Unified in remembrance: reflections on collective war commemoration by war-affected immigrants in the Netherlands

Huibertha B. Mitima-Verloop*, Paul A. Boelen, Saskia Moerbeek, Ismee Tames, Trudy T.M. Mooren

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Decades after World War II, major commemorations are still organised to collectively remember this war. Aiming for inclusive societies, the perspectives of immigrants with different war experiences are important to be heard in relation to these commemorations. Research reveals that commemorations can kindle difficult emotions such as sadness and bring distressing memories to the fore. Concurrently, psychosocial factors such as societal support and meaning making may buffer the emotional distress and contribute to a beneficial impact. It is not well known how this applies to immigrants. The present study explores how war-affected immigrants in the Netherlands relate to the Dutch Remembrance Day. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 25 war-affected immigrants from 8 different countries (including countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America). Qualitative analyses revealed that participants experienced multiple and mixed emotions during the Dutch Remembrance Day, including sadness, longing, and gratitude. Memories about own war experiences and losses often arose, of which the impact varied from distress to relief. The context of war in participants’ countries of origin, such as ongoing conflict or a contested history, often hindered commemoration of these wars. Through the Dutch commemoration, most war-affected immigrants experienced social connectedness and openness for (emotional) expression which contributed to dealing with their past experiences. Insights from this study may guide counsellors working with war-affected immigrants and help societies to organise optimally appealing commemorations within an inclusive society.

Original languageEnglish
Article number773
Number of pages9
JournalHumanities and Social Sciences Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jun 2024


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