The 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands will be marked by King Willem-Alexander on Sunday, 24 May. The King will visit the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial in Margraten and lay the first wreath during the annual commemoration ceremony, which is held the day before Memorial Day in the United States.
“Due to the outbreak of the coronavirus COVID-19, this year’s commemoration will be held in an adapted abbreviated form, without an audience,” the Royal House announced.
Memorial Day is an American holiday to commemorate fallen soldiers, held annually on the last Monday in May. The commemoration ceremony in Margraten traditionally takes place on the Sunday before the holiday.
Margraten’s American Cemetery was first taken into use by the U.S. Army in November 1944. The territory liberated by the Americans in September 1944 was then permanently made available as a cemetery by the Dutch government, according to the Royal House.
Ambassador of the United States to the Netherlands Pete Hoekstra and Governor of Limburg Theo Bovens will both give speeches during Sunday’s ceremony. Defense Minister Bijleveld also will be present at the memorial service.
After the ceremony, King Willem-Alexander will speak with the chief overseer of the American Battle Monuments Commission in Margraten and with a Dutch family that has adopted the grave of an American soldier and maintained contact with his family.
Since 1945 members of the local community have adopted the gravesites of soldiers, brought flowers to the cemetery, and researched the life of the service member as a way to honor their sacrifice. This programme is managed by the Foundation for Adopting Graves at the American Cemetery Margraten.
Liberation Day in the Netherlands is celebrated on 5 May to mark the end of the occupation by Nazi Germany during World War II. Members of the Royal House have attended various celebrations and commemorations to mark 75 years of freedom this year and in 2019.