Today, we celebrate the 72nd Liberation Day in the Netherlands. Two words came up this morning when I put out our national flag: Forever Grateful.
Grateful for the American, Canadian and British mothers who allowed their husbands and sons to leave home and fight in Europe to end the atrocious war with Germany. The Dutch families who took the risk to hide Jews in their homes. People were shot without a trial for that. And so many soldiers never returned, died and were buried in Dutch soils. We remembered them last night. At one war cemetery in a special way, by placing a living person to the headstone of a fallen soldier with the same age.
So many lives lost, both soldiers and civilians. So much destroyed on both ends. And on top of that the horrendous persecution of Jews, millions sent to destruction camps to be gassed. Only a few made it back home, to find their properties occupied or sold, and no family members to talk to. At first, we just couldn’t believe their stories.
The generation that actually lived through this ordeal is almost gone. And some only just started to share their stories, in books or on TV. Their memories, hidden away deep down because it was too painful to remember. Why people like them were treated as animals, picked up in razzias and dumped or burned, to be forgotten. Why brothers in arms fought together, but the other was killed. We try to imagine what they went through. Impossible. The only thing we can do is keep remembering. Take care of their graves and remember their names. Return stolen Jewish possessions and sentence war criminals if they are still out there. Call out their names.
And just when we thought it was all over and peaceful in Europe, new dictators climb the stage. Telling their followers they are the best, belonging to the true tribe, serving the only religion or just arrived here first. The rest should be treated as second class citizens, be isolated and branded as ‘no use’. We know how it started.
Never again. Nie Wieder. Jamais Plus. We promised to speak up. Don’t let it happen again.