The legacy of World War II in the Netherlands

Millions for museums and memorials

The year 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in the Netherlands. On the 5th of May 2020, the country will be transformed into an orange one, with millions celebrating freedom on the streets. Together with this important historical moment comes the increasing number of museums and monuments across the country. Several funding bodies, including the vfonds (the Dutch National Foundation for Peace, Freedom and Veteran Support) as well as local, regional, and national governments have invested millions of euros in the WWII heritage of the Netherlands, all in preparation for this 75th anniversary. Some impressive examples are to follow.

Freedom Museum (Vrijheidsmuseum)

Groesbeek, Gelderland

In preparation for the 75th anniversary of Operation Market Garden, the Freedom Museum opened its doors in September 2019. Known before as the National Liberation Museum 1944-1945, the Freedom Museum has expanded and has been completely renewed. A modern and unique ‘Dome’ forms part of the eye-catching exterior. Spread over more than 3,500 square meters, the museum explains all about Operation Market Garden and Operation Veritable.

Photo Credits: Flip Franssen

Info Centre WW2 (Infocentrum WO2)

Nijmegen, Gelderland

Led by the Freedom Museum, the Info Centre WWII has opened its doors in 2019 in the city of Nijmegen. Focusing on the fierce fighting in the city during Operation Market Garden, the centre also informs visitors about other war stories in and around the oldest city of the Netherlands. Among these is the bombardment by US troops in February of 1944, taking the lives of over 800 civilians.

War Museum (Oorlogsmuseum)

Overloon, Noord-Brabant

The Netherlands is famous for its bikes. But pedalling through a museum? Believe it or not, but from this year on, it is possible at the War Museum in Overloon. Taking the bike path from the main road, you will arrive at a 90 meter long bridge that allows you to get an impression of what the museum has to offer in its main hall.

Photo Credits: Jacques Hendrix

Liberation Museum (Bevrijdingsmuseum)

Nieuwdorp, Zeeland

Until a couple of years ago, the Battle of the Scheldt was known as the ‘forgotten battle’ of the Netherlands. But the bloody battle at the end of 1944 now gets the recognition it deserves, mostly thanks to the Liberation Museum Zeeland. Established as a private collection, it has been transformed into a modern WWII experience. After years of hard work, the new museum reopened its doors in October of 2019.

German War Cemetery (Duitse Oorlogsbegraafplaats)

Ysselsteyn, Limburg

This cemetery is the only German military cemetery in the whole Netherlands. Almost 32,000 soldiers from WWII are buried here over 28 hectares. Named the “Pavilion of Tolerance”, a new visitor center will open its doors near the entrance of the cemetery in 2020. It will definitely be an impetus for the rising number of people visiting this special location, which was estimated at about 35,000 in 2019.

Airborne Museum Hartenstein

Oosterbeek, Gelderland

The interior improvement of the Airborne Museum Hartenstein near Arnhem started in October of 2019 and should be finished by March of 2020. Among the changes are an expansion of its award-winning ‘Airborne Experience’ and the inclusion of a German audio tour. Partly thanks to the 75th commemoration of Operation Market Garden, in 2019 over 100,000 people have visited the museum.

Photo Credits: Airborne Museum

Memory Museum

Nijverdal, Overijssel

After a year of renovations, the Memory Museum reopened its doors in November of 2019. Besides an expansion of the museum, connecting the past with the present was one of the aims of the museum staff. The solution was found in a cooperation with the Red Cross, which developed an exhibition about the past, present and future of the organization.

National Monument Camp Vught (Nationaal Monument Kamp Vught)

Vught, Brabant

Camp Vught National Memorial is located on part of the former ‘SS camp Konzentrationslager Herzogenbusch’, also known as Camp Vught (January 1943 – September 1944). The renewed memorial center was opened by Dutch king Willem-Alexander at the end of November 2019. The renovations included the addition of over 200 objects. In total, the museum and surrounding areas received 4 million euros of investment.

Photo Credits: Ruud Stobbe

Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial (Amerikaanse begraafplaats)

Margraten, Limburg

Mostly thanks to a 7-million dollar grant from the American government, the memorial at Margraten will build a new visitor center. At Margraten, over 8,300 American soldiers are buried. This memorial not only hopes to attract more tourists in the upcoming years, but also as an increase in those staying in hotels and restaurants around.

Other projects

  • Expansion of the info center at the Canadian War Cemetery Holten (Overijssel)
  • Renewing the information center on the Field of Honor in Loenen (Gelderland)
  • Landmark ‘Windows on the past’ (Vensters op het verleden) at Ginkel Heath (Gelderland)

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