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National Monument

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National Monument Photo © Kristen de Joseph, licensed to About.com

The limestone obelisk that rises from the eastern half of Dam Square is the National Monument, the nation's chief World War II memorial. The monumental sculptures and reliefs depict wartime phenomena, both abstract and concrete. It also serves as the site of a yearly ceremony, observed on May 4 (Dutch Memorial Day), to commemorate national victims of war.

About the National Monument:

The National Monument is an icon of Amsterdam, where both visitors and locals alike perch to take in the urban scenery of Dam Square. The 22-meter limestone column that rises up from the monument's base is adorned with sculptures and reliefs that recall the Dutch experience of World War II. The monument was first erected to commemorate the Dutch victims of World War II, but now honors all Dutch individuals who perished in war or in peace missions.

The reliefs and sculptures represent different facets of war, but their symbolism is unfortunately often lost on viewers. The central relief of four, hunched over men expresses the misery of war. The two men and their canines on either side of the pillar recall the Dutch resistance effort; visitors can learn more about their brave activities at the splendid Verzetsmuseum (Dutch Resistance Museum). The hounds themselves are sorrow and faith, both of which the resistance workers had in abundance.

The female with child that hovers over the men is the personification of victory, peace and new life. By 1956, when the monument was unveiled, the Dutch were already well into the post-war recovery period that paved the way for their current stability. Each year on May 4, the queen, cabinet members, military leaders and others hold a ceremony here in honor of the Dutch who sacrified their lives for these values, and two minutes of silence are observed nationwide.

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