May 5, 1945 - we shall remember.

On May 5, 1945, the Germans signed a treaty of defeat in Hotel De Wereld (“The World”) in Wageningen, The Netherlands. Earlier that day, the last German troops had been driven across the Dutch-German border by the Allied Forces and the Dutch army. A five year siege ended. People rushed out into the streets and squares of our country, and celebrated their regained freedom, together with the soldiers that drove the enemy away. The Kingdom of the Netherlands was an independant state again.

This evening, at 7:58 pm local time, life stopped in the Netherlands, like it does every year on May 4. Everyone observes two minutes of silence to remember that freedom is not something to take for granted. To remember that people died to regain our freedom: compatriots, but also complete strangers, rushed in by their respective governments to help out a country in need - to combat the evil that had Western Europe in its grip. To remember those who have fallen: Dodenherdenking, the remembrance of the dead.
At the Dam Square in Amsterdam, a ceremony is held every year. The Royal family attends it - they place a commemorative flowerpiece at the National Monument, after which the two minutes of silence are announced by a military trumpet anthem. Usually, some 100,000 people are assembled at the square. There is complete silence for two full minutes. It is a very sad, yet serene moment.

A few years ago, we started inviting German politicians and military leaders to commemorate the dead alongside us. This was a controversial issue at first: however, everyone sees now it is the right thing to do. After all, would it not be shortsighted to assume that no German civilians suffered during WWII? Would it not be idiotic to think that no German soldier was reluctant to carry out Hitler’s evil policies?
The German people have suffered every bit as much as we did. The liberation of Europe was their liberation as well: no longer would they have to exist in a country where dogma and tyranny were the norm.

But mostly, I tend to think about all those British, American and Canadian soldiers that were shipped to Europe. They had nothing to do with this war. I’m sure most of them were terrified when faced with the knowledge they were to be put in a war zone to fight the Germans. But for better or worse, they realised that liberating Europe was indeed in everybody’s interest. From D-Day onward, they slowly but surely forced back the German troops and finally made their way to Berlin. The rest, as they say, is history.

Many young men lost their lives, leaving many more family members and friends behind back home. They paid with their lives for something that wasn’t even going to be theirs: my freedom.

This may, and never will be, forgotten.

Five years ago, I was a student at the University of Maastricht. Maastricht, being in the utter south of the Netherlands, was the first city to be liberated. In 1995, the 50th Anniversary of the Liberation was celebrated. For this occasion, many WWII veterans from the US, Canada and England came over to parade through our streets once more. In full army uniforms, in their original vehiculs. As I was watching the parade, it halted for some reason. A Canadian Jeep stopped in front of me, an old war veteran on the passenger seat. He was visibly touched by the mass attention the parade drew: a mixture of amazement, joy and sadness was written over his face. I stepped up to the Jeep and extended my hand. So did he. As we shook hands, I told him my feelings. I could only use the simplest of words, as there are no words in any language to express my (our, really) gratitude towards these heroes: “Thank you Sir, for liberating my country and giving us back our freedom”.

We looked each other in the eye for a few moments more, and then the parade got moving again. But we both knew that some things span generations. Some sentiments, because of their traumatic and historical nature, are embedded in each of our cultures. World War II, and the consequent Liberation, are among those.

I was born in 1973. Yet, the celebration of our Liberation always has a great impact on me. I will make sure, that my kids will learn to be thankful for their freedom too. And I will also make sure they know who to be thankful to.

If any of you have a father or grandfather that fought for the liberation of Europe: do me a favour and tell them one thing. Tell them, that they are nor forgotten. Nor will they ever be. We will remember, so that this will never happen again.

Thank you.

That’s beautiful Coldfire. If I may be so bold, I thank you, on behalf of America, for remembering our service to your country and all of Europe.

Daag, Coldfire.

I had the pleasure of visiting the Netherlands in 1976, when I was 15, along with my father (who was too young for WWII).

Once people found we were Canadian, they couldn’t do enough for us. It was very touching to visit the large Canadian cemeteries at Grosebeek and Bergen-op-Zoom, and note the young ages on the headstones.

My interest in military history has brought me into contact with literally hundreds of men who fought with the Canadian Army in the Netherlands, and I can’t tell you how emotional they get when they recall how the Dutch people took them into their hearts. One told me that attending the 1995 celebration and being treated like a hero was the greatest moment of his life, next to the birth of his son.

Thank you and the people of the Netherlands for giving these men the recognition they so richly deserve, and sadly do not often receive here in Canada.

As I believe they used to say in Amsterdam:

“The Germans stole our food, but the Canadians stole our hearts!”

It’s a shame there isn’t a better-named forum for posts like that. It was beautiful.

Coldfire, that really was beautiful. :: wiping eyes :: Thank you for reminding us all how important our freedom, and the sacrifices others have made to maintain it, are.

Hear hear Coldfire!

As a member of a generation that has never seen war, I can’t really understand the sacrifices and suffering that people went through in WWII. But I salute their courage.

Amen, Coldfire.


Coldfire, that was amazing. I’ve read it through four times and every time it brought a tear to my eye. My mother’s grandfather was gassed in WWI, and both of my grandfathers fought in the second World War. A fabulous tribute to a generation we often forget. Bravo!

That was touching, Coldfire. And it presents a very useful perspective from which to view The War and its meaning to both our elders who lived it as well as to us of later generations. Thank you.

Thanks guys. It’s great to see that this still touches people, even of my age and younger.

There’s a huge American WWII cemetary in Margraten, The Netherlands. I believe there are also some Canadian graves there. In total, there are some 10,000 soldiers burried there.

Imagine a slightly mountanous landscape with 10,000 white crosses (actually, some are David’s stars, for obvious reasons).

Let me tell you, there’s few things that can render me totally speechless. But that cemetary gets to me every time. It is the closest thing I know to actually envisioning all the hurt that was caused to the Allied Forces and their families. I have visited the cemetary many times. On some occasions, I ended up talking to other visitors, often relatives of one of the soldiers. The amazing thing is that the families are always at peace with the way their father/brother died. They knew it was for a good cause. I always thank these people for their understanding. I mean, that is SO cool. I’m not sure that I would be able to say that to someone in a strange country, where my father had died to save strange country #1 from strange country #2.

And yes, what Rodd Hill said is true. If you want the Royal Treatment in Holland, make sure you mention it if you’re a WWII veteran. Especially the older generations will do almost everything in their power to express their gratitude.

And rightfully so.


Making me cry at work is worse than making me laugh and snort liquids out my nose at work.

But thanks anyway.

Coldfire- That’s so beautiful. Thank you for allowing a moment of graceful reflection and gratitude.

It’s heartening to know that the Dutch people have extended a hand of forgiveness by inviting German representatives to the ceremony. That moment of silence carries a great power to ensure that trajedy doesn’t repeat itself.

When visiting Normandy some years ago, I visited the WW2 memorial. I’ve never been fond of things military. But seeing the those white crosses, and visitors who were, by age and demeanor, returning vets, really opened my heart to an understanding of how many people made a sacrifice to make the world a better place. It’s so easy to take that for granted.


My grandfather was a 43 year-old physician with small children when he volunteered for service in WWII. He endured the brutally cold and miserable weather in the Aleutian Islands for several years. I hadn’t really thought much about this until his funeral when someone pointed out the obvious: that he was a patriot, volunteering to serve his adopted country, doing what he could when he easily an honorably could have avoided service.

Unfortunately, I cannot tell him this now, but he and those he served with are not forgotten.

Thank you for bringing this up and giving me a moment to think of him and the others who have given up so much,

This is my 500th post. I’m pleased to make it here.

My first post and I apologise – I’m not normally this sober

My Grandfather was a simple country boy who had never left his hometown until he was sent to India and then into the Burmese jungle. He had been married for a little over a year and was then away for just over 5. He never spoke of what happened until I decided to go to the Himalayas a few years ago. When I got back it was like he had been waiting for 50 years to share the profundity of his wartime experiences with someone. Maybe he sensed it was time, perhaps it was the idea that a relative had at least a grasp of part of what he had experienced but when I got back and visited them, it poured out of him in an amazing physical and cathartic way. Grandmother stood in the door and listened for the first time while he sat in his armchair and talked about the deaths, maiming, pals lost, starvation, disease and fear he experienced. He cried, I cried, my Grandmother made tea but didn’t bring it in.

Until then, the insensitivity of my youth had failed to notice that not one item, electrical or otherwise, in his house was – or would ever be - of Japanese origin. Nothing in his demeanour was ever demonstrable.

He wasn’t a man whose life was shaped by his war but rather a man who was defined by it and lived all but 2 years of his adult life in it’s shadow. A quiet, reserved fellow he died earlier this year. The day he told his story is as vivid a memory I have of anything in my life and I felt – and feel - bonded to him in a way I simply can’t describe.

My other Grandfather worked and lived near a Canadian Army base. After four years of waiting, on the eve of the Dieppe raid (the D-Day landing trial run), nine of the soldiers gave him their watches for good luck and safekeeping. Only two were returned. He always reminded me of what fine men they were and that I should respect Canadians.

Finally, no matter how bizarre this sounds it is true. Six months ago I was waiting to be seen at the hospital and got talking to a spirited but frail elderly lady who was also waiting with an accompanying nurse. In short, this woman married her husband four weeks before The Battle of The Somme. That was 1916. He died there and she proudly told me she had never looked at another man since. She also told me she was 103. I looked at the nurse and she nodded. Two weeks together before he left for France and married for 84 years.

I find the scale of human sacrifice unimaginable. Just decent, humble, dignified, ordinary people. I miss you, Granddad.

Welcome aboard, London_Calling. That must have been the most beautiful debut post I have ever read.

A small addendum, not a hijack. (I hope.)

If you had a father or grandfather that fought in the Pacific, tell them the same thing. My grandfather fought in the Pacific Campaign, and later was in the Seabees. Their actions helped to win the war as well. All veterans deserve respect and admiration.

Coldfire, these days it seems younger people who have had the luck to grow in a time of peace and prosperity do not appreciate what it took to build that peace and that prosperity and they are spoiled to think it was all there with no effort from anyone, a right they enjoy. I am glad to see not everyone is like that though.

I have always liked to read history and having read about WWII I thought that ws a truly admirable generation on both sides. Now it seems pretty clear to us who was right and who was wrong but that is not the point. Individually they answered their country’s call without hesitation. They fought bravely and many gave their lives. Those who survived returned to their countries and spent the next 20 years building and rebuilding them.

And all so that those of us who came later could enjoy a world of peace and prosperity.

When I hear so much bitching and complaining today I often think of how spoilt we are and how that generation made it all possible. They were truly admirable and deserve our gratitude.

I was reading through this thread and I came to the above post. What a coincidence, I thought. What was the likelihood that someone else on this board had a physician grandfather in the Aleutian Islands at the same time I did? I was marveling over this when I glanced at the poster, and saw that it was my brother. Oh well.
Thanks for the posts, Coldfire, and everybody else. You have enriched me with your words.

Excellant Coldfire :slight_smile:

Thanks, Coldfire, but one of the most wise, humane posts that have graced this board.

Your timing is eerie. For some reason, I’ve been reading biographies lately. To my disgrace, I can’t remember the title–I’ll look it up tomorrow–but the most recent was the account of a young Dutch Jewish girl during WWII. She’s an Ann Frank who survived. Her account was wrenching and uplifting. Of her entire wonderful family–and her mother was German–only 1 brother, relocated in America, survived.

She survived because Dutch friends took her in and hid her in plain sight; with forged papers, she lived in a house that housed Nazi officers. But the most amazing thing is the humanity she took away from all that tragedy. She chose not to hate, and saw human faces even on German soldiers.

I’m a “boomer”, the generation born of returning GI’s from that war. And some of my family didn’t return. But in all honesty, to quote the book title, they ARE “the greatest generation”.

Every time I hear the musical tribute to “the common man” used for the Olympics, I remember where that music came from. And it applies most aptly to all the good people who got caught up in a nightmare, but did the best they could.

Coldfire, a sincere thank you from an American, for SEEING and understanding the real idealism of those people who died fighting for something they believed in. Nothing makes up lives cut short, and futures removed, but every damned one of us owe an enormous debt to the sacrifices they paid.