Next week Tuesday marks a day in history the Netherlands won’t ever forget: the end of the occupation during the second world war. On may 5th, it’ll be 75 years ago that this event took place. Usually packed with events, parades, and 14 huge festivals all over the country, liberation day is celebrated as the day of freedom, democracy and human rights. However, this year will look a little different. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 virus, there won’t be any big events obviously, but the Netherlands will honour the event still, by lighting the so-called ‘Freedom Fire’ and moving it through the many provinces of the Netherlands.
A little history about Liberation Day
75 years ago marks this day of freedom. From 1945 till 1958, liberation day was celebrated every year, after that only every 5 years. It was not until 1990, when the day was invoked as a national holiday, that the Netherlands started celebrating it every year again. The very first celebration took place on the 31st of August 1945, then on Queen’s Day the year after. The queen didn’t want this day to be celebrated on her birthday and that’s when the 5th of May was suggested, the day that marks the capitulation of the Nazi that then held the provinces Utrecht, North- and South Holland. On this day, Canadian general Charles Foulkes and German commander in chief Johannes Blaskowitz, discussed this historic capitulation in Wageningen, in the presence of Prins Bernhard, the commander of the domestic forces. After 24 hours, the capitulation was signed, marking the liberation of our country. But even though the Netherlands was liberated on the 5th of May, it was not until the months later that the entire Dutch Kingdom was considered free. Indonesia, which was then still part of the Dutch kingdom, got freed by the Japanese capitulation on the 15th of August 1945. Due to the independence war of Indonesia that came almost directly after the capitulation, there was no reason to celebrate this liberation. It was not until 1999 that a National Remembrance Day was invoked on the 15th of August, furthermore marking the day of the end of World War II altogether.
Lastly, on the day before, the 4th of May, marks another important event that’s connected to the second world war. On this day, the Dutch hold what we call ‘Dodenherdenking’, in English ‘Remembrance of the Dead’, where we all take a moment of silence to honour the people that fought and died during different wars. To do this properly, there are (normally) several gatherings all over the country, the better-known taking place in Amsterdam and The Hague. Throughout the entire country, at 8PM, there will be two minutes of silence.
For most of us, we can’t even fathom these times and events that took place. Even so, honouring the people that fought and died back then, and the events such as the moment of liberation, have become tradition. This year, there won’t be any parades or festivals to celebrate this moment in a huge matter, but there’s nothing wrong with celebrating it small. So, if you’d like to join in, take those two minutes to honour the people that fought, and take a moment to experience the joy that comes with liberation day, even if it’s throughout social media or the television. Unimaginable events can still bring happiness!