Every year in May, the Netherlands looks at its past and stops to commemorate its war victims and the liberation from the occupation of Nazi Germany during World War II. On 4 May Remembrance Day takes place, and on 5 May Liberation Day is celebrated.

On 5 May 1945 in Wageningen, the Canadian and German armies reached an agreement on the capitulation of all German forces in the Netherlands, determining the liberation of the country from an occupation that had lasted since 10 May 1940. Since then, the Liberation has been celebrated in the Netherlands on 5 May. The 4 May was instead chosen to commemorate the Dutch victims of World War II. However, in 1961 the commemoration was changed to include all the victims, military and civilian, of all military conflicts and peacekeeping missions.

Both are important dates for the Dutch calendar. However, only Liberation Day is considered a public holiday and, every five years, a day off (the next one will be on 5 May 2025).

Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day, or Dodenherdenking, is a moment to commemorate all victims of military conflicts and peacekeeping missions since the start of the second World War. Commemoration ceremonies are held in most municipalities, but the most important one is in Dam Square in Amsterdam. The ceremony is attended by the Dutch royal family and it’s broadcasted on television. Other important ceremonies are at Waalsdorpvlakte near The Hague, and at the war cemetery in Grebberg. In Leiden, the Remembrance Day Committee organizes two ceremonies every year, one at the military war memorial Haagsche Schow and one at the civilian war memorial next to De Valk mill (in the picture).

Silence Please

On Remembrance Day, people observe 2 minutes of silence at 20:00 in all public and most private spaces. During the 2 minutes, shops cannot serve costumers and public transport stops. Some people will also park their cars if they are driving in order to stop the traffic and pay their respect.

close up of clock

Liberation Day

On May 5, Dutch people celebrate the Liberation Day, or Bevrijdingsdag. The celebration starts in Wageningen, where the German capitulation was signed. There, a torch is lit and then carried by 1300 runners to 200 municipalities throughout the Netherlands. The day is also celebrated by numerous festivals all over the country. Among the official Bevrijdingsfestivals the closest to Leiden are in The Hague and Amsterdam. Here you can find a list of different festivals on 5 May. Besides the music, cities also host cultural events on World War II, such as debates, movies, or guided tours, but also military parades and street markets. Keep an eye on our Events page as we will update it with all the way you can celebrate this day in the Leiden region.

Events and Holidays in the Leiden Region