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There are still many reminders of the Second World war in Brunssum. In the memories and recollections of its citizens, for example. Or its war memorials. Sometimes, concerts are organised the commemorate the sacrifices made and the victory won. The scars of the Second World War are likewise present, such as the British War Cemetery, where 328 British soldiers found their final resting place.

The soldiers buried here paid the ultimate price for the battles they fought in the turbulent years of 1944 and 1945. The legacy they leave us is huge. They fell for our freedom, they fell for a just society, they fell for our forbears, for us and for our offspring. We have a duty to cherish this legacy in the spirit of their sacrifice. We should never fail to appreciate the value of democracy, freedom and independence, not least because our soil is drenched with the blood and tear of those who died for us.

A few years ago, a survey was held amongst Dutch people to find out their appreciation and perception of the Second World war. The most important conclusion of the survey was that the Second World War is still very much alive, even amongst younger folk. Not in terms of a history lesson, but as an inseparable part of life today. That is a powerful finding, since it means that current and future generations are willing to graft the lessons of the Second World War onto our own surroundings, our own life and our own actions. What happened in the Second World War has slowly become a benchmark. The war has made us more aware of human dignity, human responsibilities, social values – and of the importance of defending these values in our actions, behaviour and way of thinking. The Second World War is not history. It is our present and our future.

This cemetery marks the resting place of 328 men who helped build the foundations of our society. Their sacrifice may have been many years ago, but it has never been forgotten and their legacy has never waned. We are free, we are privileged and most of all, we are grateful. That is the reason why we cherish monuments from wars past and find expression in this recognition: the sacrifice you made stirs us with courage and inspiration.

Clemens Brocken Mayor (2003-2012)

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