Today in Holland it is Liberation Day, to celebrate the surrender of the German army in the Netherlands in 1945. Yesterday was a much more sober occasion where people came together to pay their respect to the people who died during World War II.
Michiel and I got to Dam Square at around 7pm and there was already quite a crowd. They had a big screen for those of us at the back who couldn’t see what was going on and when we arrived they were broadcasting the church service in Nieuwe Kerk where the Royal family were also taking part.
The Royal family were the first to leave the church service, where they walked into the palace. Michiel and I were very close and were able to see them as they made their way there, which I thought was really nice, having never been that close to Royalty before.
The other people who were in the church made their way up to the monument in Dam Square where they were seated. There were a number of veterans and their families who had come along to share in their remembrance, and I also spotted a Jewish man in amongst the people who had come from the church. There was sombre music as they walked, and then the music stopped.
An announcement was made that at8pmthere would be two minutes silence to remember those who had fallen. Everyone was waiting for the Royal family to come out and walk to the monument to pay their respects. A horn sounded and they were on their way out of the palace again. The Royals walked along the pathway up to the monument where they stood and waited.
A horn sounded to mark the beginning of the silence. The sound of a pigeon’s wings could be heard all as it flitted across Dam Square. Then came the sound of the Dutch national anthem to break the silence, and all around me people started very softly singing along. It was beautiful, and I felt a real sense of community among everyone.
Next a Dutch girl read a poem, and the Mayor made a speech. The Royals laid their wreath, followed by several others including a group of 75 school children who laid individual flowers. Hardly anyone spoke, (Michiel translated what each wreath was for in a whisper for me so I could understand) as we watched the people pay their respects.
The Royal family left, followed by the people who had been in the church service. I spotted a man who was in a wheelchair, who got up, stood quietly for a minute and saluted. He was wearing a military uniform. This was a sober reminder of how recent these events were, and how important it is to never forget what happened.