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The Dutch king and queen lay a wreath on Dam Square in Amsterdam.

Source: Marco De Swart

Remembrance of the Dead: commemorating war victims on 4 May

Published at: 4/28/2023, 10:43 AM
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Every year on 4 May, the Netherlands commemorates the victims of wars, including World War II. This is called National Remembrance of the Dead. In this article you will read what Remembrance of the Dead means and what you notice about it.

World War II in the Netherlands

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.

Remembrance of the Dead

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.

National commemoration in Amsterdam

The national commemoration in Amsterdam is the most important commemoration event in the Netherlands. The Dutch royal family lays wreaths of flowers at the war memorial on Dam Square, and the king delivers a speech. The

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broadcasts this live on television, on channel NPO1. This allows everyone to follow the commemoration at home.

Silent marches and memorial concerts

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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