On 4 and 5 May, the Netherlands commemorates the end of the Second World War. In May 1945 Canadian forces ended a 5 year occupation of the Netherlands by Hitler Germany. The liberation of Holland is celebrated on two occasions.
May 4 is Dutch National Remembrance Day (Nationale Dodenherdenking). On this day, the Netherlands commemorates the fallen soldiers of World War II and those that died in other military conflicts and peacekeeping operations.
During the day, schoolchildren visit war monuments to learn about the war. At 8 pm, a nationwide 2 minute silence is held. In Amsterdam, Dutch King Willem Alexander heads the official memorial ceremony at the National Monument on Dam square.
On May 5, the festivities take a more upbeat swing, as many free open air festivals are organised. The so called Liberation Festival (Bevrijdingsfestival) intents to teach young people to appreciate the freedom and democratic society in which we live. Something we might take for granted sometimes. Once every 5 year, Liberation Day is also a national holiday.
Liberation Festivals at Amsterdam
The biggest Liberation Festival in Amsterdam is at the grounds of the Westergasfabriek. This a free festival. The Vrijland Festival takes place every year on the 5th of May at Blijburg, the city beach at IJburg Island. This is not a free festival. It’s rather popular events, so get your tickets early!
Dam Square killings
The liberation of Amsterdam actually took a rather morbid turn in those first days of May of 1945. On May 7, the official retreat of the Germans was announced and, to celebrate, thousands of people gathered at Dam Square. The celebration came to a dramatic halt when suddenly, German soldiers located at a high top building, started shooting at the crowd, killing 20 people and injuring 120.
A man belonging to the Dutch resistance climbed the tower in a desperate attempt to end the shooting. Ultimately, he, and a German officer, convinced the Germans to stop the killing. The dramatic events were captured on video at the website of the Dutch National Archives. Two days later, the Canadians finally entered the city, making the liberation a fact.