Tuesday the 4th of May is “Dodenherdenking” in The Netherlands, (where the sacrifice of those who perished in war is remembered and commemorated)
First lets give you a little Dutch lesson in the word : “Dodenherdenking”, It’s pronounced ” dode-den-hear-denk-ing” (you’ll have to say it a little bit quick and run it together to get it right, but it’s not as tongue twisting as it looks)
Wiki tells me: ” Until 1961, the commemoration only related to the Dutch victims of World War II. Since 1961, the victims of other military conflicts (such as the Indonesian National Revolution in Indonesia and peacekeeping missions (such as in Lebanon and Bosnia) are remembered on May 4 as well.”
The Dutch commemorate this each year with a ceremony held on the 4th of May, on the Eve of the liberation of the Netherlands from Nazi occupation, and this year was the 65th anniversary of this event. Flags are hung outside houses and on public buildings for the full day at half-mast and the ones at ceremonial spots are risen to full height after the two minute silence, and with the singing of the Dutch National Anthem.
There are several very large and very official gatherings throughout the Netherlands, the most notable of which takes place in Dam Square (Amsterdam) where the Dutch Queen, Queen Beatrix and other royal family members take part in a ceremony of Remembrance and wreath laying that is broadcast live on several TV channels. Hundreds of thousands of people attend the ceremony at the Dam and millions more attend the many municipal and community ceremonies around the country.
A two-minute moment silence is observed from the striking of 8:00 pm throughout the Netherlands and it’s customary for trams, buses and trains to stop where they are to also observe the two minute silence. All public broadcasters (and some commercial ones too) will do the same. Many motorists will also be seen to pull over and observe the silence as well. The live TV broadcast is traditionally viewed by more than 4 million people.
In The Hague there is a very large commemoration in the dunes, where Nazi’s in WWII shot Dutch Resistance members, but there are also many neighbourhood events, and it’s to one of these that I will take you right now.
In the area of Loosduinen, close to where my Mother-in-Law lives there is a war memorial close to the intersection of Bram Frosstraat and Lippe-Biesterfeldweg, where the street (in typical Dutch fashion) changes name and then becomes Loosduinse Hoofstraat for a few more meters around the corner before becoming Oude Haagweg. A few streets away is the Loosduinen shopping centre and the Plein in the centre of it, and it is on this Plein that members of the public gather.
Shortly before the 8.00 pm observance of silence, the assembled group will march down the Loosduinse Hoofstraat in silence to the War Memorial several streets away, lead by a local Salvation Army Band. Family Kiwidutch have joined the marchers on previous years, but I’m still on crutches so for practical reasons we will assemble at the War Memorial this year and watch them arrive, along with a small crowd that prefer to assemble at the War Memorial and not take part in the march.
Also shortly before 8.00 pm, all of the Church bells in the city will begin to toll, (indeed throughout the entire country)the tolling will cease with the start of the two minute silence, and start again at the end of it.
My first attempt to capture the marchers arriving from the side street in the centre of this video was a little thwarted… you’ll see why:
Some local police stop the traffic after the tram has passed and the marchers congregate on the now empty road.
I try and get some panning shots, but having to lean on the crutches limits my ability to direct the camera. The band assemble in front of the Memorial and music is played and after the two minute silence, wreathes laid.
Today as I type this (5th of May) is Bevrijdingsdag (Liberation Day) it’s a national holiday that celebrates the liberation of the Dutch from German occupation during the Second World War. Although there are various music festivals and activities planned around the city, I’m spending it resting in bed with my foot on pillows, sleeping and now typing this on the laptop.
I’ve also been taking a look at the Dutch News, because there was very sadly a disturbance that caused injuries at the Dam Square during the two minute silence.. it’s all over the news of course.
It appears that the facts are: the wild indecipherable shouting of a strangely dressed drunk man near the end of the two minute silence, and the fact that he was hit by an angry member of the public (who was standing next to him) for his disrespect and to shut him up, caused panic in the crowd close to them, the crowd moved as a mass to flee the disturbance this resulting in some people being crushed against the safely barriers and receiving scrapes, bruises and in several cases, broken bones.
Since it was unclear to the security services what exactly was going on, the Dutch Queen and other attending members of the royal family were briskly whisked away from the chaotic scene, but once calm had been restored, they returned, and the ceremony was continued. TV broadcast clip shows that the panic can be seen, but that that the commentators are unsure what is causing it, then the Master of Ceremonies Eric Bermeister announcing at the end ” Ladies and Gentlemen, there is someone unwell, they are being treated, we are going on directly/immediately with the ceremony“ before the continuation of the Commemoration service.
I know that part of the panic is probably because of the attack on the Royal Family last year, people here got spooked into reacting to their fear, without any clue to what they were fearful of, so things quickly spiraled out of control.
I am no royalist, but I was very pleased to hear that the hastily evacuated Dutch Queen Beatrix, upon hearing this is incident involved an unarmed man who had “issues” immediately declared that she wished to be returned to the ceremony immediately , that it be continued so that the Dutch people remember this event with their usual fondness and pride and not with sadness or apprehension.
Luckily nobody was killed and I can only hope that all the millions of Dutch (and visitors too) who attended Ceremonies all around the Netherlands, with peace in their hearts and wishing to play their respects to those who paid the ultimate price, not be overshadowed by one solitary unarmed man who it now comes to light was a homeless man, who would dress us as an Orthodox Jew (but seems wasn’t one) was known to police and who probably has a multitude of mental health issues that he needs some serious help with.