Freedom at last-Liberation Day-May 5,1945

The Netherlands had been occupied by the Nazis between May 15th 1940,after the Dutch forces surrendered, and May 1945. Although many parts had already been liberated by autumn 1944.

The official liberation day was set on May 5,1945. The Netherlands had a population at the time of about 8.8 million. During the 5 years of occupation approximately 210,000 Dutch men and women had died of war-related causes. Of that number , 6,700 were military casualties. One number that stands out though is that of the Jews, who were either Dutch or were refugees. It is estimated that between 104,000 and 107,000 of the 140,000 Jews in the Netherlands were murdered during the Holocaust, which makes it about 75% of the Jewish population. It is the highest number per capita in Europe. This is one of the most shameful part of Dutch history. Many Dutch and especially the Dutch civil service and the administrative infrastructure, aided the Nazi occupiers. Eichmann was once quoted as saying “The transports run so smoothly that it is a pleasure to see.”

About 18,000 Dutch citizens died during the famine of 1944/45, caused by the hunger winter. Additionally to the deaths in the Netherlands there were another 30,000 deaths in the Dutch East Indies, now called Indonesia, either while fighting the Japanese or in camps as Japanese POWs. Dutch civilians were also held in these camps.

The Netherlands had the highest per capita death rate of all Nazi-occupied countries in Western Europe (2.36%).

At least 2 of my family died. My uncle, my mother’s brother, Johannes Jager died on December 6,1944. He did see the liberation of my hometown Geleen on September 18,1994, but the strain of the war and his ill health proved too much. My Father’s dad ,Jan de Klein died on May 12 1942, he was 47 at the time. He had been in the Dutch Army when the Nazis invaded, he was executed but the reasons why are still unknown to me. I have resigned myself to the fact that I probably will never find out.

The Netheralnds was liberated by Canadian forces, British infantry divisions, the British I Corps, the 1st Polish Armoured Division, American, Belgian, Dutch and Czechoslovak troops. Parts of the country, in particular the south-east, were liberated by the British Second Army which also included American and Polish airborne forces . On 5 May 1945, at Hotel de Wereld in Wageningen, Canadian Corps commander Lieutenant-General Charles Foulkes and Oberbefehlshaber Niederlande commander-in-chief General oberst Johannes Blaskowitz reached an agreement on the capitulation of all German forces in the Netherlands.

The capitulation document was signed the next day (no typewriter had been available the previous day ) in the auditorium of Wageningen Agricultural University, located next door to the Hotel.

Initially liberation day was celebrated on August 31,1945 to coincide with Queen Wilhelmina’s birthday ,However in 1946 the Dutch government decided to celebrate the liberation on the 5th of May.

Initially Liberation Day was celebrated every five years. In 1990 the day was declared a national holiday when liberation would be remembered and celebrated every year. Festivals are held in most places in the Netherlands with parades of veterans and musical festivals throughout the whole country.

A friend of mine once said “Freedom isn’t free” not only did many Dutch pay the price for this freedom. There were many others who paid an equally high price. Many men and women who fought to liberate the country. They fought although they were strangers, they recognized that evil should never be tolerated.

Sources

https://web.archive.org/web/20100915150604/http://www.wageningen1940-1945.nl/Capitulatie/Wageningen%205%20mei%201945.htm

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Martha Gellhorn’s account of the Liberation of Dachau.

Martha Gellhorn, a pioneering female journalist who often reported from the front lines during WWII. Her Father was Jewish, her Mother was protestant From 1940 to 1945 she was married to Ernest Hemingway.

She was the only woman to land at Normandy, France on June 6th 1944-D-Day. She was also one of the first journalists to report from Dachau concentration camp after it was liberated by US troops on April 29, 1945.

This is just some of her recollection and accounts of the liberation of the first Nazi concentration camp ,Dachau.

“We were blind and unbelieving and slow, and that we can never be again.
I have not talked about how it was the day the American Army arrived, though the prisoners told me. In their joy to be free and longing to see the friends who had come at last, the prisoners rushed to the fence and died- electrocuted.

There were those who died cheering, because that effort of happiness was more than their bodies could endure. There were those who died because at last they had food and they ate before they could be stopped and it killed them. I do not know words fine enough to talk of the men who have lived in this horror for years- three years, five years, ten years- and whose minds are as clear and unafraid as the day they entered.


I was in Dachau when the German armies surrendered unconditionally to the Allies. It was a suitable place to be. For surely this war was made to abolish Dachau and all the other places like Dachau and everything that Dachau stands for. To abolish it forever. That these cemetery prisons existed is the crime and shame of the German people.
We are not entirely guiltless, we the Allies, because it took us twelve years to open the gates of Dachau. We were blind and unbelieving and slow, and that we can never be again. We must know that there can never be peace if there is cruelty like this in the world.
And if ever again we tolerate such cruelty we have no right to peace.”

As I stated earlier Dachau was the first Nazi concentration camp it opened on 22 March 1933. For 12 years it was used for murdering people, initially for political prisoners but later it was used for the mass murder of Jews, Poles, Romani, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Catholic priests, Communists.

What I find scary is that we don’t have learned anything from the history of the Holocaust. Genocides are still happening across the world.

Even in many western so called modern countries there seems to be an upsurge of extreme right ideologies.

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sources

https://www.ushmm.org/search/results/?q=45075

https://www.pbs.org/perilousfight/psychology/disbelief_of_atrocities/letters/

Westerbork the Jewish refugee camp that became a concentration camp.

Westerbork

What a lot of people don’t realize is that Camp Westerbork was actually established as a refugee camp for Jews escaping the Nazi regime in Germany and Austria.and who had illegally entered the Netherlands. It was established by the Dutch government in the summer of 1939.

In July 1942, the Nazis took over the camp and turned it into a transition camp. Jews arrested in the Netherlands were taken to the camp and put on transport. Transport trains arrived at Westerbork every Tuesday from July 1942 to September 1944, and left with close to 100,000 jews.But also Roma and Sinti were transported from Westerbork.

The Deportations were part of  the responsibilities of Gestapo sub-Department IV-B4, which was headed by Adolf Eichmann.

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Although the camp was relatively “humane” by  Nazi standards , it was cruel in other ways. Jewish inmates with families were housed in 200 interconnected cottages The cottages  contained two rooms, a toilet, a hot plate for cooking, and a small yard. Single inmates were put  in oblong  shaped barracks which contained a separate bathroom for each sex.

The camp also had a school, hairdresser, orchestra and even restaurants arranged by SS officials to give inmates a false sense of hope for survival but also to aid avoiding problems during transportation.

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Nearly t all of the  estimated 95,00 persons deported to Auschwitz and Sobibor in German-occupied Poland were killed upon arrival.

The camp was  liberated by Canadian forces on April 12, 1945. A total of 876 inmates were found.

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The fact that the Nazis maintained that false sense of hope is probably one of the most sickening aspects of the camp. They knew what the fate was of the inmates and giving them that hope that they would survive, that they were only going to be resettled to Eastern Europe.

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Sources

USHMM

Liberation Route Europe

 

This building had once stabled 80 horses. There were 1,200 men in it, five to a bunk.

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The title is a line from a report by Edward R. Murrow, a CBS radio news reporter.He  reported largely from Europe during World War II, and was the first reporter on scene following the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp The report was broadcast on  Sunday, April 15, 1945, in Studio B-4 of the BBC, only a few days after the liberation.

I could include pictures of what the allied troops encountered in April 1945. Pictures of piles of corpses or emaciated inmates, and there are plenty. But I won’t do that. I have decided to tell the story with some of the excerpts from the report. When you initially read it then probably just like me, you won’t be that shocked,maybe a bit disturbed but not shocked.

This is probably because the horrors written down, don’t trigger a response. However when you read it again and leave the words sink in, the horrors become so clear and they will stick with you more so then any picture could do.

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Report from Edward R. Murrow

“There surged around me an evil-smelling stink, men and boys reached out to touch me. They were in rags and the remnants of uniforms. Death already had marked many of them, but they were smiling with their eyes. I looked out over the mass of men to the green fields beyond, where well-fed Germans were ploughing.

I asked to see one of the barracks. It happened to be occupied by Czechoslovaks. When I entered, men crowded around, tried to lift me to their shoulders. They were too weak. Many of them could not get out of bed. I was told that this building had once stabled 80 horses. There were 1,200 men in it, five to a bunk. The stink was beyond all description.

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We went to the hospital. It was full. The doctor told me that 200 had died the day before. I asked the cause of death. He shrugged and said: ‘tuberculosis, starvation, fatigue and there are many who have no desire to live. It is very difficult’ He pulled back the blanket from a man’s feet to show me how swollen they were. The man was dead. Most of the patients could not move.

In another part of the camp they showed me the children, hundreds of them. Some were only 6 years old. One rolled up his sleeves, showed me his number. It was tattooed on his arm. B-6030, it was. The others showed me their numbers. They will carry them till they die. An elderly man standing beside me said: “The children- enemies of the state!” I could see their ribs through their thin shirts.

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They called the doctor. We inspected his records. There were only names in the little black book, nothing more. Nothing about who these men were, what they had done, or hoped. Behind the names of those who had died, there was a cross. I counted them. They totaled 242. 242 out of 1,200, in one month.

As we walked out into the courtyard, a man fell dead. Two others, they must have been over 60, were crawling toward the latrine. I saw it, but will not describe it.”

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Unlike Auschwitz or other camps Buchenwald’s gate did not say “Arbeit macht Frei” but ” Jedem das Seine” which translates to “to each his own” or “to each what he deserves”. No one in Buchenwald got what they deserved. No one deserves to be treated as a subhuman. Nor did they deserve to be murdered for being Jewish,Communist or just critical of the Nazi regime.

 

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Sources

Scrapbook pages

Jewish Virtual Library

Berkley Library

 

 

Holocaust Remembered

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On 27 January 1945, Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration and death camp, was liberated by the Red Army.

UN Resolution 60/7 establishing 27 January as International Holocaust Remembrance Day urges every member nation of the U.N. to honor the memory of Holocaust victims, and encourages the development of educational programs about Holocaust history to help prevent future acts of genocide.

“We must also go beyond remembrance, and make sure that new generations know this history. We must apply the lessons of the Holocaust to today’s world. And we must do our utmost so that all peoples may enjoy the protection and rights for which the United Nations stands”

Some of the pictures below are graphic and may be disturbing. But please do keep in mind disturbing as they may be, they are still fairly sanitized there are other images even more disturbing.

In 1948 ,a girl who grew up in a concentration camp was asked to draw “home” and what she drew was scribbles. It shows how the horrors of the concentration camp warped her mind. It’s a mystery what the lines truly mean to her, probably the chaos or the barbed wire.

A girl who grew up in a concentration camp draws a picture of home while living in a residence for disturbed children, 1948

Transport

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SS prison guards forced to load victims of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp into trucks for burial, 1945

SS prison guards forced to load victims of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp into a trucks for burial, 1945

Evil words

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Photos of Jewish children in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

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Prisoners were stripped of all their possessions when they arrived at the camps. In an area of the camp called Canada people\’s personal belongings were processed, stored and then redistributed to Germans.

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Glasses collected from people murdered in the gas chambers.

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Jews being transported to the Camps

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A long-buried documentary, co-directed by Alfred Hitchcock and produced by Sidney Bernstein, provides unequivocal proof of the Holocaust’s horrors.

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SS guards humiliating Orthodox Jewish man

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German soldier shooting a woman with a child in her arms, Ivanograd, 1942.

EXECUTIONS OF KIEV JEWS BY GERMAN ARMY MOBILE KILLING UNITS, 1942

A group of holocaust victims that are often forgotten are the Roma

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Lithuanian nationalists clubbing Jewish Lithuanians to death. Kovno (Kaunas), Lithuania, June 27, 1941.

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The liberation of Auschwitz by the Red Army.

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I often hear people say “Leave the past in the past” but if we do that we repeat the mistakes, some of the mistakes have already been repeated.

NEVER FORGET.

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Let the celebrations begin

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Although most of Europe was liberated in September 1944 but the war was still raging in the pacific. The severe winter of 1944 in Europe also threw a spanner in the celebrations, since some parts were still occupied by the Germans.

It was only on VE Day in May and Japan’s surrender in August of 1945 before the celebrations could start.

Below are some impressions of those celebrations.

A double-decker bus slowly pushes its way through the huge crowds gathered in Whitehall, London to hear Winston Churchill’s victory speech and celebrate Victory in Europe Day on May 8, 1945.

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A member of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps seated on a courthouse lion celebrates the end of the war. August 1945.

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V-E Day celebration in Trondheim, Norway. May 8, 1945.

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American servicemen and women gather in front of the Rainbow Corner Red Cross Club in Paris to celebrate the unconditional surrender of the Japanese on August 15, 1945.

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Residents of Oak Ridge, Tennessee fill Jackson Square to celebrate the surrender of Japan on August 14, 1945. Oak Ridge was one of the three main sites of the Manhattan Project and was responsible (though those working there did not know it) for refining uranium to be used in the first atomic bombs.

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A sergeant interrupts his shave in a barber shop and holds up the latest copy of the Stars And Stripes newspaper announcing the surrender of Japan with the headline of “PEACE.” Paris, France. August 14, 1945

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V-E Day celebrations on Bay Street, Toronto, Canada on May 8, 1945.

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Four MPs take a break along a German road in May of 1945 to read about the Nazi surrender in the Stars and Stripes newspaper.

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A French woman kisses an American soldier. France. Date unspecified

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As World War II ended, women were able to obtain nylon stockings once again. Date unspecified

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Liberation of Geleen-Sept 18 1944-When no shot was fired.

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On September 18,1944 my hometown Geleen was liberated. Geleen is a town in the south east of the Netherlands in the province of Limburg situated in the most narrow part of the Province in between Belgium and Germany.

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The liberation actually happened by chance. The Germans did hide behind several objects, ready to take on the approaching American troops.

They did hide quite well ,therefore a friar from the nearby monastery ventured outside assuming the Germans had fled the scene. He then brought out a big orange banner to celebrate, which was the signal for the neighbours to follow suit and hang out the Dutch flag and the national colors.

When the Germans saw this they assumed that the Americans had already arrived and were on their heels, so they frantically fled although not one of the allied troops had actually been seen yet.

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Below are just some impressions of that day. The liberation day where no shot was fired.

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Below an image of Vincent DiPaquale of the 116th Infantry Regiment,born in Buffalo New York. He was one of the liberators.

Vincent DiPaquale

 

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When liberation came too late

The_Liberation_of_Bergen-belsen_Concentration_Camp,_April_1945_BU4195For many the joy of being freed from the brutal Nazi regime was short lived. After the concentration camps were liberated the deaths didn’t stop straight away.

British forces liberated concentration camps in northern Germany, including Neuengamme and Bergen-Belsen. They entered the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, near Celle, in mid-April 1945. Some 60,000 prisoners, most in critical condition because of a typhus epidemic, were found alive. More than 10,000 of them died from the effects of malnutrition or disease within a few weeks of liberation.

Initially lacking sufficient manpower, the British allowed the Hungarians to remain in charge and only commandant Kramer was arrested.

KRAMER

 

Some British Soldiers pushed cigarettes and sweets through the wire to the inmates who fell on them so ferociously that some were left dead on the ground, torn to pieces in the sordid scramble. The Hungarian Wehrmacht soldiers, who had been assigned to guard the camp during the transition, shot into the mob and killed numerous people.

On April 20, four German fighter planes attacked the camp, damaging the water supply and killing three British medical orderlies.

Robert Desnos (French:  4 July 1900 – 8 June 1945), was a French surrealist poet who played a key role in the Surrealist movement of his day.

During World War II, Desnos was an active member of the French Resistance network Réseau AGIR, under the direction of Michel Hollard, often publishing under pseudonyms. For Réseau Agir, Desnos provided information collected during his job at the journal Aujourd’hui and made false identity papers he was arrested by the Gestapo on 22 February 1944.

He was first deported to the German concentration camps of Auschwitz in occupied Poland, then Buchenwald, Flossenburg in Germany and finally to Terezín (Theresienstadt) in occupied Czechoslovakia in 1945.

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Desnos died in “Malá pevnost”, which was an inner part of Terezín used only for political prisoners, from typhoid, a month after the camp’s liberation

Many others died due to Refeeding syndrome a syndrome consisting of metabolic disturbances that occur as a result of re-institution of nutrition to patients who are starved, severely malnourished or metabolically stressed due to severe illness.This syndrome is a result of the human body changing fuel sources during starvation and can be fatal.

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After liberation, many Jewish survivors feared to return to their former homes because of the antisemitism (hatred of Jews) that persisted in parts of Europe and the trauma they had suffered. Some who returned home feared for their lives. In postwar Poland, for example, there were a number of pogroms (violent anti-Jewish riots). The largest of these occurred in the town of Kielce in 1946 when Polish rioters killed at least 42 Jews and beat many others.

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The liberation of the Netherlands

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On 4 May 1945 at Lüneburg Heath, east of Hamburg, Field Marshal Sir Bernard Law Montgomery accepted the unconditional surrender of the German forces in the Netherlands.

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On 08:00 AM on the 5th of May 1945 the Netherlands is officially liberated, although the Southern provinces had already been liberated by September 1944.

Below are photographs of the liberation of the Netherlands.

Liberation of Geleen and Sittard in the south eastern province of Limburg on the 18th and 19th September 1944.

 

Liberation of Hoensbroek also in Limburg on the 17th of October 1944.The kids were orphans being cared for by the Nuns near castle Hoensbroek, The kids dressed up for the occasion.

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The liberation of Ermelo

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An ecstatic crowd in Utrecht welcomes the Canadian liberators

An ecstatic crowd in Utrecht welcomes the Canadian liberators

Groningen

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Holten-Rijssen April_1945

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Some tender medical care

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Ontarios parade in Holland to celebrate Dutch liberation, 1945

Ontarios parade in Holland to celebrate Dutch liberation, 1945

Citizens of Utrecht celebrate newfound freedom on May 5

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World War II: Liberation of the Netherlands–South of the Rhine (September-December 1944)

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Liberation Parade in Witteveen, Netherlands.

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Some final personal words.

My young friend, you sacrificed your live selflessly for my freedom.

We never met but yet your act of valour has changed my life.

My young friend, I thank you for it is because of you I am here.

Often I ponder why you did what you did so that I can thrive.

 

From afar you came to deliver us from evil.

And evil you witnessed all around you.

Leaving a safe place just to be thrown into upheaval.

To see death, destruction and chaos too.

 

You don’t know it but my life you did change.

For if it wasn’t for you I may never have been conceived.

You gave up your life for a land that wasn’t yours but was strange.

Freedom was given by you and by me is thankfully received.

 

Alas there are those who do not realize the debt we owe to you.

They talk about leaving bygones be bygones and forget those who died.

My young friend not me, never will I forsake the memory of you.

The promise I make to you is that your bravery will be the source of my pride.

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The Liberation of Breda

Breda was liberated on 29 October 1944 by the 1st Polish Armoured Division. led by General Stanislav Maczek.

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A picture sometimes tells a thousand words, therefore below some pictures of that day 29 October 1944.

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Dutch Resistance fighters armed with captured German weapons celebrate the liberation of Breda by the Polish 1st Armored Division

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Honouring those who died for the freedom of strangers.

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