How does Europe commemorate World War II and celebrate liberation? Recently The Dutch National Committee for 4 and 5 May discussed what shape war commemorations should take in the future. This also prompted the question how other European countries are currently observing war anniversaries. The committee already had some data at its disposal, gathered in 1995 in a joint research project with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Dutch embassies abroad. The project had revealed a general inaccessibility of relevant information since few countries had an organization dedicated to war remembrance.
As far as we know, no new studies have been conducted into national commemorative and celebratory practices in Europe after 1995. It seemed sensible, therefore, to do new research into current commemoration traditions in Europe. In keeping with the National Committee’s applied research remit, Renske Krimp and Remco Reiding carried out a short-term research project in 2013. This report reflects their findings.
Their study starts from the situation in The Netherlands. This country observes the anniversary of the war’s end on two consecutive days, 4 and 5 May. On the 4th, the nation remembers the victims of World War II. On the 5th, the Dutch celebrate the liberation from German and Japanese occupation and the blessings of liberty in a more general sense. The Dutch tradition of remembrance and celebration is a relatively new one. So, for this study, we asked ourselves what lessons our nation could learn from others. What do other countries commemorate and celebrate, and when? Who is involved? What issues are these countries debating, if any, with regard to post-war commemoration and celebration?
This publication describes 45 countries in all, including several city-states in Western Europe and one non-European country: Israel. We included Israel because many of its inhabitants are first, second or third-generation immigrants from Europe. As a result of this demographic, war experiences in Europe have informed Israel’s commemoration culture. In fact, the memory of the Holocaust was central to the rationale for establishing the state of Israel. This report also includes data from the former Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. We included them because recent Eastern European history and its influence on commemoration and celebration cannot be understood without acknowledging the commemorative legacy of these conglomerate states. Due to time restrictions, we could not include overseas territories of the nations in this study.
Read the report below or download it here. (pdf, 13,6 MB)