Every year on 4 May, the Netherlands commemorates the victims of war. On 5 May we celebrate the fact that we were liberated. King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima will once again be present during the national commemoration of Remembrance Day this year in Amsterdam on 4 May. They will lay the first wreath at the National Monument on Dam Square that evening, just before the two minutes of silence at eight o'clock observed in commemoration of all Dutch victims of war on Remembrance Day. Prime Minister Mark Rutte will be present during the national celebration of Liberation Day on 5 May. He will light the Liberation Day torch at the Liberation Festival in Assen. 4 and 5 May are inextricably connected with each other. The inherent connection between 4 and 5 May is once again reflected in this year's programme for both days.
National commemoration of Remembrance Day
The Mayor of Amsterdam, Eberhard van der Laan, will give a speech at the commemoration ceremony on Dam Square. Nienke Woltmeijer, the winner of the secondary-school poetry contest in honour of 4 May, will recite her poem 'Silent witness'. Prior to the commemoration ceremony on Dam Square there will be a commemorative event in De Nieuwe Kerk, where former statesman and writer Jan Terlouw will deliver the Fourth of May Address. Over 1700 invited guests will attend that event, including some of the first generation of those who were affected by the war, often accompanied to De Nieuwe Kerk by their grandchildren.
Who do we commemorate?
People experienced the Second World War in very different ways, depending on who they were, what they stood for, what they did or where they lived. All those different experiences are reflected in the different commemoration ceremonies throughout the years. During the national commemoration of Remembrance Day on 4 May, those various experiences come together and the dead are jointly remembered. Indeed, the memorandum that sets out who we commemorate on 4 May was deliberately formulated in general terms to ensure the inclusion of all the different (groups of) Dutch victims of war. Indeed, all those who remained behind experienced great personal grief for the loved ones they lost.
‘During the national commemoration of Remembrance Day we remember all those – civilians and soldiers – who have been killed or murdered in the Kingdom of the Netherlands or anywhere else in the world in war situations or during peace-keeping operations since the outbreak of the Second World War.’ (Memorandum 2010)
The word ‘murdered’ was added in 2010. In doing so, the committee wanted to respond expressly to the call from within the Jewish community to explicitly mention the unique character of the Shoah.
During the national commemoration of Remembrance Day, wreaths will be laid for all Dutch victims of war. The first wreath will be laid by the Dutch head of state on behalf of the population of the Netherlands. Subsequently, five wreaths will be laid by survivors of the war on behalf of the various groups of victims of war. Those will be followed by the laying of wreaths by the Dutch authorities for all Dutch citizens who lost their lives in Europa or Asia during or directly after the Second World War due to their involvement in the resistance, due to the violence of war, internment or exhaustion, or due to their having been excluded, persecuted and murdered in concentration and extermination camps simply because of who they were. Other wreaths will be laid for all military and merchant-marine personnel who died in the service of the Kingdom of the Netherlands during the Second World War, or afterwards, in war situations and in peacekeeping operations.
National celebration of Liberation Day
Each year, the Fifth of May Lecture is held in a different province. This year the honour falls to Drenthe. The day will start with a morning programme at which the former president of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, will hold the traditional Fifth of May Lecture. In 2014, for the first time, a child will also give a speech at this event, in this case 12-year-old Hammoude Al-Cheikh.
Liberation festivals and festivities
At 1pm on 5 May, Prime Minister Rutte will light the Liberation Day torch at the Liberation Festival in Drenthe. In doing so, he will give the start signal for all the various festivities that will be taking place around the country that day, including 14 Liberation Festivals. Together, the 14 Liberation Festivals on 5 May draw about a million visitors, forming the largest single-day cultural event in the Netherlands. The specially appointed ‘Ambassadors of Freedom’ will visit the various festivals: Gers Pardoel, Kensington and Douwe Bob. With helicopters provided by the Royal Air Force, they will fly to each one of the 14 festivals.
Conclusion of 4 and 5 May
Each year, Liberation Day is brought to a festive close in the capital city of Amsterdam with the Fifth of May Concert on the River Amstel. Each year, a different orchestra performs on a beautiful stage against the lovely backdrop of the Amstel. This year, the Philharmonie Zuidnederland will give the Fifth of May Concert, which will also be attended by King Willem-Alexander, Queen Máxima and Princess Beatrix.