May 4th is Remembrance Day in the Netherlands. Shortly before 8 the national ceremony at Dam Square in Amsterdam is usually attended by thousands, filling the square. The entire population observes 2 minutes of silence at 20:00hrs.

But this 75th Remembrance Day is not just silent for 2 minutes, but was eerily silent throughout. An empty Dam Square with just 6 people attending (the King and Queen, the PM, Amsterdam’s Mayor, a representative of the armed forces, and a member of the May 4th /5th national committee). Standing 1.5 meters apart.

Where each community in the country usually has their own local ceremony, none took place this year. The King gave a speech on that empty Dam Square, where normally he doesn’t, talking about how we are currently voluntary relinquishing some of our freedoms, while remembering when that freedom was taken by force and we fought to get it back. This is the weirdest Remembrance Day in memory.

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In deviation from the usual flag protocol for this day, which calls for flags at half mast from 18:00 until sunset, today the protocol asked for flags at half mast from dawn. There were more flags flying than usual in our part of town.

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