The Honour Roll of the Fallen 1940-1945: a brief history
Since 1960 the Honour Roll of the fallen 1940-1945 can be found in the entrance hall of Binnenhof 1a of the Dutch House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal). This document lists the names of those who gave their lives as soldiers or resistance fighters for the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the Second World War. Each day a person from the Tweede Kamer turns a page to reveal new names to the public.
At present some 18,000 names are included in the Honour Roll. The list consists of five groups:
- members of the Royal Netherlands Army;
- officers and other ranks of the Royal Netherlands Navy;
- members of the Dutch Merchant Navy;
- members of the Royal Netherlands East-Indies Army (KNIL) and members of the Indonesian resistance;
- members of the resistance in the Netherlands.
It was during the Second World War that the Dutch government in exile in London conceived the plan for a monument to honour the fallen. A monument for military and resistance fighters, and also for the crews of merchant ships who died in the armed conflict against the German or Japanese occupiers. Queen Wilhelmina made mention of it in a radio speech on 31 December 1943. In 1945 it was decided to erect a monument. Eventually the decision was made to have a calligraphic list of names, to be displayed in a significant location in the Netherlands.
The then National Institute for War documentation (RIOD) was put in charge of compiling the list. Surviving relatives could obtain forms from the Institute to give the details of their relatives or friends who had died in the war. Details such as name, place and date of birth, occupation, and date and place of death. As a rule the respective ministries were responsible for the mention of the soldiers and sailors who had died.
Role of next of kin
The initiative for registration on the Honour Roll was placed largely with the surviving relatives. In this respect the Netherlands deviated from other countries, where the governments actively laboured to gather the details of servicemen and civilians who had died. One consequence of this decision is that the list is far from complete. Some relatives felt that mention on this Honour List was not in line with the spirit of the deceased person. Or they did not have the correct information, and sources for verification used to be considerably fewer than they are today. Other relatives were not aware of the arrangement.
Presentation by Queen Juliana
During a ceremony in the Ridderzaal on 4 May 1960, Queen Juliana presented the Honour Roll to the Dutch Parliament. The document, consisting of hand-made paper quires, is placed in a special commemorative table, designed by architect Aldo van Eyck.
Alterations to Honour Roll
It was to be expected that over the years proposals for alterations and additions to the list would be made. In this context the name of Mr. J.W. de Leeuw from Roermond definitely deserves mention. His many reactions have proved very helpful.
The Netherlands Institute for War Documentation (NIOD) has seen to it that all of these alterations in the text were calligraphied. Eventually the quality deteriorated to such a degree that NIOD no longer has changes and additions made on paper. The calligraphic Honour Roll on paper will continue to exist as a monument.
The possibility of making changes and additions must be preserved. For this reason NIOD has decided to digitize the document and publish it online. By order of the Tweede Kamer and NIOD a website was built where everybody can consult the Honour Roll. Visitors can submit their suggestion for alterations, additions, or applications using the contact form on the site.
Monument for the victims of World War II in the Dutch East Indies, at the entrance of the Tweede Kamer.
Sister Stéphanie of the Onze Lieve Vrouwe abbey in Oosterhout. Photograph taken around 1975.