I’m writing this post on 5 May 2014. Liberation Day (also known as Freedom Day) for Holland. It was 5 May 1945 that Canadian forces along with other Allied forces were able to obtain the surrender of German forces in the small Dutch town of Wageningen. This led to the complete surrender and liberation of the country.
There is a cemetery near Maastricht. It is the final resting spot for 8,301 American soldiers who died in Operation Market Garden (17–25 September 1944). It was a failed Allied attempt to liberate Holland on their path to Berlin. There are other military cemeteries nearby for the British and Canadian men who did not survive the battle.
A Dutch family has adopted every man who perished in the battle. Each man’s grave is kept up and decorated. Even a portrait of their adopted soldier sits in their respective homes.
The Dutch railway workers called a strike during the battle. They felt it would increase the chances of success by the Allied forces. The battle failed and Holland would have to wait another 7 months to be liberated. In the meantime, the Nazi regime under Seyss-Inquart retaliated by not allowing any food into the country. Holland was literally being starved to death during the Hongerwinter (winter of hunger). More than 20,000 people died that winter of starvation. If you read any biography of Audrey Hepburn, you will hear about her experience during that winter.
Every May on the fifth, Liberation Day is celebrated in Holland. For two minutes, everything and everybody stops while the church bells ring. At the end of the day, a concert is held. Beginning in 1965 (the 20th anniversary of the liberation), Nino Rossi’s taps called “Il Silenzio” is played as the final piece of the concert.
I will never forget as a 10-year old in 1965 stopping on the street wherever we were at the time. We would stop talking, and listen to the church bells ring for 2 minutes—every year.
I invite you to click on the following link and listen to a 13-year old Dutch girl, Melissa Venema, play “Il Silenzio” during the 2008 concert celebrating the liberation of Holland. The Royal Orchestra of the Netherlands backs her up. It is very moving—at least for the former 10-year old, now almost 60.
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Copyright © 2014 Stew Ross