The National Committee was founded by Royal Decree and placed under the responsibility of the Prime Minister, the Minister of General Affairs and the Minister of Health, Welfare and Sports. The latter ministry provides an institutional grant. The members of the National Committee are appointed by Royal Decree for a maximum period of six years. Besides its intensive collaboration with the national government, the Committee also maintains relationships with the provinces, municipalities and organisations of people affected by wars as well as numerous civil-society organisations and businesses.
In the mid 1980s, the then Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers was concerned about the level of popular support for – and thus the continuity of – the national commemoration of Remembrance Day on 4 May and the national celebration of the Liberation on 5 May. He also had concerns about the link between these two days. On 27 November 1987, in response to his concerns, Lubber’s government established the National Committee for 4 and 5 May. The Committee’s main task was to move the national Remembrance Day ceremony on the Dam from its original time at four o’clock in the afternoon to eight o’clock in the evening and thus to merge it with the existing local Amsterdam ceremony for Remembrance Day. In that way, for the first time since 1945, the national commemoration ceremony, in the presence of the Government and the Royal Family, would be held simultaneously with all other commemoration ceremonies in the entire country. In addition, the Committee worked on sharpening the contours of the national celebration of Liberation Day. Part of the challenge was also to get younger generations more involved in the celebration of 5 May.
The number of responsibilities of the National Committee for 4 and 5 May has increased over the years. Whereas initially it was only in charge of organising the national commemoration of Remembrance Day and the national celebration of Liberation Day, between 1989 and 1997 it was asked to develop policy regarding the provision of information to young people. As years progressed, the Committee’s most important task became to enhance understanding about the purpose and significance of remembrance and celebration. In that connection, the Committee grew to become the first choice amongst organisations to turn to with questions regarding commemorating, celebrating and remembering. That holds not only for people and organisations in the Netherlands, but also for related institutions abroad.
As from 2011, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports again expanded the National Committee’s mandate to keep the memory of the Second World War alive. Its activities now include conducting and facilitating applied research, promoting international exchanges, providing support to organisations of people affected by wars, managing the infrastructure for education and public information, and implementing grant schemes to enable the organisation of reunions and other gatherings of people who shared the same fate, and to support education and public information.
The National Committee also takes care of organising the national activities on 4 and 5 May, including the coordination of the Liberation Festivals, and it runs educational projects, develops mass media campaigns and gathers knowledge and makes it available to others, for example about war monuments and commemorations throughout the country. In this connection, the National Committee works together with numerous other parties on the local, provincial and national levels.