035. 4th of May commemoration in Istanbul

‘The secret of happiness is freedom – the secret of freedom is courage’  (Thucydides)

 ‘I know how it feels to be deprived of liberty. Therefore I will, as long as I live, commemorate our liberators. We need to pass on the hard lessons we have learned from the history to our children and grandchildren,’ Joop Helmeler, former prisoner of Camp Amersfoort.

4 May, 8:00 PM. Silence descends over the Netherlands.  Collectively we commemorate our civilians and members of the armed forces who have died in WWII and in peacekeeping missions thereafter, paying the ultimate price for our peace and freedom.

4 May, 8.00 PM Trains stop. Busses stand still. Dutch Radio and TV channels broadcast nothing but the remembrance ceremony at Dam Square in Amsterdam. Everybody observes two minutes of silence out of respect for those who gave their lives.

Monday 4 May 2015, 8.00 PM. For the second time in history (the first time was in 1989) “The Last Post” will be heard in the garden of the Dutch Consulate in Istanbul, the Dutch community will gather to pay respect, children will lay flowers, a wreathe will be laid. The Dutch stay side to side – From Amsterdam till Istanbul.

War leaving its traces at the Netherlands Consulate General in Istanbul

War leaves it marks. People and places who lived through war and violence will always carry their experiences with them; both visible and invisible. Traces of the second World War can also be found at the Consulate General in Istanbul. On the wall of one of the two gatehouse you see a memorial stone with four names engraved in it.

Daniël J. E. de Hochepied, Consul General in Istanbul from 1947 till 1957, had  this monument made in memory of four members of Dutch families who were living in Turkey for generations. They died while performing their military service in World War II.

The exact background and stories about two of these four young men is a bit unclear. G. de Jongh’s family probably settled in present-day Greece. A. Sorias was from a Jewish family, originating from Alexandria (Egypt).

About the other two men, E. R. van der Zee (Edward) (1922-1945) and H. W. P. F. van der Zee (Henk) (1918-1941) we have more information. They were cousins.

The van der Zee family had been living in Smyrna (Izmir) since 1792. Edward himself was born in Paris, because his grandparents moved to France after a big fire destroyed huge parts of Smyrna. He was a volunteer for the Princess Irene Brigade Canada-England and became a spitfire flying officer. When Edward was on his way back from operations in Europe, he crashed in Lincolnshire. He was buried on the RAF cemetery in Cambridge. Edward became only 22 years old.

Henk van der Zee was born in Smyrna. In 1941 he was employed by the English navy. He was killed in action; his boat was torpedoed twice near Tobruk, Libya. He died at the age of 23.

Ceremony in Istanbul Monday 4th of May

This year there will be a remembrance ceremony in Istanbul as well – for the second time. At half past seven, in the evening of 4 May, we will gather,  pupils of the Dutch school will recite a poem, a speech will be held and a wreath laying ceremony together with the Dutch military attaché in Ankara will take place. After the sounding of ‘The last post’, silence will descend over the garden of Palais de Hollande for one minute. A moment of silence in a hectic city reminding us all the importance of Freedom and the gratitude owed to those who made it possible.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *