Liberation Day is a public holiday in the Netherlands that commemorates the liberation of Holland by the First Canadian Army during World War II.
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For many Dutch people, Liberation Day is a time for patriotism and festive celebrations. Liberation Day is celebrated on May 5 each year, but it is only an official holiday every 5 years. It is preceded by a holiday known as Remembrance of the Dead. Remembrance of the Dead is a memorial day that is observed on May 4. In Dutch, Liberation Day is known as Bevrijdingsdag.
History of the Netherlands in World War II
To understand why Liberation Day is important to Dutch people, you must first learn about the Netherlands’ involvement in World War II. During the Second World War, the people of the Netherlands experienced great hardship. The battles and events that the Dutch people endured during this time period can help explain why Liberation is one of the most anticipated holidays in the Netherlands.
After Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, the leaders of the Netherlands declared that their country and military would remain neutral throughout the war. Despite their declaration of neutrality, Germany invaded the Netherlands during Case Yellow, or the German invasion of lower Europe. Using blitzkrieg tactics, the German army quickly defeated the defense forces of the Netherlands. The German air force, or Luftwaffe, also destroyed the city of Rotterdam during a series of bombing missions. In an effort to prevent further bloodshed, the Dutch army surrendered to the Germans. Meanwhile, the Queen of the Netherlands and key government officials fled to Canada.
After the Battle of the Netherlands, most of Holland was actively controlled by German forces. To bolster the strength of the German armies in the region, many young men and former soldiers in the Dutch army were conscripted into the German military. While it seemed like the Nazis had complete control of Holland after the Battle of the Netherlands, a force of resistance fighters eventually developed. This resistance consisted primarily of Jewish men and former soldiers. The Jewish people had strong incentives to fight against the Germans due to the harsh effects of the Holocaust on the Dutch population. The resistance force in the Netherlands assisted the Allies by gathering intelligence and sabotaging German equipment.
During the period of German occupation in the Netherlands, the Dutch Jews and minorities were subjected to the genocidal acts of the Holocaust. The Holocaust was extremely tragic in Holland; nearly 75 percent of the Jewish population was systematically executed.
After enduring military attacks and discrimination, the people of the Netherlands struggled to survive a famine during the winter of 1944. During this famine, over 22,000 died due to starvation. Scholars now refer to this tragic event as Hongerwinter, or Hunger Winter.
In 1944, the Allied Forces began to attack the German military in the Netherlands. The Allies initially advanced rapidly into the Netherlands, but they were held up for several months at the Rhine River. After months of stalemate, the First Canadian Army finally broke through the German line and freed the Rhine River. With one of the most important strategic assets available to them, the Canadian forces overwhelmed the German army in the Netherlands. After their initial victory, German Commander-in-Chief Johannes Blaskowitz surrendered to Canadian General Charles Faulkes in Hotel De Wereld in Wageningen. Soon after this, the Germans withdrew from the Netherlands. This marked the end of one of the darkest chapters in Dutch history.
There are many festivals and events held throughout the Netherlands on Liberation Day.
- Music Festivals
Musical festivals are one of the most popular events that Dutch people attend during Liberation Day. Most of these festivals are patriotic, exciting, and fun for everyone who attends. The Liberation Day Pop Festival in Haarlem is one of the largest holiday music festivals.
- Jewish Gatherings
It is a tradition for Jewish people to gather and discuss the trials and tribulations of Jewish communities during World War II. These gatherings provide excellent opportunities to learn about the Second World War from the perspective of the people who were most affected by the Holocaust.
Liberation Day is a famous Dutch holiday that allows people to reflect on the events of World War II. It also gives people an opportunity to appreciate their freedom and have a bit of fun.