DUTCH LIBERATION DAY
Everywhere I see Dutch and American flags. It’s a clear sign that the Germans are finally gone, after a brutal five-year occupation of the Dutch city of Brielle, south of Rotterdam. The air is full of excitement. Defeating Nazi Germany is a dream come true, finally.
The sound of Vera Lynn’s “We’ll meet again” comes out of the field hospital, where the patient on the stretcher looks very pale. His empty eyes stare at the heavenly blue skies. The medic next to him doesn’t care at all, as it is a mannequin. Outside Allied soldiers are having a cup of tea. Others clean their weapons or whistle along with a Glenn Miller tune, in the mood and out of tune. Visitors to the camp have a chat with the soldiers and make a selfie with one of them. “Hey, Willem, good to see you again”, a woman shouts at an American soldier. The utterly Dutch Willem is from Rotterdam. “I come here every year. It’s a great way to honor our liberators, but I also love my role as an Allied soldier. That’s something every old boy dreams of”, he says with a satisfied smile. He lights another cigarette. “I don’t inhale. It is just my image for one day. Tomorrow it’s back to the office”. He certainly knows his classics.
I turn around with a big smile and at that very same moment, I stand eye to eye with a German officer. He smiles at me, but I feel extremely uneasy, even though he is a total fake. Somehow I can’t find the right words. Even now his German uniform is very intimidating. Despite his smile, for me, he is a total creep. That’s a synonym for Nazi.
Now it’s time for the highlight of this edition of Liberation Day: the reenactment. A large motorcade moves to the historic city center of Brielle, to kick out the last remaining Nazis. Thousands have gathered to witness this historic moment. A group of Nazis march through the streets. “Weggehen, sofort! Holländische Schweinhunde!!!” Again, that uneasy feeling and before I am aware of it I make way to let them pass.
On the other side of the canal the Nazi flags with the swastika still wave. It’s the first time in my life I see them. Just like with the German officers, it makes me feel uneasy. Still, within an hour things will be different. A massive gun battle between the remaining Nazis and the Allied forces marks the beginning of the liberation. Buildings go up in flames and residents flee the area with their last belongings. However, the Germans are losing ground and in the end, they surrender to the Americans and Dutch forces. Cheers all along the canals of Brielle. The town is now officially liberated and really free.
In hindsight this turned out to be one of the last Liberation Day celebrations in Brielle. Due to the threat of Islamic terror, the rules for carrying weapons became so strict that to continue with the celebration was useless. They are now looking for a different format. It goes to show how fragile freedom still is in this day and age.