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Amsterdam’s National Monument: Honoring World War II Casualties

Nationaal monument op de dam - Leeuw

The National Monument, known as “Nationaal Monument op de Dam” in Dutch, is a World War II monument in Amsterdam.

Located in Dam Square, the monument was built in 1956 to honor the casualties of the war. In May of each year, the Remembrance of the Dead ceremony is held to remember all those who were lost in the war.

The Design and History of the Monument

Nationaal monument op de damDam Square is known as the historic center of Amsterdam. Before the present day National Monument was built, Naatije van de Dam stood in the square. This monument honored the Ten Days’ Campaign and stood in the square until 1914.

In 1945, a liberty pole was erected in Dam Square just after World War II had ended. The Dutch government proposed the idea of creating a permanent monument in the square, but a temporary monument remained in place while plans were being made.

The temporary monument was erected in 1947 and consisted of 11 urns. Each urn contained soil from the war’s execution grounds and war cemeteries throughout the country. In 1950, another urn was added with soil from Indonesia, known as the Dutch East Indies at the time.

A private initiative for a permanent World War II monument had started and John Radecker was called on to design it. His designs were revealed at the Stedelijk Museum in 1946. The Mayor of Amsterdam decided to build the privately funded monument in Dam Square using Radecker’s designs. The Dutch government approved the design in 1952 and architect J.J.O. Oud was contracted to help build the monument.

The final monument was revealed in May of 1956. Since its reveal, it has gone through two restorations: One in 1965 and one in 1997. During the second restoration, the monument was dissembled to replace the brick interior with concrete.

The pillar of the monument features a Latin inscription and a Dutch poem can be found on the wall behind the pillar. Much like the temporary monument, the National Monument’s walls feature 12 urns with soil from the execution ground, war cemeteries and Dutch East Indies. The 72 foot structure depicts four men, a woman, child and men with dogs. These figures represent peace, resistance and war.

Each year during the Remembrance of the Dead ceremony, wreathes are placed on the monument by the Dutch monarch. Two minutes of silence is also observed to honor those who have fallen during World War II.