Reflecting on the 65th Anniversary of the Liberation of the Netherlands
April 26, 2021

Ottawa Journal (April 26 – April 30, 2021)
David Tilson, M.P. (Dufferin-Caledon)

On May 5, Canadians and the Dutch will pause to remember the 65th anniversary of the Canadian led liberation of the Netherlands.
The Second World War influenced the lives of countless millions of people, including those who left home to fight in uniform and those who endured great suffering when the fighting took place in their homeland.

By mid 1940, much of Western Europe, including the Netherlands was under Nazi German control. Under Nazi German control, the people of the Netherlands experienced extreme oppression. By 1945, the official daily ration per person in the Netherlands was only 320 calories. Thousands of Dutch men, women, and children perished due to starvation. Dutch Jews were subjected to inhumane treatment under Nazi rule; forced from their homes into ghettos, expelled from public schools, sent to forced labour camps and, eventually deported to Nazi run concentration camps in Poland and Germany for extermination.

Following a failed attempt by allied troops to take the Netherlands by air strike in 1944, the First Canadian Army joined allied forces in a fierce push through mud and flooded ground, to drive the Germans eastward out of the Netherlands and back across the Rhine.

The First Canadian Army, with over 200,000 soldiers and tens of thousands of allied troops from other countries under its command, spent the spring of 1945 rapidly moving across the Netherlands, recapturing canals and farmland, as they secured the Northeastern part of the country. In the West, Canadian and British troops cleared the major cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Additionally, Canadian and allied troops cleared the city of Arnhem in just two days, fighting a house by house battle.

The hard work, courage, and great sacrifices of Canadian and other Allied soldiers led to the surrender of all German troops in the Netherlands on May 5, 1945. German forces in the rest of Europe would surrender days later, bringing an end to the Second World War.

For the role played by Canada in the liberation of the Netherlands, the Dutch people are eternally thankful. Canadian-Dutch relations have remained strong since Canadian soldiers returned the Netherlands to its people in 1945. During the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, the Dutch royal family found refuge in Canada. In 1943, when Dutch princess Margriet was born, the Canadian government temporarily declared the maternity ward of the Ottawa Civic Hospital to be extraterritorial, allowing the princess to be born a Dutch citizen.

Following the war, the Dutch people sent many gifts to Canada as a gesture of gratitude for the role Canadian soldiers played in liberating their country. One of these gifts was 100,000 tulip bulbs. Today, these tulips bloom every spring in Ottawa, serving as a reminder of the bond our two countries share. To this day, the Dutch government sends 10,000 tulip bulbs to Canada annually as an ongoing gesture of appreciation.

Canadians are proud of the role we played in ending the Second World War and liberating the people of the Netherlands, who had experienced treachery under Nazi rule. We are also proud of the long lasting bond of friendship we share with the Dutch people, which resulted from our shared experience in WWII.