Today is the day that the Netherlands remembers all those who died in the second world war. The biggest ceremony was on Dam Square in the centre of Amsterdam, where members of the royal family laid wreaths, and the mayor of Amsterdam gave a speech.
Representatives of the returned services were at the ceremony and also laid wreaths, but the whole commemoration is remarkably un-militaristic.
One of the nicest things about the ceremony is that young people are involved, most notably the winner of an annual poetry competition reads his or her poem as part of the ceremony.
Last year, or possibly the year before, a specific reference was made to also commemorate Germans who had died in the war, it was controversial, but does mark a change in Dutch feeling. Most Dutch now believe that Germans should be welcomed at remembrance day ceremonies.
In my neighbourhood there are a couple of places with significant historical links to the second world war. There were flowers by the Anne Frank Memorial this morning in preparation for tonight’s ceremony, and another set of flowers by the memorial on the Noordermarkt commemorating the general strike.
All ceremonies across the country include two minutes silence. The observance of this is taken so seriously that the trains stop and no planes land or take off from Schiphol. Bars will shut off the music, TV stations broadcasting the service also fall silent, and people will even pull over and stop their cars for the two minutes. It’s an eerie feeling, everyone is very solemn for those two minutes. Everyone.