Grateful for Dutch-German friendship
Chancellor Angela Merkel has taken part in the celebrations to mark the anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands. She gave a speech and engaged in a discussion of liberty with young Dutch people. The Chancellor said it was an “exceptional honour” to be given the opportunity to speak on Dutch Liberation Day. She considered the invitation to be “a special sign of the friendship between the Netherlands and Germany”.
On Wednesday, the Netherlands celebrated “Bevrijdingsdag”, Liberation Day, for the 76th time. This day marks the end of the occupation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands by National Socialist Germany on 5 May 1945. Chancellor Angela Merkel joined the ceremony in The Hague with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte by video link. Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic forced her to cancel her planned trip to the Netherlands at short notice.
“Germany’s enduring responsibility”
Angela Merkel looked back at the “immeasurable suffering” of many people in the Netherlands during the Second World War. 5 May 1945 brought the Netherlands “the long-awaited end of the crimes” perpetrated by Nazi Germany, she said. The Chancellor gave the example of Anne Frank, who was murdered by National Socialists, and admitted that the fate of the young Jewish girl “shocked her to the core”. Anne recorded her experiences during her wartime exile in Amsterdam in a diary that has since become world famous.
“Nothing can fill the gaps that those who were murdered left behind,” Angela Merkel asserted. She stated unequivocally, “The crimes that were committed are not time barred, and it is Germany’s enduring responsibility to keep alive the memory of these crimes.”
Worldwide engagement for peace and liberty
The Chancellor praised the Netherlands, as “a country that engages worldwide to prevent oppression and uphold peace and liberty”. Few cities illustrate this more clearly than The Hague, where Liberation Day was celebrated this year. The Hague is the seat of the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, and as such a “city of justice”, said Angela Merkel.
COVID-19 pandemic – “liberty with responsibility”
In 2021 we cannot look at the issue of liberty without touching on the current pandemic-related restrictions, declared the Chancellor. For the first time since the Second World War fundamental freedoms are currently restricted in a way that would have been absolutely inconceivable before the outbreak of the pandemic. But it is important in this context too to realise that liberty must always be understood as liberty with responsibility for our fellow human beings, she continued.
The hand of reconciliation
We Germans will never forget that the Netherlands stretched out their hand to us in reconciliation after the Second World War and after the rupture with civilisation that was the Shoah,“ said Angela Merkel. Germany will always be grateful that from this, Dutch-German friendship was able to grow.
Multifaceted friendship and partnership
Germany and the Netherlands cooperate closely in many areas, including climate action and energy, but also on matters of European policy, said the Chancellor. These issues also figured prominently on the agenda of the third Dutch-German government consultations in October 2019.
In 2020 the Netherlands were Germany’s largest trading partner within the EU and its second largest worldwide. The value of Germany’s trade with the Netherlands and Belgium is even significantly higher than the value of its trade with China.
An uncompromising stance against anti-Semitism and racism
Every individual can do something to defend European values today, to protect democracy, strengthen human rights and protect the weak, declared Angela Merkel. The dreadful attacks seen recently in Kassel, Halle and Hanau have shown Germany how vital this still is, even today, she reiterated.
The Chancellor ended her speech with an appeal to accept our common responsibility for peace. “These attacks warn us that we, as citizens, must take an uncompromising stance against every form of anti-Semitism and racism, and against every form of hostility towards specific groups”.