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Ermelo’s memorial ‘Canadians’ Tree’ centre of new park

Friendship ties with Halton Hills

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

ERMELO, the Netherlands - A maple tree planted in this central Dutch community to commemorate the May 1945 Liberation by Canadian troops, will be relocated. The so-called Canadians’ Tree will get a home in the new friendship park, a twin of a similar park in the Ontario community of Halton Hills.

In May 2002, the mayors of Ermelo and of Halton Hills, Wierd Omta and Kathy Gastle, signed an agreement to keep alive the memory of Dutch and Canadian citizens who perished or otherwise suffered during the Second World War. Both communities also pledged to build memorial parks in their towns. Halton Hills already met its commitment, Ermelo plans to do so this Spring.

Ermelo’s memorial park will be adjacent to its war monument. On May 9, 1985, the tree, a Cleveland Maple, was planted by Mayor P.Th. Bunjes, Councilman E. van de Beek, and a number of Canadian war veterans. Ten years later, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of Liberation, Canadian war veteran Mr. Ellis unveiled a commemorative plaque. The plaque, near the trunk of the tree, reads: ‘Ter gelegenheid van de 50 jarige herdenking van de bevrijding 5 mei 1995 (In memory of the 50th anniversary of the liberation May 5th 1995). Paving of a nearby parking lot had stunted the tree’s growth. In its new location, the maple could reach a normal height of ten to fifteen metres.

The German occupation took a toll on Ermelo, which is located in the northern part of the central Dutch region known as the Veluwe (between the port town of Harderwijk and Putten). Particularly nearby Putten is a symbol of Nazi brutality in the Netherlands. The Germans rounded up close to 600 of Putten’s men following an attack by resistance men on a car, which carried German officers. Some of the Putten men were killed as part of the immediate reprisal, while well over 500 were sent off to concentration camps where only a small number survived the war. Many of the homes in Putten were torched as punishment as well.