On May 5, hundreds celebrated Liberation Day, or Bevrijdingsdag, in Westerpark. This year, the Dutch celebrated their 73rd anniversary since the liberation from the Nazi occupation. The festival entertained the people with good music, food and beer. Het Vrije Westen offered different kind of activities: puzzle riddles related to freedom, story-telling about the war, conversations with a stranger in a Ferris wheel, experience food and photography with Popup Booth or simply just sit on the ground while listening to music from multiple stages to choose from.
What does Liberation Day represent for the people gathered in Westerpark? How do the Dutch people view it? And how is the international’s perspective on the matter? According to Naomi de Winter, 21, Dutch student at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, currently doing her bachelor in medical natural sciences, Liberation Day does not only concern the Dutch, but it rather symbolizes the end of war and what it implies. “I feel it is not only about Dutch people […] it’s about being free of war. I think it’s a day that makes you think that we can celebrate in freedom, sit outside, with a lot of people and just be happy. You don’t have to think about the worst things now […] my grandparents were in the war and it makes me realize how lucky we are and we don’t have to go through the same thing they went through.”
From the perspective of Dan Ungureanu, a 22 year-old european studies bachelor student at UvA, Remembrance Day was a special occasion that he experienced here, in Amsterdam: “Last year I went to Dam square and did the moment of silence […] it’s very interesting, like I find it fascinating.” This year, the Romanian-American student celebrated Remembrance Day in Belmar and he was moved by the Moment of Silence: “This year it was a little different for me. I went to Belmar with some friends and we went to see a movie and we’ve got out just in time. Everything stopped. The trains…everything! I really liked that there is this honour and I guess remembrance of the fallen soldiers in World War Two”.
For Valerie de Vries, 19, Dutch student at University of Amsterdam, studying BSc communication science, the Liberation Day holds a personal significance, since most members of her family were affected by the World War II: “My grandma lived in Amsterdam and her father had like a newspaper factory, like a newspaper printing press factory but two times they got stolen by the Germans so that they would use them so he (grand-grandfather) lost all this money. A machine is like 10.000 euros and he also had to work for the Germans but he escaped. The family next to my grandma when she was a kid actually worked for the Germans. They were really good friends, but they noticed that he was home and they said <<If you don’t turn him in, then we will turn him in and then you all get shot>>”. She added that by remembering the past, she feels grateful for what she has now. “I’ve read something in a book a little while ago that really went great with a speech at TV yesterday: <<Freedom is fragile. Hard to achieve, but easy to loose>>”, de Vries added.
Photographer at The Amsterdammer