Monday, May 5, 2008

Freedom Day


May 4: remembrance day
May 5: freedom day

I remember

And I've

learned from the past

that war is no


And I stand up for freedom


each and every citizen of my country

and of the


In The Netherlands we have a logical but unique combination of days: may 4 and 5: remembrance day and freedom day.

On June 6, 1944 in Normandy a huge military operation started to free europe from german occupation.

A huge number of troops landed.
The soldiers came from England, Canada, Australia, America, Poland, The Netherlands and many more european countries.
Young men who had been able to flee to England had joined the forces there to take part in liberating Europe.

Many lost their lives, others made everlasting friends here and returned every year to commemorate the dead at may 4th and celebrate freedom at may 5th.

In September 1944 the allied forces began a huge offensive action against the German occupiers in The Netherlands.
They were joined by the resistance.
Parts of the south were freed, but it took longer to free the complete country.
Many Dutch people suffered from hunger during the winter and some cities sufferent all the problems of being a frontline city. (Including the town where I live.)

On May 5, 1945 the german army surrendered and our country was considered free.
It was unknown at the time that at Texel a group of Georgian soldiers were fighting the german army.
This battle ended two weeks later.

May the 5th is a day of celebrations of freedom all over the country.

The day starts traditionally with the ignition of the "Fires of Freedom".

Yesterday evening the fire was lighted at Wageningen and during the night and the morning of may the 5th the fire will be brought to 80 cities around the country. See here.

Prime Minister Balkenende will light the freedom fire in Rotterdam (Each year a different city) and that's the start of the celebrations.

There is something to do for each agegroup.
Children engage in competitions who have the nicest decorated bike, for instance.
Young people can attend free concerts which are held all over the country.

And parades are held.
We love to celebrate with the veterans, to thank them for our freedom.
Each year many visit our country just for may 4 and 5.

The most known parade was the one at Wageningen.
Prince Bernard was from 1988 - 2004 the Parade Inspector and took the salute. He passed away in December 2004.

The year after Crown-Prince Willem-Alexander, following the wishes of his grandfather, took the salute in Wageningen at the last march-past of veterans, former resistance fighters and troops during the commemoration of the liberation.
The National Committee Commemoration Capitulations 1945 Wageningen organized the event.

It was said that this would be the very last time that the march-past was held in Wageningen. But many Dutch were sure that an event like this would take place this year too.
And they've been right. Even though we want to respect the wishes of Prince Bernard.

The parade isn't the same any more.
It can't be.
Each year less veterans are able to attend, but we keep the memories alive ad we trie to adjust the festivals to the present times.
So it won't be a veterans march-past, but a huge event, with the theme: Freedom can only made together.

At the place where the people gather for the march the historical vehicles will be on display, and there will be many performances, including reenactment of warscenes and freedom events.
There will be lots of information about musea, organisations for a better world. Including Amnesty International, Terres des Hommes and WarChild.

After that the freedomparade, "Vrijheidsdefilé" will start.
It's a modern form of the march-past.
Over 2.000 people, including 1.200 veterans, schoolchildren, students, theatre groups will take part, as will many musicbands.
Part of the parade are also the historical vehicles.
The veterans who can't walk can take part in a fitted setting, and the vehicles also give a good account of historical developments.
But not only Wageningen will celebrate.

Each of the twelve provincesorganise a Liberation Festival.
And many towns have their own events.
Here we have special activities for the children in the artcentre, and concerts for the young people. And I've heard a ballroomevent was planned.

The national day ends with a huge open air concert on the canals of Amsterdam in presence of the Queen.
Traditionally she'll leave in a boat, while thousands of people both on land and on thewater sing "We'll meet again", which was sung in the past by Vera Lynn.

Following freedomday there are some more events on the days after, because veterans appreciate visiting the graves of their warfriends.
Some of them will stay with the families they have stayed in contact with all these years.

Freedom in The Netherlands is a kind of freedom that grants freedom of every aspect of life, without invading the freedom of others.
That means we have freedom of speech, religion, movement, everything.

The last years though, we have experienced changes we don't all agree with.

Pressured by international tendencies some matters are changed.
Like our freedom of movement through the world.
It's so strange to have to tell what we consider private details, ranging from food preference to sexual orientation, when we travel to some countries.

And like almost all other countries we had to deal with influences that try to turn a peaceful society into one where people distrust each other and the focus of attention is more on the negative than on the positive.

Unwise people who want to change the world by use of disrespect and violating the laws of other religions created discontent and troubles between religious groups in society.
Something that was unheard of in The Netherlands.
And ever more: foreigners who have even never been to our country, trying to get themselves in the spot of the media by telling tales about euthanasia, and many other subjects.
It's unbelievable that people from other countries are telling our ministers how to restrict the freedom of speech and religion.

The last years we all had to take the consequences of the trend in the world towards more control.
All people from age 14 on have to carry a passport or other identitycard with us all the time.
Most of us hate it.
It reminds the elderly of the second world war, where our country suffered very badly under the germans.
We wouldn't be Dutch if we wouldn't take this as one more aspect of life to inspire us to be grateful for freedom.

We know there is a country in the world where they say their freedom is
OK, it's best in their country.
But when I see how people are treated who dare to say what they think, I'm not so sure.

I'm over 50 now and have heard so many accounts of the war.
I've learned that there's one very important aspect that makes people really free.

Not the freedom to speak freely,

but the freedom to speak with respect

for all who live on earth.

The freedom

that enables a person

to think whatever comes to mind,

even when the country is oppressed.

It's the freedom to dream of peace

for all people on earth.

Want to read more about remembrance day?
You can do so here.

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Permission for use was requested april 2004 and officially granted.



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