The Coronavirus Spring:
Remembering the 75th Anniversary
of the Liberation of the Netherlands
By Hans van den Houten (5/1/20)
Your request for reading material prompted me to send this moving article in The New York Times about recovered Dutch World War II diaries. On May 5th the Netherlands is celebrating its liberation by the Canadian Armed Forces 75 years ago. It will be a somber celebration, as will be the May 4th remembrance of those who perished. On that day, we will all be asked to sing the National Anthem from our windows, balconies or in front of our homes after two minutes of silence nationwide–a silence preceded by the laying of a wreath at the National Monument to the Fallen on the Dam Square in Amsterdam by HRH King Willem-Alexander and his wife, Queen Maxima. They will be nearly alone on the Dam, as no spectators will be allowed to be present.
We all have read many stories, way beyond The Diary of Anne Frank. Having been born in August of 1940, I was a little toddler during the war, but still, my fragments of stories and recollections are vivid.
I remember the night my father, dressed in the full uniform of a Dutch officer, was hauled off in 1943 by the Germans. He returned safely after a harrowing interview by a German commander.
I remember the launching of the V2s in our town, headed for London and Antwerp. The occupier made us evacuate from Wassenaar, our town outside of The Hague. This was due to the frequent sabotage undertaken by the Resistance against those flying bombs. I remember that night of the evacuation when a V2 was flying at a very low level across our home and crashed in the woods about a mile up the road. We were able to travel to Rotterdam and stayed for the remainder of the war with friends of the family.
I remember the liberation of Rotterdam when we were throwing flowers on the Canadian tanks during a liberation parade and I was nearly hit by one of those tanks while I was collecting flowers dropped on the street to be able to throw them again.
Of course, many of my recollections were amplified by the stories of my parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, as well as friends of our families. Yet, it is always painful to read, as in the diary excerpts in the New York TImes article, not only about the suffering of so many and the cruelty of the occupier, but also about those who betrayed their country by siding with the enemy.
Today's sober times of restriction gives one pause and time for reflection. The limitations imposed to preserve our lives cannot be compared to those years of war, but it does provide a glimmer of the fear and uncertainty of life that was then our life, particularly during those final years of World War II. We might be uncomfortable now, but we still have our freedom! In time, our researchers will find a vaccine and we will recover economically. Yet, while there will be sad memories of this pandemic for many, it can never be compared with five years of war and occupation in the Netherlands during WWII. As I said before, let’s treasure our freedom!