In the Netherlands on May 4th yearly the casualties from World War 1 and 2 are remembered and on May 5th the end of World war 2 is celebrated.
Yesterday, it was this time of the year again. Point 20.00 hours, everywhere in the country there were 2 minutes of silence to honour the war casualties. Traffic stops, people are silent.
Wherever I am, I always honour these minutes of silence myself, also living in Switzerland. I consider this a nice tradition, not only because I heard the stories from my grandmother and my parents, but because and above all such moments make the next generation aware of the consequences of warfare.
I had the honour of participating in such a memorial once. Usually I always avoid huge masses of people, but in that year we celebrated 50 years of liberation and my parents wanted to participate these celebrations in Amsterdam. I lived near Amsterdam at that time and my parents came to me. It was very natural to us, that the memorial for the war casualties. at Dam Square was part of our celebrations. And it was an experience which gave me goose bumps and which I will never forget.
We were there early and acquired a good place. Dam Square, before the national monument, was completely full of people. Right in front of me was a military band. As the band, shortly before 20.00 hours, gave the signal to the minutes of silence and total silence suddenly set in, this was so impressive! These 2 minutes took long, but, though I didn’t really realize this at the time. When the signal to end the minutes of silence was heard and the sounds slowly reappeared, I profoundly occurred to me what 2 minutes of silence really can do. A whole country keeping silent for 2 minutes indeed and this every year, is not taken for granted. And yet it happens, every year.
This silence is not only pleasant, it also summons to think about war, life and death once a year. And that is good. Also the celebrations on the day after, and the atmosphere on that day in 1995, in the year I was there, was so beautiful! Lots of veterans, even from the USA, Canada and the UK, were invited and people who never saw each other before were greeting or hugging each other.
When I think about it, the contemporary celebration concerts are much, much too loud, but of course, every generation has the right to remember and celebrate in its own way.
I only hope, that those 2 minutes of silence will be kept as tradition for a long time. For all generations. I know, I will always honour them.