Mourning and celebrations across the country this Liberation Day

Edition 26 April 2018, by Max Oprey

Sombre memorials and joyous celebrations will once again sweep the Netherlands across May 4 & 5 as the country commemorates the 73rd anniversary of its liberation from Nazi Germany.

First up is National Remembrance Day, when at 8pm the entire country pauses for two minutes of silence to reflect on those who fell during World War Two and other conflicts. Memorial ceremonies will take place across the nation, including a wreathlaying ceremony at Dam Square. Where May 4 is a sombre occasion, the day that follows is a more celebratory affair, the national holiday of Bevrijdingsdag (Liberation Day). On this date in 1945 German Commander-in- Chief Johannes Blaskowitz met with Prince Bernhard, the commander of the Dutch military, and Canadian General Charles Foulkes at the Hotel de Wereld in Wageningen to discuss the end of Nazi rule in the Netherlands. Blaskowitz asked for 24 hours to think it over before he agreed to surrender, two days before the Nazis capitulated in the rest of Europe. There will be plenty of celebrations across the country on May 5, although not everyone will be able to participate. Although it is a national holiday, it is only a mandated day off every five years (the next one falling in 2020). However, there is a strong push to make the date a public holiday every year and many employees, especially public servants, get the date off anyway. Expect many businesses, including banks, to be closed. The festivities differ from city to city, with plenty of activities for both adults and children across Amsterdam and the twelve provincial capitals.

Amsterdam

From around midday, Bevrijdingsfestival (liberation festivals) will take place across the city featuring bands and DJs connected to the theme of freedom, including at Westerpark (free), Blijburg, Museumplein and Sportpark De Eendracht (all paid). For a more child-friendly experience, there will be a free children’s liberation festival featuring music and theater from 1pm at Vondelpark open air theater. Aside from the music, there will also be small memorial meetings taking place in living rooms, attics or cafés of the then-Jewish residents and resistance fighters, where speakers will share their stories supported by film, music, photos and diary fragments. There will also be free meals throughout the city in community centers, parks, living rooms, streets and squares. The day will culminate in the free floating Concert on the Amstel in front of the Royal Theater Carré from 9pm, where a range of artists will perform for the King, Queen and all the Bevrijdingsdag volunteers.

The Hague

In the lead up to May 5 The Hague celebrates Freedom Week with over seventy activities. Liberation Day itself brings The Hague Bevrijdingsfestival from 10am to 11pm, featuring six different stages and a large number of activities on the Malieveld: concerts, debates, drama, literature, street theater, film, graffiti demonstrations, a ball pit and a market. Performers include Direct, Ronde, Candy Dulfer and The Navigators & Friends. The event is free.

Rotterdam

At Het Park in Rotterdam, the South Holland Bevrijdingsfestival is also free and runs from the middle of the day through to the evening. One of the headline acts is Kortenhoef DJ Mike Willemsen, better known by his stage name Mike Williams. There will also be activities for the kids such as SCRAP, where children play with a large amount of materials that would otherwise end up in the trash. Under the guidance of professional coaches, children will learn how to reuse discarded materials in all sorts of fun ways.

Rest of the country

There will Bevrijdingsfestivals nationally all offering entertainment that extends from the middle of the day deep into the night, including at Utrecht, Brabant, Drenthe, Flevoland, Fryslân, Groningen, Gelderland, Haarlem, Limburg, Overijssel and Zeeland. All fourteen primary festivals will be visited by the Ambassadors of Freedom, artists flown in Ministry of Defence helicopters to each event. The 2018 Ambassadors of Freedom are South Holland rapper and producer Ronnie Flex, Utrecht DJ Fedde Le Grand, and Amsterdam-based psychedelic shamans My Baby.