Public education about the Second World War

The number of people who experienced the Second World War (WWII) and the National Socialist era at first hand is now in rapid decline. For this reason, the government is investing in public education to keep the memory of that period alive. 

The government aims to increase the public’s knowledge of that period. Public education policies in this respect are summarised in a Dutch-language brochure entitled Raak de juiste snaar (‘Strike the Right Chord’). The aim is to link the experience of the war with the life of today, in the hope that present and future generations will continue to recognise the dangers of feelings of superiority over people of different ethnic backgrounds or with different opinions and the possible consequences of individual choices. The final grant round for ‘Strike the Right Chord’ projects closed on 31 August 2009.

Increasing awareness

The government aims to work through the education system to increase awareness among young people and enable them to appreciate the importance of freedom and fundamental rights. One such project being run in primary schools involves the adoption of war memorials in children’s own home area. Through the memorial adopted by their school, children learn both about local WWII history and about the associated remembrance traditions and rituals. A Second World War website has also been created. (In Dutch.)

The annual government-sponsored national Liberation Day survey shows that people in the Netherlands know little about the events of the Second World War and the National Socialist era outside the Netherlands. The government is therefore working with other countries and organisations on projects designed to increase public awareness. It is also working to have memorials erected or exhibitions held in places where Dutch lives were lost, for example at the sites of the Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen and Sobibor concentration camps.

Heritage of the Second World War

Between 2007 and 2010, as part of the Heritage of War programme, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport made over €23 million available for preserving core heritage materials dating from the Second World War and making them accessible. Grants were provided for 221 projects, involving activities such as the digitisation of archives, recording eye witness accounts and making a host of primary source materials available electronically. Some of these activities related to events of purely regional and local importance.

The Heritage of War programme was directed at organisations in charge of heritage materials relating to the Second World War in the Netherlands, the former Dutch East Indies, Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles. The preservation of valuable heritage materials from and about the Second World War is important because it will enable future generations to relate to the period. The Heritage of War programme has worked with several major heritage organisations to develop a large number of national WWII collections that are available to everyone on the internet.

Websites have been created to enable users to conduct targeted searches of digital scans of wartime materials in the collections of Dutch heritage organisations. The national WWII collections created in this way offer the public direct access to photographic materials, diaries, camp drawings, posters, pamphlets, underground publications, wartime newspapers, resistance literature, oral eyewitness accounts, war memorials and audiovisual materials. Some examples:

2 further websites dealing with the subject are:

The following webguides ‘Webgidsen’ refer to locations with physical archive material on the era. These webguides are made among others for War archives and Second World War collections:

Together, the national WWII collections give the general public, researchers, journalists and other interested parties direct access to the country’s Second World War heritage. The various websites are all currently accessible via the general web portal for digital information about the Second World War in the Netherlands.