All you need to know about National Remembrance Day in the Netherlands

Two minutes of silence. 🕊️

National Remembrance Day in the Netherlands is a day when we can remember those who died in WWII and other conflicts during that time period.

Dodenherdenking is held on May 4 each year. It’s a day when the Dutch can commemorate the soldiers and civilians who died in WWII and other conflicts. This takes place during a two-minute silence at 8 PM on that day.

What does May 4 look like in the Netherlands?

A lot of Dutch people participate in the commemorations of National Remembrance Day.

Many observe the two-minute silence and find it important to do so. However, young people, in particular, want more attention to be paid to current wars and victims, reports the NOS.

Remembrance Day memorial in Amsterdam. Image: Nationaal Comité 4 en 5 mei, Jasper Juinen/Wikimedia Commons

Apart from the silence, many people fly their flags at half-mast from 6 PM until the sun sets.

This signifies a mourning period, but the next morning they are flown as normal. The next day, May 5, the Netherlands celebrates Liberation Day.

Official memorial in Amsterdam

The official service is held at the National Monument in Amsterdam (Dam Square). The King and Queen attend, speeches are given, people lay wreaths, and observe the two-minute silence.

Dam Square is where the first-ever commemoration took place many years ago. During this two-minute silence, TV and radio stations broadcast the ceremony, public transport stops, and people stop what they are doing.

Important to know: Remembrance Day is not considered a public holiday.

Why are there two separate celebrations on May 4 and May 5?

Well, there is a good reason for that. The most important being that after WWII ended, some people deemed it inappropriate to celebrate their liberation and mourn victims on the same day.

Since these celebrations don’t go hand in hand, it was decided that there should be a day dedicated to mourning and a separate day dedicated to celebrations. The good news is Liberation Day is actually a public holiday.

National Remembrance Day in the Netherlands: how can I get involved?

On May 4, commemorations are held all over the Netherlands, the main one being on Dam Square, which is by far the busiest.

Citizens also hold memorials at the war cemetery at Grebbeberg and Waalsdorpervlakte (located near The Hague), which is also broadcasted.

The latter is where many Dutch resistance fighters were executed during WWII.

In some large cities, commemorations take place in large squares or outside the city hall. People in small towns place flowers on gravestones and fly their flags at half-mast.

Dokwerker Statue After Memorial Day in Amsterdam. Image: Depositphotos

People don’t just attend commemorations to get involved in National Remembrance Day (so don’t worry if you can’t).

Many people choose to pay their respects by holding their own two-minute silence and stopping what they are doing for a couple of minutes to pay their respects.

Sensitivity surrounding Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day in the Netherlands hasn’t been without its controversies. Every year there’s usually some form of discussion over whether the Dutch are mourning the correct victims, whether we should be mourning more victims, and whether we should be mourning at all.

These discussions range from opinions such as young people being “disconnected” and why we don’t remember all victims of the historical and present-day wars.

Should we have more Remembrance Days dedicated to different periods? The discussion goes on and on every year.

Wreaths at the National Monument in Amsterdam for Remembrance Day. Image: Depositphotos

Some people argue that Remembrance Day focuses too much on the white victims and has little consideration for other victims of the war.

However, the Netherlands does commemorate victims of the Dutch East Indies on August 15. It also has a separate day to remember victims of the Holocaust on the last Sunday of January.

How will you be paying your respects this year on National Remembrance Day in the Netherlands? Tell us in the comments below!

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Emma Brown
Emma Brown
A familiar face at DutchRevew. Emma arrived in Holland in 2016 for a few weeks, fell in love with the place and never left. Here she rekindled her love of writing and travelling. Now you'll find her eating stroopwafels in the DutchReview office since 2017.

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  1. Yes, two minutes silence at three pm in Brazil, eight pm NL. I visited some of those WW2 burial places and I was always amazed how young they were. And thousands of them. In NL a lot of Canadians, my respect!


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