The Liberation of Utrecht in 1945

I posted Monday about Bevrijdingsdag, the liberation of the Netherlands at the end of World War II, but also mentioned that the allied forces didn’t arrive in Utrecht until 7 May. Today marks that anniversary, so I thought I’d share a few of the photos from the Utrecht Archives showing the anticipation and arrival of the troops.

They came through Biltstraat in order to enter the old city center at the Wittevrouwenbrug. They followed that street, which becomes Voorstraat, before eventually making their way through the rest of the city. People lined the streets in masses to celebrate their arrival. The photos I’ve chosen start with people waiting for the forces on Biltstraat and then follow them down Wittevrouwenstraat and Voorstraat.Waiting on BiltstraatAllies on WittevrouwenstraatAllied Forces on VoorstraatAmong the allied forces that played a part in the liberation of Utrecht was the CanadianEnglish 49th Reconnaissance Regiment, known as the Polar Bears. (See comment below.) They’re seen marching along Janskerkhof. There’s now a Polar Bear monument dedicated to the regiment at a spot on Biltstraat. There will be a memorial service held there this evening.Canadian Polar Bear regiment at JanskerkhofFinally, a charming photo of a couple dancing in celebration in Framboosstraat.Liberation celebration in Framboosstraat
All photos via Het Utrechts Archief.

Time Travel: Utrecht’s Liberation

It was on this date — 7 May 1945 — that Canadian and British forces arrived to officially liberate Utrecht from Nazi control. Although the main liberation of the country was 5 May, it took time for all cities to be fully liberated. Some transitioned relatively smoothly, while other cities, such as Arnhem, suffered under last-ditch efforts from German forces.

(photo courtesy Het Utrechtse Archief)

When the Allied forces arrived in Utrecht, they came into the city center from Biltstraat, moving along Wittevrouwenstraat and Voorstraat, as seen in the photo above. The street is instantly recognizable, even today.

You can also see some silent footage of the residents celebrating the arrival of the liberating troops throughout the city in this short video:

Intocht van de bevrijders in Utrecht, 1945 from De Utrechter on Vimeo.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Together


As I contemplated this week’s theme, I had originally thought to post photos of my dog and one of my cats, who are always together, despite their differences in size and species. But as I thought more about this week and the major national holidays being celebrated this week here in the Netherlands, I realized there’s another sense of together on which I could focus.

Monday was Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day), where the entire country comes together to celebrate. Throughout the country, there are vrijmarkten (flea markets) set up where anyone can sell all sorts of things, ranging from household junkt to original art to homemade goods. Despite the crowds, at least here in Utrecht, there’s a real sense of friendliness and togetherness. Along with the vrijmarkt, there are concerts and DJs playing music, and a variety of other celebrations throughout the city, all with an overlying wash of orange!

This week — today and tomorrow — the country will also come together in remembrance and celebration. Today is dodenherdenking, in which all of the soldiers and civilians who died in wartime are remembered. At 7 p.m., the entire country will come to a halt, observing together two minutes of silence. A few years ago, I was at a concert, and although the show hadn’t started yet and the crowd was quite large and international, everyone joined together to observ the two minutes of silence. Tomorrow, 5 May, marks Liberation Day, celebrating the day that the Netherlands was finally liberated at the end of World War II. I live very close to the street where the liberating forces first arrived in Utrecht, and tomorrow a special statue of a polar bear will be placed on that street in honor of those forces, particularly the First Canadian Army, who were known as the Polar Bears.

This has been a week of togetherness, in both celebration and remembrance.

A Man on a Bike


Orange on the Oudegracht


Another Moment

Today is Dodenherdenking, otherwise known as remembrance day. It’s the commemoration of all civilians and members of the armed forces of the Kingdom of the Netherlands who have died in wars or peacekeeping missions since the outbreak of World War II. (Source)

The main celebration is held in Amsterdam at Damplein, with a national two minutes of silence at 8 p.m. Radio, tv, and I gather even traffic halts at this moment. I will be in Amsterdam tonight, although I’ll be in the Melkweg waiting for the second Flight of the Conchords show. I’ll be curious if they do anything inside at that moment.

Tomorrow is a national holiday, Bevrijdingsdag (Liberation Day), celebrating the Dutch liberation from German occupation during WWII. There will be celebrations and music performances all over the country.

ETA: They did, in fact, observe the two minutes of silence at the Melkweg last night. They had a sign on the door announcing they would do so, and someone came out and announced it at the time.