York history grad is knighted by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands

York grad Dean Oliver (MA ‘89, PhD ‘96) has received the Dutch honour of Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau from Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. The decoration is bestowed by the queen on persons who have rendered outstanding service to society.

Dean OliverOliver is a historian of the Second World War and as director of research & exhibitions at the Canadian War Museum has played a lead role in commemorating Canada’s involvement in the liberation of the Netherlands, one of the most celebrated events in Dutch history and one of the proudest moments in the annals of Canada’s military. Oliver has also worked diligently to build and sustain a special relationship between the War Museum and Canada’s Dutch community, noted museum officials in a media release.

“2010 marks the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands. The pivotal role Canadian soldiers have played in liberating our country has given Canada and the Netherlands a shared military history. This shared history is highly visible in the Canadian War Museum,” said Wim J.P. Geerts, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Canada. “Dr. Oliver is the primary creator of the War Museum’s new historical exhibits on the 1939-1945 war. That the exhibits in the new building give appropriate attention to the Canadian role in the liberation of the Netherlands is largely thanks to him. For this, Dr. Oliver has earned the respect of Canada’s Dutch community.”

The award was announced on April 28 as Canada and its Second World War allies prepared to celebrate the 65th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day on May 8.

Left: Oliver receives his award from Wim Geerts (right) as Mark O’Neill (centre), director general of the Canadian War Museum looks on

“Many will remember Dean’s days as a graduate student among us working with [Professor] Jack Granatstein,” said Jonathan Edmondson, professor and chair in York’s Department of History in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. “On behalf of the Department of History, I’d like to convey our heartiest congratulations,” Edmondson said in a message to Oliver. “This is a marvellous and fitting recognition for the excellent work you have done as a military historian and in your role as director of research & exhibitions at the Canadian War Museum.”

The museum begins its narrative of the liberation by focusing on the sacrifice of the Canadian soldiers who fought in the difficult conditions of the Low Countries in 1944 and 1945. It then outlines the liberation itself and Canada’s role in providing aid and medical help during the “Hunger Winter”. It concludes by highlighting the Dutch royal family’s wartime exile in Canada and by presenting a moving reminder of the special ongoing relationship between the two countries.