Dutch king lays wreath, thousands attend remembrance event

May 4, 2022 GMT
Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima, center arrive for the Remembrance Day ceremony at the national monument on Dam square in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, commemorating civilians and members of the armed forces who have died in wars and peacekeeping missions since the start of the Second World War. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima, center arrive for the Remembrance Day ceremony at the national monument on Dam square in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, commemorating civilians and members of the armed forces who have died in wars and peacekeeping missions since the start of the Second World War. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima, center arrive for the Remembrance Day ceremony at the national monument on Dam square in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, commemorating civilians and members of the armed forces who have died in wars and peacekeeping missions since the start of the Second World War. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
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Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima, center arrive for the Remembrance Day ceremony at the national monument on Dam square in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, commemorating civilians and members of the armed forces who have died in wars and peacekeeping missions since the start of the Second World War. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
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Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima, center arrive for the Remembrance Day ceremony at the national monument on Dam square in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, commemorating civilians and members of the armed forces who have died in wars and peacekeeping missions since the start of the Second World War. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

AMSTERDAM (AP) — Dutch King Willem-Alexander laid a wreath Wednesday at a war memorial in Amsterdam during the first national commemoration of the country’s war dead since coronavirus restrictions were lifted earlier this year.

Thousands of people — including at least one draped in a Ukrainian flag — observed two minutes of silence at 8 p.m. (1800 GMT) on the Dutch capital’s Dam Square. It was a marked difference from the last two May 4 wreath-laying ceremonies in Amsterdam, which were held without public attendance because of COVID-19 lockdown measures.

Amid the memories of past conflicts, Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema alluded to the war in Ukraine when she described in a speech photographs of death and destruction following a bombing raid on the Dutch capital during World War II. “They are old photos, but the imagery is current,” she said.

The national day of commemoration, at which flags fly at half staff from buildings throughout the country, honors military personnel and civilians killed in conflicts around the world since the outbreak of World War II. It is followed Thursday by celebrations to mark the country’s liberation from Nazi German occupation at the end of the war.

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Earlier Wednesday, staff at a war cemetery in the eastern city of Nijmegen discovered pro-Ukraine graffiti sprayed on graves and buildings. Police were investigating the vandalism at the Jonkerbos cemetery, which is home to the graves of more than 1,600 Allied soldiers killed during World War II.