The Day of Remembrance, or Dodenherdenking (4th May) and Liberation Day, Bevrijdingsdag, (5th May) are this weekend, with various events happening across Groningen, Friesland, and Drenthe
This weekend is exceptionally important in the Dutch calendar: Saturday is the sombre National Day of Remembrance, whilst on Sunday the country celebrates its Liberation. But what is the importance of these two days? And what’s happening across the North to commemorate and celebrate them?
By Thomas Ansell
The 4th of May- Remembrance Day
In Dutch, the 4th of May is referred to as Dodenherdenking, and up until 1960 the day was for commemorating the Dutch victims of World War 2. However, since 1961 the day is also dedicated to the memories of victims of other military conflicts, and those that have died in peacekeeping missions. The National Committee for the 4th and 5th of May oversees national events, and helps co-ordinate both remembrance, and celebratory events locally.
The largest ceremony of remembrance will be held in Dam Square in Amsterdam, but every city in the Netherlands will be holding an equivalent. The day is remembered especially at the Waalsdorpervlakte in the sand dunes near The Hague, one of the places where Dutch resistance fighters were executed during the war. Sombre memorial services, with wreath-laying and speeches, culminate in two minutes of silence, held at 20:00. This is observed across the entire country, with all public transport stopped, and both radio and TV falling silent. Since the 1994 remembrance day, all flags across the country have been held at half-mast- to be hoisted to the Dutch national anthem later.
The day takes on particular pertinence within Drenthe, at the former transit camp Westerbork. This year, the musician Stef Bos will be performing, along with several other musicians, remembrance theatre pieces, and the ‘Silent March’. A list of names of children who were deported via the camp will be read, and flowers will be placed at the ‘bent rails’ memorial. The entirety of Westerbork’s memorial service will be broadcast on RTV Drenthe.
The 5th of May- Liberation Day
In the Netherlands, its held that the 4th is for commemorating but the 5th is for celebrating, and the mood of the country will change overnight. Liberation Day (Dutch: Bevrijdingsdag) celebrates the capitulation of Nazi forces in the Netherlands, and though celebrations were only held once every five years in the period immediately following World War 2, though the day was declared a yearly national holiday and celebration in 1990.
The document of capitulation was signed in Wageningen, at the Hotel de Wereld. On the night between the 4th and 5th of May, the Mayor of Wageningen traditionally lights a fire. From here, the fire is taken to each of the 14 provincial capitals in the Netherlands, where a corresponding fire is lit. At this point, the various Liberation festivals that are held in provincial capitals will officially begin. The Committee for the 4th and 5th of May organise several musical artists as Ambassadeurs van de Vrijheid, who are helicoptered to perform at each cities Liberation festival. These festivals are giant parties: with music, performances and more in and throughout each city.
Liberation Day Festivals in the North
The Bevrijdingsfestival Groningen will this year be held in the Stadspark, across a number of stages. It will be a mixture of music festival, and community festival, with the ‘Local Heroes’ area hosting, amongst other things, a Bed Talk on the meaning of Freedom. The musical line-up this year is diverse, and will include Groningen’s own Kraantje Pappie (who, as one of the Ambassadeurs van de Vrijheid, will be helicoptered across the country to perform in each city), Anglo-Spanish group the Crystal Fighters, and Syrian techno sensation Omar Souleyman. In total, there are 6 stages across the park.
Leeuwarden’s Befrijdingsfestival will take place within the Prinsentuin- where the memorial to those lost is also located- and throughout the city centre. There are 8 different stages with various musical genres on show, and loads of other events for young and old: from the ‘Bevrijdingslunch’ celebration for city-dwellers over 75, to the educational ‘Bevrijdingscollege’ for those 9-12 years old. On the Leeuwarder Courant main stage (in the Oldehoofsterkerkhof), you’ll find Douwe Bob, Pyn, Ferocious Dog & La Pegatina performing, amongst others. On the Omrop Fryslân Noardewyn stage you’ll hear Elske Dewall, and on the ROC Friese Poort stage the Broken Brass Ensemble will perform. Don’t forget to check out the excellent DJ’s on the Dance Stage at the Mata Hariplein.
Finally, head to Assen for the Drenthe Bevrijdingsfestival, which is held in the Baggelhuizen
Park and has its very own beach! Its 4 stages have loads of different artists playing, from the Surinamese reggae master Kenny B on the Evenementservice.nl Main Stage, to the Drents singer-songwriter Hannah Mae on the Aviko Local Heroes Stage. Make sure not to miss the Drenthe College Village of Freedom, or Stephen Sanders’ lecture on the nature of freedom at the ‘Vrijheidcollege’.