Why we remember – so we can forgive but will not forget!

On 4th May, The Netherlands remembers the victims of World War II in The Netherlands and the overseas territories. After a ceremony led by the King and Queen, the country observers 2 minutes of silence in honor of all those who died during the occupation by Nazi Germany and Japan and the soldiers and resistance fighters who gave their lives fighting the enemies of our country. In the past decade, this ceremony also honors the members of our armed forces who have fallen after World War II.

2 minutes of silence out of a whole year, dedicated to the victims and soldiers. Dedicated to those who lost and those who gave their lives during the darkest chapter of Europe’s modern history. Victims of the Holocaust. Victims of the Hunger Winter of ’44-’45. Victims of the bombardments of Rotterdam. Victims punitive actions against the population for resistance successes. Fallen soldiers and resistance fighters. 2 minutes out of the whole year, each year.

The amount of survivors and veterans of World War II is decreasing rapidly. That means the witnesses of this era will soon no longer be among us to remind us of the horror brought upon Europe and Asia. Soon it will all be something from the past, something that happened generations ago. Something “far from my bed” as the Dutch say. And with that, forgetting will start. With forgetting, the next generations will forget their obligation to make sure this will never happen again. Nowhere in the world. Never!

The “never again” or “nie wieder” have already lost their value. Never again has become when we think it is needed. Even when on a smaller scale, the acts of violence against other countries are still taking place although the would made a commit in “never again”. Acts of violence against populations of other religion, background or even region is not as much as industrialized as the Nazis executed the Holocaust but it is not vanished from the planet. It is still happening, even now. Now as we just honored the victims of the war and those who lost their lives fighting the occupation.

We look away, there is no outcry. Our view on events is impacted by which side we are on. When A attacks B, our judgement of A depends on if we consider B the “bad guys”. Never again, unless we agree. 70 years after the end of World War II and the Holocaust, never again has become sometimes. When the 7 decades have become a century, will never again have become now again?

When we don’t remember, don’t tell the next generations about the sacrifices and destruction, about the genocide and lost generations, about the price the liberators have paid to end the terror of the Axis of Evil, we are the generation who is responsible for the next Holocaust. Because we failed to make never again NEVER AGAIN! Because we failed to understand that never again is not related to where we are and which side we have chosen.

Never again failed. But we can still make it never again starting now. By remembering, by paying our respect to the victims and survivors. By honoring the millions of armed forces who lost their lives and the veterans who survived and had to carry the memories of battle until their last days. By telling our children and grandchildren to forgive but never forget. By taking up our obligation to make sure this will never happen again. Not for ourselves, it is already too late for that. It might even by too late for our own children already. But it is not too late for the children who suffer from war right now! And the grandchildren. And their children. It is not too late for them. Not yet.

In all this, we owe it to the remaining veterans to pay our respect for the sacrifices they made. Not only on the days we remember and most certainly not only for the veterans of our own forces or the partners we believe in today. Veterans of the Allied Forces fought on all fronts and lost many friends before they were able to liberate us from the biggest force of evil mankind has seen. We owe it to them that we are now able to argue about who liberated who and why. Without them, we would now all speak German or Japanese.

I am a veteran of an entirely different war myself and paid a high price for it. I am alive because a stubborn commander and a stubborn surgeon refused to give up on me. I am not a hero, I liberated nobody from anything. I just did the job I have chosen to do. The veterans of World War II fought to liberate us. The fallen soldiers have given their lives to liberate us. We owe them to remember their sacrifices. We owe them to make sure the next generations will not forget. NEVER!

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