Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken

Dutch Diplo Talk

May 4 and 5: commemoration, celebration and moderately optimism

7 May 2015

CG HugovM blog

The Netherlands sets aside May 4 to commemorate all Dutch people, civilians and military, who have died in wars and peacekeeping missions since World War II.

The Netherlands had 8.7 million Dutch people in 1939, nearly half as many as today. Approximately 200,000 died in World War II, more than 100,000 of whom were Jewish, much more than any other West European country apart from Germany. We commemorate almost 90,000 other Dutch citizens as well, partly killed by the Japanese in Indonesia and Burma. Around 8,000 Dutch military were killed in the first days.

The most impressive part of the commemoration is the two minutes of silence observed at 8 p.m. All public life, including media and public transportation, comes to a halt. Where in the rest of this hectic world is that possible?

One day later, on May 5, we celebrate the liberation of German occupation by Allied Forces, which this year is 70 years ago.

These two days are not the same everywhere every year. The commemoration of the victims and celebration of the end of the occupation in the Far East are around August 15. When one of the days falls on a Sunday, Orthodox Christians change the date. Dutch people abroad take the weekend because their employer or government wouldn’t go along with a work day.

I visited Nevada last weekend to explain this to an American-Dutch audience in Reno, and a statewide television show in Carson City. The main two questions are always whether such a war could happen again and whether anti-Semitism is growing. My answer is always that we cannot exclude anything, but we can be moderately optimistic because our present-day democracy, freedom of media, and security are much stronger than 75 years ago.

This blog was posted earlier in Hugo’s Weekly

CG HugovM blog

Dam Square in Amsterdam during the annual commemoration of all Dutch people, civilians and military, who have died in wars and peacekeeping missions since World War II.


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  • 7 May 2015, 8:00
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About the author

Hugo Von Meijenfeldt
Written by Hugo Von Meijenfeldt

Consul-General in San Francisco

Hugo von Meijenfeldt was appointed as representative for the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the 13 westernmost United States in August 2013.

Prior to his current position, Hugo was Deputy Director General at the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. He also served as Special Envoy for Climate Change at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 2009 until 2013. In this capacity, he led Dutch participation in global diplomatic activities to reach a climate agreement.

Previously, Hugo was Director for Soil, Water and Rural Environment. For several years he held the position of Deputy Director for International Affairs, Chairman of the Committee on Environmental Policy of UN-ECE Geneva, and Head of the European Policy Division (including the EU Presidency in 1997). From 1982 until 1991, he was Legal Counsel to the soil clean-up division.

Hugo earned his Masters in Public Law and Policy at the Free University in Amsterdam in 1981. He is member of the WorldConnectors and the Sustainability Challenge Foundation.