Another of those days: May 4th, all of holland remembers those who were killed during the second world war. At 8 pm we all keep 2 minutes of silence to pay our respects. In Wageningen, Scheveningen and at lots of other fusillade sites in the Netherlands, bells are rung, and people lay flowers at monuments there, and at monuments in the towns.
These days are always quite impressive. From April 29th until May 5th really, all the Dutch form one big family. We share the same emotions and we share them in the public space. On the 29th and 30th of April we celebrate queens day in one massive party, followed by a hung over stroll passed lots of junk.
On the 4th of may, we collectively mourn our deads, and all the war casualties of other wars. For me, it was especially important to also think of the people who died in the assault on queensday, but also the victims of the wars in Afghanistan, Rwanda, Sudan.. The victims of crime.. the victims of diseases like AIDS, malaria and the latest flue threat. Sure, these are not casualties of war, but they are casualties of an unjust world. And their deaths were not necessary. It breaks my heart to think of it, but it is good that once a year, we really do stand still, and think of all that happened during the second world war, and what is happening now.
Each year there are discussions on whether we should continue to commemmorate the second world war like that. Some people think it has been so long ago, let’s focus on other wars. But I disagree with that. I’m not from Holland, but I feel a very strong necessity to be aware of what happened here, on the soils and streets I walk on. Things happened here in Utrecht. This is a big city with a university, military camps and actually defencive forts. Heroes lived here, and cowards, and unfortunates. They lived in every town in the Netherlands. I bet every village has a monument for its local heroes.
I am humbled when I think of those times. I bet I would have been a coward. It is good to remember that war was less than a lifetime away here, and that we cannot take peace for granted. But more importantly it is important to remember how horrible war is, and that we can prevent all this misery from befalling others. War goes on, every day on earth. There is always war. And we can do something about it, if we really want.. I believe that. But I also believe that there will never be world peace. Simply, because we are human. It is sad to be so pessimistic. But because of those two beliefs, I think it is important to remember and keep alive all that happened during World War two.