On the 4th of May the Netherlands commemorates its war victims and on the 5th of May it celebrates freedom. There is a lot happening on those days, in Wageningen too. An overview of what’s on.
On the 5th of May 1945, the Netherlands was liberated from occupation by Nazi Germany. Ever since then, every year on that day – Liberation Day – the country celebrates its freedom and pays attention to present-day human rights abuses around the world. This is preceded by memorial ceremonies on the evening of 4 May, in which the Dutch remember their war victims from the World War 2 as well as later wars and peace missions. These ceremonies take place in many towns, including Wageningen, but the biggest is the National Commemoration on Dam Square in Amsterdam, attended by King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima. This ceremony is open to the public and is broadcast live on television from 18.45. On the Grebbeberg, a hill in Rhenen near Wageningen, where battles were fought and a war cemetery is located, there is a big memorial service between 19.00 and 21.00 hours.
At 20.00 hours on 4 May two minutes’ silence is observed throughout the Netherlands. Trains and buses stop, car drivers look for a carpark, sports matches are interrupted and (most) children sit silently in front of the television with their parents.
The next day, Liberation Day, is an official festival and a lot of people have a day off (see box). There are liberation festivals in 14 towns, and Wageningen is one of them. Wageningen is an important location on this day because the capitulation treaty was signed here in Hotel De Wereld.
Silent procession and memorial service
The silent procession starts at 19.45 at the Johannes de Doperkerk on the Bergstraat, next to Hotel De Wereld. Before the procession, emeritus professor of Computer Science Maurinc Elzas will give a talk about what Remembrance Day means to him. The procession passes the Jewish memorial on the Walstraat, where Mayor Van Rumund will lay a stone on behalf of all Wageningen residents. Others can follow his example if they wish to. The procession ends at 20.00 hours at the War Memorial on the Costerweg, where two minutes’ silence is observed and people can lay flowers around the monument.
Candles on the dyke
From around 20.00 hours there are candles along the Grebbedijk. A long ribbon of light creates a special atmosphere. The idea behind it is that ‘rivers and light connect people’. You can bring along a jam pot (painted if you like) with a tea light in it.
This year the concert in the Grote Kerk on the market square will be given by the Gelderland Opera and Operetta Company (GOOG). Admission is free and 640 seats are available.
Liberation flame relay
In the night of 4-5 May, the Liberation flame is lit on 5 May Square. The flame is a symbol of national unity and of living in peace and freedom. Relay runners from Pallas ’67 have been bringing the Liberation flame to Wageningen since 1967. Since 2011 they have brought it from Eindhoven in September, and the flame in the Remembrance Day monument in front of Ceres student society clubhouse is then rekindled. In the night of 4-5 May runners from all over the Netherlands convene here to carry torches to their own cities.
The Foulkes Festival is held in the university grounds and buildings at De Dreijen between 10.00 and 20.00. There is a display of historical war vehicles, weapons, uniforms and field hospitals, and exhibitions and re-enactments by various performers, bands and war museums from all around the Netherlands.
The Liberation Festival in Wageningen city centre starts at 12.30. There are 12 podia, each with their own style. The main podium at Duivendaal will feature Van Velzen and The Hibby GBs (from Kenya) as well as the Dutch singer and multi-instrumentalist Jett Rebel. The podium for world music on the Salverdaplein and the Latin Stage with rumba and salsa on the Walstraat are always popular with international students and staff. Rock, blues, techno and heavy metal can all be heard at the other podia. There is a dedicated podium for rising talent, and a children’s festival in the Emmapark.
At 5 minutes to 5, the Liberation Festival devotes five minutes to remembering our freedom and the lack of freedom for others around the world. On the main stage, people who have lived under oppression tell their stories.
DJs Sunnery James and Ryan Marciano are the ‘Ambassadors of Freedom’ this year. This means they will go around the various Liberation festivals in the country. They’ll be on Wageningen’s main podium from 17.40 to 18.10.
More information (in Dutch) on bevrijdingsfestivalwageningen.nl under ‘Programma’.
National Commemoration of the Capitulations of 1945
The musical programme will be interrupted at 15.00 hours for a ceremony on 5 May Square. This National Commemoration of the Capitulations of 1945, in which the sacrifices of the allies for the liberation of the Netherlands are remembered, will be attended this year by the minister of Defense Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert. Schoolchildren release doves and the liberation procession starts here. The organizers expect 80 to 90 World War 2 veterans who, 71 years after liberation, are now at least 90 years old. Veterans from later military missions join the procession too and there is a fly-past of vintage planes. If you want to see this ceremony, get there in plenty of time.
Liberation Day is the busiest day of the year in Wageningen, with about 120,000 visitors. The city centre is completely closed to traffic so come by bus, bike or on foot. There are two guarded bike parking places (1 euro per bike). Admission to the festival itself is free but your bag is checked at the entrance: no glass, tins or plastic bottles are allowed. You pay for food and drinks with a pass that you buy and charge with credit at various sales counters (you can pay by cash or pin pass). Do count on long queues (that goes for the toilets too). If you think anyone will question your age you can get an 18+ wristband at the festival.
This year all Wageningen UR staff get a day off on Liberation Day (5 May). That is because this year the day coincides with the Church festival of Ascension Day. Normally, only staff with a contract at the university get 5 May off every year. Staff on a DLO contract get 5 May off once every five years. 4 May is an ordinary working day; the Remembrance Day ceremony takes place in the evening.