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  • Commemorate victims of the war on 4 May during the Remembrance of the Dead ceremony
The Dutch king and queen lay a wreath on Dam Square in Amsterdam during Remembrance Day.
Source: Marco De Swart

Commemorate victims of the war on 4 May during the Remembrance of the Dead ceremony

Published at: 4/29/2024, 12:00 AM

Every year on 4 May, the Netherlands commemorates the victims of wars, including those of World War II. This is called Remembrance of the Dead. In this article you will read what Remembrance of the Dead means and what you notice about it.

During World War II, the Netherlands was occupied by Germany between 1940 and 1945. During that period, more than 100,000 Dutch Jews were rounded up and murdered by the German occupiers and their Dutch collaborators. In addition to Jews, other minority groups were also rounded up and murdered.

Resistance to the Germans was harshly punished. If the German occupiers or Dutch collaborators found out that someone was resisting, they were often imprisoned, tortured or killed.

The occupation ended on 5 May 1945. Germany surrendered after soldiers from friendly countries helped the Netherlands. That is why we celebrate Liberation Day every year on 5 May.

During Memorial Day, people are silent for 2 minutes

The evening of 4 May, everyone in the Netherlands holds 2 minutes of silence at 20:00 for victims of wars. During those 2 minutes we remember the Dutch Jews and others who were murdered during the war.

The silence is also to show respect for those who fought for freedom of the Netherlands, and to remember those who are still facing war and violence today.

The National Commemoration is on Dam Square in Amsterdam

The National Commemoration in Amsterdam is the most important commemoration event in the Netherlands. During the National Commemoration, speeches are given and a poem is read.

And the royal family lays wreaths of flowers at the war memorial on Dam Square. The king also delivers a speech commemorating victims of the war. The

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will broadcast this live on television from 19:30 on channel NPO1. This allows everyone to watch the commemoration at home.

There is extra security at Dam Square

If you reserve a spot online, you can attend the National Commemoration in Amsterdam. There is extra security at Dam Square this year, in 2024. This is because of the political tensions in the Netherlands due to the war in Gaza. The mayor of Amsterdam, police, judiciary and the organisation team of the commemoration have decided this.

This is what you may notice about the extra security:

  • Normally around 20,000 people can be at Dam Square during Remembrance Day. This year, only 10,000 people are allowed at a time. This is why you need to book a spot in advance.

  • You may not protest or demonstrate during the commemoration of the dead at Dam Square. Therefore, this year you may not bring any flags or signs with text. Also, you may not bring things that make noise. Before you can enter Dam Square, the police will check you. The police may search your bags, clothing or pockets.

Silent marches and memorial concerts are being held across the Netherlands

Several towns and villages are hosting memorial services. Here, too, people lay wreaths of flowers at war memorials. In many places, people walk in silent marches. Furthermore, lectures and memorial concerts are organised throughout the Netherlands to honour war victims.

You will notice this on the streets during Remembrance of the Dead:

  • People hang the Dutch flag at half-mast on their homes – this is a sign that you are mourning. In contrast, on 5 May, people hang the flag normally, to celebrate Liberation Day.

  • In almost all public places it is quiet at 20:00. It is important that everyone be quiet, and not drive in cars or ride on bicycles. In public transportation, drivers also stop their buses at the side of the road. In restaurants and cafes, staff often say just before 20:00 that it is time for 2 minutes of silence.

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