Liberation Day – 5th May

Liberation Day – 5th May


day is an extremely important celebratory day for the people of the

Netherlands. It marks the day that the country was finally freed from the grasp

of Nazism at the end of the Second World War. If you are visiting Amsterdam on

this day then you will find it hard not to be swept up in the party spirit.



When World War II broke out in 1939 the

Netherlands had hoped to remain outside of the conflict. Any such hopes were

quickly dashed however when the Nazis invaded the country in May 1940. The

Dutch Royal Family and the government disappeared into exile in London and the

country was left to face its darkest days in recent history. Occupying forces eventually

took control of everything, food supplies in shops were rationed, life in

general became extremely restrictive and people faced forced labour, working

for the Germans. Meanwhile, most disturbingly, the majority of the 150,000

Jewish people in the country were rounded up and deported to the Nazi death

camps of Europe. Dutch Gay men, lesbians, gypsies and other ostracised social

groups were also sent to the camps to die as well as some political opponents

of the Nazi regime.

Some Jewish families managed to hide in

friends’ homes and businesses and were kept fed and supported for years. The

most famous is of course Anne Frank, her family and friends who lived in a

secret annexe at the top a warehouse building at 263 Prinsengracht. The Anne

Frank House Museum here provides a detailed and moving account of life for

those in hiding and ultimately their unfortunate discovery and later death at

Bergen-Belsen Nazi concentration camp. Those that harboured and assisted Jewish

people faced harsh punishment from the Nazis and were often sentenced to death


The Allied Forces eventually accessed

France in June 1944 and worked their way across Europe. Netherlanders are

likely to have felt optimistic that help and liberation was not far away.

However the terrible reality was that fighting in the southern Dutch provinces

raged for months and the country faced a particularly bleak winter that would

wreak further havoc upon most of the country’s already exhausted population.

The sheer cold and lack of basic food and fuel spelled disaster for the western

and northern Dutch provinces. People literally only survived by eating tulip

bulbs. It is estimated that some 18,000 Dutch civilians starved to death during

this period.

It was not until the 5th May

1945 that the whole of the country was finally liberated by the Allied Forces.

In light of such horrific hardships it is clear to see why this date is

celebrated by the Netherlands so ferociously. It is known locally as Bevrijdingsdag.


Day (Bevrijdingsdag) and Liberation Festival (Bevrijdingsfestival)

Throughout Amsterdam and the country at

large there are lots of events held to celebrate the end of the Nazi Occupation

on May 5th. These multiple

individual celebrations of freedom come under the umbrella of the Liberation Festival

(Bevrijdingsfestival). If you are in Amsterdam on this day then you won’t fail

to notice the celebratory air, delicious food stalls, the open-air music, dance

and DJ stages spread throughout the city. From the Westerpark to the NDSM-wharf

and the Homomonument, you will be greeted by an infectious and uplifting energy

and spirit. The latter location was the world’s first war memorial to the

hundreds of thousands of lesbian and gays who were tortured and exterminated during

Nazi Occupation of Europe. It is normally a place for reflection and quiet

contemplation but becomes a particularly upbeat place for celebration and

positive enthusiastic remembrance during Liberation Day and Gay Pride.

During the Occupation of the Netherlands there

grew a strong Dutch Resistance movement. Their important role is also

celebrated on Liberation Day and several buildings that were central to their activities

are open for the public to visit, bringing their story to life.

A special concert is held

annually on Liberation Day on the Amstel River alongside the Royal Theatre

Carré. Dutch Royal family members are often amongst the audience.

Amsterdam is actively encouraging the citizens

of Amsterdam to come together and enjoy a special celebratory Freedom Feast (Vrijheidsmaaltijd)

with each other out on the streets of the city to mark Liberation Day. Over 200

public locations participate including Dam Square itself. Why not pop along

yourself and raise a glass to the freedom of the country.