Celebrating "Freedom in Verbondenheid" in The Netherlands

Celebrating "Freedom in Verbondenheid" in The Netherlands

May 4th and 5th have special meaning to the Dutch and our employees in the Netherlands. The cost of freedom and freedom itself is enthusiastically celebrated these days. They started as a post-war commemoration and celebration. On Remembrance Day, May 4th, the country shares two minutes of silence to reflect on those that perished and the lack of freedom exerted upon the country during World War II. Then on May 5th, Liberation Day, a celebration of the end of the Nazi occupation.

A new war in Europe reminds us how vulnerable freedom and democracy can be. At the same time, the pandemic revealed how freedom for one person could be disadvantageous to another. This year, with all this in mind, we celebrate with the theme of "Freedom in Verbondenheid." The Dutch word 'Verbondenheid' has no simple English equivalent: it is about connection and solidarity between people." It sounds like a contradiction because freedom can inherently harm connection, and complete connectedness limits individual freedom, but they don't have to be mutually exclusive. Connection leads to understanding and acceptance unlocking new freedoms we believe impossible. In that spirit, we take these two days to stand for tolerance for our fellow citizens and appreciate diversity.

You can read below stories of why these two days are important to our employees:

Mandy Klein-Valk points at Netherlands on a world map

Since she can remember, Manufacturing Shipping Supervisor Mandy Klein-Valk has participated in the two minutes of silence on Remembrance Day (Dodenherdenking). As an adult, together with her husband, she once visited Dam-square in Amsterdam and recalled her powerful and overwhelming experience. Large crowds all fell silent together for two minutes. This moment showed Mandy the power of strangers coming together for a shared goal.

The Netherlands implemented a curfew during the pandemic, and our freedom of movement was limited. Of course, nothing compared to Anne Frank's plight or the war between Ukraine and Russia. Alone, we all shared a similar fight to stay healthy. While the pandemic physically separated us, it also divided many of us with adverse consequences. This freedom of choice showed us that while it is our right, there comes a responsibility with it. We learned we must remain connected in extraordinary events if we are to overcome.

In the Netherlands, freedom of expression is also a central civic right. You can be free as you are and say what you think. Still, we have work to do, such as accepting gay couples. While others can be free, they sometimes cannot live their authentic selves free on the street.

Celebrating "Freedom in Connectedness" means empathizing with those who differ from us, understanding and accepting them as part of humanity. Mandy believes that we must find a balance to offer equality. Still, she feels blessed to live in the Netherlands, where freedom is held in such regard.

(Mandy Klein-Valk has been working in the Logistics/Supply Chain department since 2013.)

Lab Chemist Matthijs Boon

During Remembrance Day (Dodenherdenking) on May 4th, Lab Chemist Matthijs Boon's two minutes of silence are held for his grandfather. His grandfather was deported and sent to the Kassel Work Camp during World War II. He was not Jewish but was forced into labor for three years, making bullets and ammunition. After the war, he was released. While his grandfather survived, others didn't have the same luxury.

Last summer, Matthijs visited the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. A truly somber experience. You are suddenly transported to a completely different world, a world many never escaped. That resonated deeply with Matthijs. While he has never personally experienced war, he understands his liberty is precious and must not be taken for granted. He celebrates Liberation Day with pride, knowing his friends and peers share the same concept of freedom.

(Matthijs has been working at the QC laboratory since 2017, performing analyses and working on projects.)

Chemical Operator George Scheelings at a Jewish Synagogue in Alkmaar

We met Chemical Operator George Scheelings at a Jewish Synagogue in Alkmaar to discuss why these two days are special to him.

For many Jews, Liberation Day (Bevrijdingsdag) was not a real liberation after World War II. Although the occupiers were gone, lives had been shattered. Normalcy seemed like a joke. George's wife's family, of Jewish descent, was one of those families. They fled Austria to England and America during the war.

In 1985, George' was based right next to Bergen-Belsen during his military service. The former concentration camp was so close to his base that it always reminded him how quickly freedom could be stolen, and he saw how others were oppressed in other countries.

George went through a rigorous conversion to Judaism more than a year ago. This Synagogue he sits in is important because, after the war, it gave Jews in Alkmaar a place to exist wholly. As George sees it, Liberation Day was not and is not an actual liberation but a new beginning for the Jewish community. Like the one he set on a year ago. Thankfully, his freedom of choice has given him this opportunity to fully integrate and learn that despite traumatic experiences, people always find a way to persevere and cherish deeply the things others take for granted.

The article was written by Grace Smith, Quality Control Chemist, Johan Last, Manufacturing and Operations Supervisor, and Mark de Boer, Vice President of Sustainability. All based at our Amsterdam, Netherland site.