation Day (Bevrijdingsdag) 5 May th.
What is the story of the celebration?
May 4thRemembrance Day
Originally, Remembrance Day was created to honor all the victims, civilians and soldiers, in World War II, but since 1961 it has included people who have died in any conflict since then. The Dutch authorities have decided to split Remembrance Day and Liberation Day to be able to have a darker day to remember the victim without ruining the happier celebrations of liberation from Nazi occupation.
Every May 4thth, the royal family, as well as veterans and military leaders participate in official ceremonies, where they lay flowers at the memorials to war victims. The main ceremonies are always broadcast, for example, the one that takes place on Dam Square in Amsterdam.
Other well-known ceremonies are in the Vaalsdorpervlakt near The Hague, where many members of the Dutch resistance were executed in World War II, and in the military cemetery in Grebberg.
Each municipality holds similar events to honor local war victims. This year in Groningen, for example, the University of Groningen will open thirteen Stolpersteine (stumbling blocks) to honor the memory of students and staff who died in World War II.
May 4thin the Netherlands, everyone observes a minute of silence at 20:00, during which even public transport and traffic are stopped.
May 5thLiberation Day
May 5th In 1945, under Canadian Commander Charles Folks, German Commander-in-Chief Johannes Blaskowitz signed an agreement in Wageningen to surrender all German troops in the Netherlands. Since then, Liberation Day has been a time to celebrate the end of the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands during World War II.
Initially, Liberation Day was celebrated only every five years, but in 1990 it became an annual event. While now celebrations take place every year, the Dutch can officially take a day off only every five years, next time in 2025.
History of Liberation Day
The Netherlands managed to remain neutral during the First World War, and the Dutch government planned to repeat the same strategy after the outbreak of World War II in 1939. When the war between the allies of Great Britain, France and Germany was officially declared in October 1939, the Nazi leadership promised neutrality towards the Netherlands. So when did things start to go wrong?
Despite promises of neutrality, Hitler soon looked to the Netherlands. First, because the Dutch had many airfields along the coast that could make great use of the German Air Force, the Luftwaffe, to attack Britain. In addition, the Nazi leadership feared that France and Britain would be the first to occupy the Netherlands and take advantage of its strategic location.
May 10th In 1940, German troops entered the Netherlands without prior official declaration of war. They faced some resistance from the poorly equipped Dutch army, but quickly made their way across the country. While Queen Wilhelmina and the Dutch government managed to escape, the Nazis already controlled most of the eastern Netherlands by 14 Mayth.
When the city of Rotterdam refused to surrender to German troops, it was heavily bombed, killing 800 to 900 people and severely damaging and destroying houses, warehouses and even churches. After the “Rotterdam Blitz” on May 14th and threats of a similar fate for Utrecht, the Netherlands officially capitulated to Germany on May 15th 1940
From that moment on, the Dutch lived under German occupation until 1945, a time that was particularly tragic for Jewish citizens. By the end of the war, three-quarters of Dutch Jews had been killed by the Nazis, making it the largest number of Jewish casualties in any Western European country.
In 1945, Allied troops finally launched an offensive in Europe, inflicting severe blows on Hitler. In early May, the Netherlands was joined by Canadian, British, Polish, American, Belgian, Dutch, and Czech troops from the east, who first liberated the eastern and northern provinces. At the same time, the south-eastern parts of the country were liberated by British, Polish, American and French airborne troops.
Allied efforts ended on 5 Maythwhen the opposing sides signed a document on the surrender of Germany, finally liberating the areas that were still under Nazi rule in the West Netherlands. May 7th In 1945, the German leadership signed a document on the surrender of Germany, which marked the unconditional surrender of all German troops.
Did you know
When the Allies liberated the Netherlands, the Dutch filled the streets for days and weeks, celebrating the end of the Nazi occupation and war.
At this time, a former member of the Dutch resistance Miss Boisseven-Van Lenep came up with the idea of a national party skirt, also called the skirt of liberation, made of different pieces of cloth preserved during the war, often embroidered, sewn together.
The idea arose from the experience of Boissein-Van Lenep as a prisoner of war in Amsterdam during the war. While she was being held in the Vugt concentration camp, she was sent a tie made of small pieces of cloth. She learned pieces of cloth from coats, pants and other clothes of friends and acquaintances, and told her fellow prisoners the story of each piece. This united the prisoners, and so Boisseven-Van Lenep suggested that Dutch women do something similar with their skirts on the first day of liberation in 1945 as a sign of unity, collective mourning and women’s emancipation.
The multicolored patchwork skirts eventually became a symbol of the reconstruction and renewal of the Netherlands by combining old pieces of fabric into one new item.
A few months ago, the Frisian Resistance Museum began searching for the remaining Frisian Liberation skirts. Starting on May 5, skirts and satires behind them will be presented at a special free exhibitionth.
What to do on Liberation Day?
Music festivals to celebrate Liberation Day are held throughout the Netherlands, including in Groningen, Leeuwarden and Assen. The so-called Bevrijdings festival is usually free, but this year Groningen will charge 5 euros per visit, which has caused some controversy.