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This year, May 5 will mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of The Netherlands. It was just after Easter 1945 that the Canadian army fought and defeated the enemy.
Easter was always a special joyous occasion at our home. It gave us the promise of renewal, the promise of new beginnings. It’s an event that gives Christmas meaning. I remember picking hands full of daisies and “Easter” flowers from the meadow just to bring a smile to Mom’s face. Easter flower petals are a soft purple, a royal color, a color that will always be associated for me with Easter and new beginnings. The promise of spring and new life. It was the kind of promise that lived in the hearts of the Dutch after liberation. An eager anticipation of new beginnings and the defeat of the enemy.
But first it was the year 1945, and there was no joy in the land. That year was marked as “The Hunger Winter.” The Dutch were suffering tremendously. They were literally starving to death and had no fuel to keep them warm. The Nazis had stolen all their food to feed the German army on the battlefront, and the Dutch were down to eating shoe leather and tulip bulbs. Some people collapsed and died by the side of the road looking for food. Despite all that, they never gave up hope. Even in their misery they would still share with others including their Jewish neighbors, while they looked forward to a better day and a new beginning.
The following words say it so well, they were inscribed on the wall of a cellar in Cologne, Germany, where Jews were hiding from the Nazis during World War II. Hope in God was all they had to hold onto; hope was their only bridge to a brighter tomorrow. Here are the words written on the wall of their hiding place:
I believe in the sun
even when it is not shining;
and I believe in love
even when there's no one there;
and I believe in God
even when he is silent;
I believe through any trial
there is always a way;
but sometimes in this suffering
and hopeless despair
my heart cries for shelter
to know someone’s there;
but a voice rises within me
saying, ‘hold on my child
I'll give you strength I'll give you hope
just stay a little while.’
It was shortly after Easter on May 5 that we were freed from the tyranny of the oppressors. Many courageous soldiers of the Canadian army lay their lives down so that the Dutch could be free again. Words simply cannot describe the gratitude of the Dutch for these Canadian soldiers. And even today, you just have to say, “Hi, I am from Canada,” and you are assured of a big smile and a hearty welcome in The Netherlands. Every year, the Dutch—adults and children alike—commemorate this day and remember the fallen.
Thank you to all those who served.