Liberation of the Netherlands: new Heritage Minute tells Dutch Canadian love story from Vancouver

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      Among the ways that Canada is honouring today's 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands and the end of the Second World War is the release of a new Heritage Minute that tells a love story with a Vancouver connection.

      During the Second World War, the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, which began in 1940, resulted in great suffering and mass fatalities.

      Approximately 120,000 Dutch Jews sent to concentration camps—with most never to return—while Dutch men were forced into labour.

      Due to the halting of food supplies, over 20,000 Dutch citizens died of starvation.

      Meanwhile, over 5,000 Canadians were wounded or killed as the Canadian army battled its way north through Nazi-occupied Netherlands from September 1944 to April 1945.

      On May 7, 1945, Lieutenant Wilf Gildersleeve of the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada, a regiment based at the Seaforth Armoury on Burrard Street, marched into Amsterdam to help liberate it from Nazis. 

      Among the survivors of the Nazi occupation, he met Dutch civilian Marguerite Blaisse, and the two would fall in love.

      Blaisse became one of 1,886 Dutch war brides who emigrated to Canada after the war, and the couple settled in Vancouver, where they raised their eight children.

      Historica Canada's new Heritage Minute about their story, filmed in Montreal and with support from Veterans Affairs Canada and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, was created in consultation with historians and military organizations, including author Mark Zuehlke (On to Victory: The Canadian Liberation of the Netherlands), author Terry Copp (Cinderella Army: The Canadians in Northwest Europe), and Dutch historian Ingrid de Zwarte.

      Peter Mansbridge, retired news anchor of The National, provides the end narration.

      “Now perhaps more than ever, it is important to remember that we should never take freedom for granted,” Henk van der Zwan, ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, stated in a news release. “We are proud that Historica Canada with this Heritage Minute pays tribute to all Canadians who bravely fought for our freedom. This love story during a terrible time in history is a beautiful homage to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands.”

      Another Canadian connection from the time period is that while the Dutch government and royal family left the Netherlands to escape from the Nazis and relocated to London, England, Princess Juliana and her children moved to Canada for safety. In Ottawa, Ontario, she gave birth to Princess Margriet in 1943. The maternity ward of the Ottawa hospital she was born in was temporarily declared extraterritorial so that Princess Margriet could have Dutch citizenship (rather than dual citizenships) to remain in the line of succession to the Dutch throne. 

      More information about the liberation of the Netherlands is available at the The Canadian Encyclopedia website.

      Historica Canada
      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.