Princess Margriet of the Netherlands and her husband, Professor Pieter van Vollenhoven, officially opened a new interpretation centre at the Holten Canadian War Cemetery near Arnhem on Sept. 2.
The centre, created by the Holten Canadian Cemetery Information Foundation, tells the story of the Canadians who liberated the Netherlands and the many who are buried in the beautiful wooded cemetery cared for by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
During her visit to the cemetery, the princess placed a wreath by the Stone of Remembrance and the Act of Remembrance was recited by 87-year-old veteran Charles Reeves. Colonel Janine Knackstedt, the military attaché attached to the Canadian embassy in the Netherlands, also placed a wreath.
The princess was born in Ottawa where her mother and sisters took refuge during the war.
Following the ceremony, Princess Margriet, accompanied by Gert Jan van’t Holt, a founding member of the group responsible for the centre, unveiled a painting by Dutch artist Annemiek Punt, commissioned by the Prince Bernard Culture Fund. The two- by 1.5-metre painting, entitled For All Generations, features a bright red poppy with rainbow colours forming at the heart of the flower, representing memories, peace, freedom and happiness.
The Holten Canadian War Cemetery Information Centre tells the story of the cemetery and the liberation of the northern and eastern provinces of the Netherlands in 1945. When entering the building, visitors first see a large and curled wall with the names of all the soldiers buried in the cemetery. At the reception desk visitors can choose a soldier they would like to meet by choosing between four cards. For example, one card says “Meet the soldier for whom the capitulation came four hours too late.” After watching an audio-visual presentation inside the theatre of the museum, visitors can learn more about their chosen soldier at database stations throughout the centre showing personal pictures, diaries and letters of the soldiers.
The cemetery is northeast of the city of Arnhem, where British paratroopers tried in vain to hold the bridge which has come to be known in popular history as A Bridge Too Far. The cemetery holds the graves of those who died in the closing stages of the war in northwest Europe. There are 1,355 Canadians buried there, including one sailor and three airmen.
Holten itself was liberated April 8, 1945, when the Calgary Highlanders, the Maisonneuve Regiment and the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada, with the support from the Fort Garry Horse armoured regiment engaged in fierce house-to-house combat.
The centre has used the Requests column in Legion Magazine to solicit photos, personal stories and artifacts of the Canadians buried in the cemetery. More information can be found on the website www.canadesebegraafplaatsholten.nl.