Air battles over Flevoland. Part 19: Should we continue to commemorate?

“If you forget the lessons of history, they will repeat themselves”

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The story of the salvage officer who was involved in the salvage of, in particular, Allied aircraft wrecks in the Flevoland polders.

Monument Dronten

Monument dedicated to the Allied airmen in Dronten, Flevoland (Batavialand, G.J. Zwanenburg Collection).

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Education in schools

We both find giving the background information to the children of the schools in Dronten fun. Everything about the air warfare and things like that. If you have to maintain a monument, you should know what it stands for. We tell them what these old men, who come every year, have done. That they flew in the skies above. You have things with you that you can show. Most children find it very interesting. Once we received a notebook from the class as each child had been allowed to write down something after we had gone. They often have a project week before we come. How they experienced it and what they thought about it. Air warfare is a little adventurous and this appeals to them. You also talk to them about the downside, that these men had to sit for ten hours and things like this.

Continue to remember?

People now no longer understand how it was then. These people [in a booklet, LB] were all captured in Harlingen, in January 1945. I knew them well. Our next door neighbour, the fathers of two good friends. I still correspond with the son of one of them. They all went to Neuengamme and no one came back. They were supposedly with the underground. By accident. They were often religious people. Did they do strange things, no. I knew them all! And that effects you. T hese are things you should take into account. And then you ask how long should we remember. As long as there are people who have consciously experienced the Second World War. As long as that? And after that? I think you then have to leave it with the children. Today kids learn more about the war than in previous years. Then they didn’t learn anything at all about the war. They probably do it a bit better today. If children no longer learn anything about the war, there’s no point in remembering. If the children are going to learn and they are going to delve into it, then of course remembering is important. A sophisticated famous saying:

“If you forget the lessons of history, they will repeat themselves."

For this reason alone you should remember!

Airmen's Memorial

The monument in Dronten, dedicated to all allied airmen who lost their lives in WW2, came about at the request of the people of Dronten. Throughout the Netherlands, in every small village, a monument has been dedicated to the victims of World War II. In Dronten they said:

“Thanks to the men you find here, we can live and work here”.

And so in 1965 the monument was erected. I have not missed one commemoration and have been to everyone on the 4th May since 1965. In the year the B 24 was recovered at the Oostvaardersdijk, Mr. Zwanenburg sent a Christmas card to all his friends and relations with a picture of the landscaped Zanddam and the following tekst: Road to the past as a remembrance to the future.

Source: Batavialand, interview by Lenie Bolle with Gerrie Zwanenburg, 16th September, 2009.

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