Yesterday was Remembrance Day, and it was the first time in the Netherlands that the head of state spoke on this day. But of course, that wasn’t the only reason today was very different from previous Remembrance Days in the Netherlands.
With social distancing rules in effect, the usual gatherings in Dam Square, to remember those who have died in conflict in and since World War II, were not able to happen. Instead, King Willem Alexander laid a wreath on Dam Square and gave a speech. No members of the public were present.
— Sander Paulus (@SanderRTLNieuws) May 4, 2020
King addressed Queen Wilhelmina’s role in WWII
Never before has the head of state given a speech at Remembrance Day, and King Willem Alexander made it a special one for another reason, as well. There has long been controversy over his great grandmother, Queen Wilhelmina’s role during World War II. She spent it in London, and members of the Dutch Jewish community in particular have felt that she did not do enough to help them.
Today we remember the people who died during World War II. The Dutch king, on an empty Dam square in Amsterdam: ‘Sobibor started in the Vondelpark, with a sign saying: “Prohibited for Jews”.’ pic.twitter.com/JcL0aKaMJu
— Brenda Stoter Boscolo (@BrendaStoter) May 4, 2020
King speaks of great-grandmother’s resistance
Yesterday, King Willem Alexander addressed this in a very personal way. He acknowledged the feeling of abandonment that was felt by some. “Fellow people felt abandoned. Not heard enough.” However, he also noted that his great grandmother had been steadfast in her resistance in London, and that was something he couldn’t let go of. This has generally been extremely well received by members of the public and representatives of the Jewish community in the Netherlands.
Dit zijn de beste woorden die ik Willem-Alexander ooit heb horen uitspreken. Wat een indrukwekkende speech.
— Mark Lievisse Adriaanse (@Markla94) May 4, 2020
“I thought it was beautifully told”
Eddo Verdoner, chairman of the Central Jewish Consultation, thought that the King’s speech was “very impressive and powerful”. It may go some way to healing the sense of abandonment that Jewish people felt. “What I liked was how the king brought out the inner conflict that he feels. He saw the fierce resistance of his great-grandmother. But he also saw how subjects did not hear that in her words. I thought it was beautifully told,” said Verdoner.
You can read the King’s full speech here.
What did you think of the King’s Speech yesterday? Let us know in the comments below.
Feature Image: Abuzer van Leeuwen/Supplied.