In Netherlands, where remembrance happens in May, Nov. 11 barely registers

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - Canadian veterans accustomed to getting a hero's welcome every spring when the Netherlands marks the anniversary of its liberation might well be disappointed if they expected to get a similar reception on Remembrance Day.
While thousands of grateful Dutch people line the streets of their cities and towns to cheer passing Canadian veterans during celebrations in early May, very few people here are even aware that Nov. 11 has any significance.
During a casual survey of busy commuters outside Amsterdam's Central Railway Station, hardly any passersby knew the significance of Wednesday's anniversary, and not a one knew the significance of the lapel-pin poppy so familiar in Canada in early November.
"Does is have something to do with the Prince of Wales visiting Canada?" asked Nicole Brouwer, a flight attendant rushing to catch a train to Schiphol Airport.
"I saw him there on television last week and he was wearing one. So was everyone else, so I thought it was a way of marking his visit."
Brouwer was surprised to learn that the wearing of the flower actually dates back to the end of the First World War. For her, like so many others, Nov. 11 is just another working day.
Frans van Marle, a 52-year-old tour guide from in the nearby city of Almere, knows a lot about the ties between the two countries, since a great many of his clients are visiting Canadians. in Holland, he said, Second World War anniversaries are more resonant.
"The First World War doesn't mean that much to the people of Holland because we were a neutral nation during that conflict," van Marle said. Indeed, the Dutch expected to remain neutral through the Second World War as well, but were "conned" by Hitler, he added.
"As for why most people in Amsterdam aren't as familiar with the Canadian contribution to our liberation, this city - unlike Rotterdam - received only minimal damage during the war. The smaller towns and villages in other parts of the country where most of the fighting took place are well aware of the fact that Canadian troops played a major part in gaining back their freedom."
Many older residents of Amsterdam remember Canada's role in both the liberation of their country from the Nazi occupation and the harbouring of members of the Dutch Royal Family in Ottawa until it was safe to return to the Netherlands, van Marle said.
"But they are dying off and, to our younger people, Canada is becoming just another country on the world map," he said. "Life is a lot quicker in this city than it is in the smaller communities. That's just the way it is. Things get shuffled aside."
Fifty-three-year-old Harry Baaker, a lifelong resident of Amsterdam, is grateful to Canadian troops for rescuing his grandfather in Nijmegen, a city in southeastern Holland, towards the end of the war.
Baaker's grandfather had been a police commander in the city of Haamstede, near Haarlem, and "had to do a lot of things that he hated," Baaker said. Eventually, he made a deal with the Dutch resistance to assist in undermining the Nazi effort.
"When he was guarding Jewish prisoners - there were about 60 of them in his jail at the time - the resistance fighters would make a charade of sneaking up on him and tapping him lightly on the back of the head," he said. "He'd go down, and the prisoners would be freed."
Soon came word that the Gestapo were on their way to arrest him.
"He was on the run and managed to make it to the Canadian lines," Baaker said. "He never talked much about it, but he always said that if there was one country he'd like to live in other than Holland, it would be Canada."
Not everyone surveyed Monday was oblivious to Remembrance Day.
Hotel desk clerk Boryana Huenova, who moved to Amsterdam from her native Bulgaria seven years ago, said she learned of the occasion from a group of Canadian guests.
"They told me that Canadian troops had liberated different parts of the country," she said.
Jan Bos, a police officer visiting Amsterdam from his small community not far from Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery, summed it up best.
"In the Second World War, you Canadians hadn't been attacked," Bos said.
"You didn't have to go to war. But you chose to come over here and help us. Many of your young men and women gave their lives so that Holland would once again be free. We will never forget you for that."

Organizations: Central Railway Station, Schiphol Airport, Dutch Royal Family

Geographic location: AMSTERDAM, Netherlands, Canada Holland Almere Rotterdam Ottawa Nijmegen Haamstede Haarlem Bulgaria

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