Sunday, May 4, 2008

remembrance day


May 4: remembrance day
May 5: freedom day
in The Netherlands

I remember

And I've learned from the past

that war is no solution.

And I stand up for freedom

for each and every citizen of my country

and of the world.

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

May the fourth, the day we remember those who died in WW2, and all other warvictims.

The Netherlands was a neutral country, but Hitler didn't care. He wanted to change the world to a better place according to his ideas. So we suffered war from 1940 to 1945. Millions of people were killed.

I can't think of a year that we didn't watch the national broadcast of remembrance day. We always kept our 2 minute silence.

When we married and got children, we heard the discussions about May 4th.
Should our nation keep that day as a day of remembrance, should we stop when we were past 50 years of remembrance?
I pledged I would always keep May 4th as a day to remember those who died.

Things have changed. We not only remember the soldiers who died in WW2. We also remember the civilians. And we also remember those who died in other wars.

May 4th is a day of national mourning.
At all the war-cementries of our countries people gather to pray for the dead.
Children lay flowers on the graves or in front of the crosses.
People gather at statues and monuments.

About sunset...... before 20.00 o'clock there is a huge gathering at The Dam in
Amsterdam, with the Queen present,
And many other people go to the Waalsdorpervlakte.
At 20.00 o'clock there is a 2 minute silence. More than 91% of the people living in our country put their live on hold and keep silent.

We are always at home at that time, and we watch the national broadcast.
When the 2 minute silence is broken by the "Last Post", we switch over from The Dam, to the Waalsdorpervlakte, where a huge bell tolls hours on end, and people walk past the memorial site and lay down their flowers.

As always it moves me,
as the emotions are very real.

Before the Iraq war some people used to say that my generation couldn't understand the true meaning of war.
Maybe they were right.

But not completely.

Because the war has had a huge influence on our country.
We were occupied and our fathers and mothers and grandparents and other familie members all had their own experiences of bombs, demolished houses, killed family members, deported friends, etc.

Well, if you have any interest in what has happened in Iraq with the ordinary people, you know. Because we had it all too.

My mother was attending a school in the centre of our town.
Her sister was ill at home. Then the bombs....... by mistake or not ... struck the school. Many children and teachers were killed. My mother was saved, just before the building collapsed. The children who'd survived the bombs and who weren't out of the school, were all killed.

This has traumatized her. At times she hated the baker who saved her, took her to his shop, gave her something to drink and brought her home.

Her mother, sister and she always kept pieces of a bombshell.
Her home was hit, partly destroyed, she and her sister were wounded by the pieces of shells.
In the middle of the shopping centre of our town, near the place the school was, there is a little "parc". It's only a few metres wide. Some grass, an old tree and a huge swing.

It is a peacefull, quiet place in a bussy town.
It's the memorial of all those children and teachers who died.

When I walk past the swing, there are always people of my mother's age sitting on the bench......

My grandmom had 7 children.
My grandfather was a teacher and he was an active member of the resistance. He wasn't at home often.
When people asked she always told that he was to sport-activities with one or more of his kids....... none knew that his older children were in the resistance too.

They've done a lot of good. Stole food-cards so the hidden people could have food and couldn't be found to deport them to work in Germany or to the concentration camps. Got to farmers to get milk, so the babies without mothers had milk to drink.

He kept an archive hidden in his house.
One day, the germans were informed that something was going on at my grandmom's house.
So they came to the house and my grandmom couldn't do anything else than opening the door. She was nearly killed of stress, as she knew the archive was at the house, and so was a forbidden radio and sending equipment.

If they would find any of it, it would mean torture, or they would be shot before the eyes of the children and the children would be shot afterwards too.

Luckily one of the boys had seen the germans entering the street, and he managed to follow their movements and warn two of his brothers who were at another room.
They immediately got the radio, archive and other things and put them through the window, above the heads of the germans, on the roof.

If they would have looked up...................

They didn't before it all was on the roof, to be seen by everybody in the street. The germans searched the house, broke quite a few things, messed up, and left........... never looked back.....

Life wasn't easy. At times there wasn't enough food.
They had to go a long way for some potatoes, which had to be smuggled to the house under the clothes. The boys did that, and when German soldiers or traitors approached, they would stand in front of a tree and pee...., so they wouldn't look a second time and see that they were hiding something under their clothes.

Like that they even got a real christmastree out of the woods into the house, so they had a christmascelebration that had some of the old feel.

Yes, they truly ate tulip bulbs.
My grandma could tell about the war for hours on end. About her feelings when my father was disappeared for days before she heard that he'd left the country to join the RAF in England.
Far too young he was!

And then the part of town she lived was heavily bombed..... The only option she felt she had was to flee. Like many other people. She went with 5 or 6 children, one of them had severe asthma (my uncle died at age 32 in her arms when having an asthma attack). She walked for hours on end with them........ she was completely exhausted, but couldn't find food for the children, had to beg for water to have them something to drink. Then she returned......walked the many kilometres back and arrived deep in the night at home.......

At that time none was supposed to be on the streets, so imagine how afraid she's been with the little children, one even being a baby.

She lost many family members during the bombing of february 22, 1944.
The allies (Americans in this case) bombed the shopping centre of our town.......... by is said. (Bombergroup 446, 2e bombdivision of the 20st Combat Wing of the 8th American Airforce.)

When I was young she told me about it, often. Then she'd take the photo of her dear sister............

My grandmother told her stories of fear, treason, mistakes, bombing, grief, oppression, pain and everything else so we might understand, and so we might not make the mistake the people then made by believing a leader who (wrongly) was certain he had the right beliefs and could change the world.

She asked me to remember her message and tell it to all who should hear it:

"Let them know

that never ever

a grandchild of me

or a child of them,

or a child thereof,

should go to war.

Because nothing,

nothing at all,

justifies the pain,

the killing,

the hunger.

Nothing justifies

the fear
of innocent children."

© 552003



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  2. Very moving. My parents never talked about the war, so we lost that family history. All that we have is some photos and a few newspaper articles.


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