Well, we escaped the Royal Wedding Weekend by going to Amsterdam, and jumped into Koninginnedag – Queen’s Day’ – the huge celebrations for the official birthday of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. We hadn’t known about it. 800,000 people came to Amsterdam for the day, and all but one (maybe two) were wearing something orange.
The Dutch are a trading nation, and they start the commercial instinct young. On Queen’s Day, the big Vondelpark becomes a ‘free market’ for children, who set out stalls with their outgrown clothes and toys, cupcakes they have baked and games they have invented for you to try. And they perform as mini-buskers with a hopeful plate on the ground.
All around, well-behaved families picnic and put their rubbish neatly in bins. It’s an incredibly civilised Royalfest, though a bit more lively in the town centre. Pride, patriotism and piety, in a modern and tolerant society – which sheltered so many Jews like Anne Frank.
Which is why it was so surprising to read about the extent of Dutch collaboration in the Scotsman yesterday – 20,000+ serving in the Waffen SS, even though Queen Wilhelmina had refused to let the Netherlands become another Vichy regime. And yet, how complacent can one be – how would I react in the same circumstances? It’s a question that I keep struggling with since blogging about Jersey and collaboration there.