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President Bush joins Margraten war cemetery commemorations

Unprecedented security

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

MARGRATEN – U.S. President George W. Bush joined Queen Beatrix and other dignitaries in remembering the U.S. soldiers who died liberating the southern part of Netherlands in 1944. The ceremony was held at the U.S. War Cemetery, which is located in the Southern Limburg village of Margraten. Over 8,300 U.S. soldiers have found their final resting place in the huge field of honour.

The official program at the Margraten memorial included the laying of wreaths by both heads of state, speeches by Dutch Prime Minister J.P. Balkenende and President Bush, and a fly-past by three U.S. fighter jets.

In his speech, Balkenende expressed thanks to the Allies for their role in ending the war. He especially thanked the Americans for helping rebuild Europe in general, and the Netherlands in particular, in the years following the defeat of Germany. The Prime Minister also compared the current waves of terrorism to the terror spread by Nazi Germany, and called on the world to remain on guard against tyranny, anti-semitism and terrorism.


To President Bush the most important lesson of World War II is that 'no power is as strong as the power of freedom.’ “There is no soldier as strong as one who fights for freedom,” he stated. The U.S. President honoured those soldiers who gave their lives in the battle against the tyranny of Nazi Germany, but also expressed appreciation to the Dutch families who adopted the graves of the American soldiers in the fall of 1945 at the Margraten cemetery. According to Mr. Bush, free Europe after World War II was built on the courage and sacrifices of the soldiers who liberated the continent.

For security reasons, all roads near the cemetery were shut to traffic and hundreds of police and soldiers lined the route to Margraten, nestled in green hills, a stone's throw away from the Dutch border with Germany and Belgium. Earlier in the day, thousands of protesters against the U.S. war in Iraq, peacefully had marched through the streets in Amsterdam.


Mr. Bush, who in his speech also mentioned the bombing of Rotterdam, the hunger winter, the railway strike, and the legacy of Anne Frank, spoke as well of the historic ties between the U.S. and the Netherlands. “For the Americans who rest here, Dutch soil provides a fitting home. It was from a Dutch port that many of our pilgrim fathers first sailed for America. It was a Dutch port that gave the American flag its first gun salute. It was the Dutch who became one of the first foreign nations to recognize the independence of the new United States of America. And when American soldiers returned to this continent to fight for freedom, they were led by a President who owed his family name to this great land -- Roosevelt.”

Bush was in the Netherlands only for a few hours. After the Margraten ceremony and the only speech he gave in Western Europe, the President traveled to Moscow, for Liberations commemorations and a meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.