The Netherlands / Story

Sjoerd de Vrij, reporter for Radio Herrijzend Nederland




On May 5, 1945, Canadian General Foulkes and German General Blaskowitz meet at the damaged Hotel De Wereld in Wageningen, where the details of the German surrender are worked out. In photos, you see officers, but also journalists and photographers. One of them is Sjoerd de Vrij. Who is this man who, after the meeting, drives back to an Eindhoven radio studio in his rickety jeep?

Sjoerd de Vrij is a reporter at Radio Herrijzend Nederland, a new radio station that first aired from Eindhoven in October 1944 after the southern parts of the Netherlands were liberated. In May 1945, Sjoerd produces a report about the capitulation of Germany, which occurred on May 4 on the Lüneburg Heath in Germany, marking the surrender in Northern Europe, including the Netherlands.

The meeting between Canadian General Charles Foulkes and German General Johannes Blaskowitz on May 5, 1945, signifies a concrete end to the German occupation. The discussions revolve around the technical implementation of the capitulation: the immediate laying down of weapons, the arrest of war criminals, withdrawal via the Afsluitdijk, cessation of inundations, and so on. In addition to officers and journalists, Prince Bernhard is also present, who, despite his German mother tongue, only asks German General Blaskowitz questions in English.

While Prince Bernhard returns to Palace Het Loo after the meeting in the former car of Arthur Seyss-Inquart - with the infamous license plate R.K.I. (Reichskommissariat I) - Sjoerd de Vrij drives back to the studio in the Philips building in Eindhoven in a ramshackle jeep. This city is only accessible via Arnhem and Nijmegen because the bridge over the Maas at Hedel has been blown up. Upon arrival, his boss approaches him and asks, 'Do you have a moment? We have important visitors. And you need to tell them what you experienced in Wageningen.' The important visitors turn out to be Queen Wilhelmina and Princess Juliana. The queen wants to hear all the details of the meeting in Wageningen: the conversation between her and Sjoerd de Vrij lasts almost an hour. It is only in the evening that the Dutch public is informed via the radio station about what was discussed in Wageningen that morning.

After the war, Sjoerd also plays a role in the creation of the Liberation Fire that is brought to the Netherlands every year. In 1946, the idea arose in 'Light City' Eindhoven to honor the liberators: to pick up the so-called 'liberation fire' in Bayeux and bring a torch by cyclists and relay runners to Eindhoven. Bayeux is located in Normandy and is the first city liberated by the Allies after D-Day. The idea of the Liberation Fire comes from Philips, Sjoerd's employer. As head of the Philips Press Service, Sjoerd is also involved in this first journey of the Liberation Fire and ensures journalistic attention. On September 18, 1946, the first Liberation Fire arrives in Eindhoven amidst great public interest. On the Market Square, Prime Minister Louis Beel and Mayor Kolfschoten take over the torch and ignite the Liberation Fire. In the following month, the fire is brought to Nijmegen and Wageningen.

Every year, the Liberation Fire is still brought from Bayeux via Eindhoven to Wageningen, where it is ignited on the night of May 4th to 5th, after which the fire is spread throughout the Netherlands through a relay race. And thus, this is one of the oldest WWII commemoration and celebration traditions in the Netherlands.