Since 2011, we have produced cartoons for the National 4 and 5 May Committee in the Netherlands every year. These cartoons are about freedom and are related to May 5th, Liberation Day. In 2017, the theme is The Power of the Personal Story.
The Diary of Anne Frank is still one of the most read books in the world. It is not surprising that this personal story about World War II is so popular.
Personal stories move us because they capture the essence of life. They are about courage and sacrifice. But also about the dark side of man. About death and deep misery, pain, fear, powerlessness and humiliation. About betrayal, lies and cowardice. And about the broken lives of soldiers, just 19 or 20 years old. Soldiers who never got the chance to grow older. To hear their baby’s laughter or to bury their parents. And the millions who were murdered and do not even have a grave.
Personal stories about World War II, or other wars, are never just stories, they are not isolated. The “big” narrative about wars in recent decades, conquests, battles, dates and murders, is complemented by numerous "small" personal stories. This strong urge to tell the personal story, is understandable. Wars define the existence of individuals and families but also of nations. Telling stories about the war, any war, helps to remember the past and to understand and shape a common future.
War can bring out the best in us, but also the worst. Given the right set circumstances, most of us are capable of evil deeds. The veneer of civilization can indeed be very thin.
Silence can also be a story. The inability to talk about murdered relatives, a lover never returned. Silence because of shame. Or because of a lack of understanding among family or friends who do not share the experience of war.
Without shared history there is no shared future. That is why we need to continue to share personal stories. To keep on remembering the names behind the numbers.
Every year, the selected cartoons are used in various publications, online and offline, to promote Liberation Day (May 5th), and to remind the Dutch just how special and important the freedom is that they have enjoyed since the end of the Second World War in 1945.