The Dutchies tried to remain neutral during the Second World War but in May 1940 the Germans invaded the Netherlands. The advancing Nazis leveled much of central Rotterdam in a raid designed to force the Dutch to surrender. They obliged.
The Dutch Queen Wilhelmina circulated an announcement of “flaming protest” to the nation and escaped with her whole family to the United Kingdom. The brave monarch, who had been key in maintaining Dutch neutrality in World War I, now found herself in a much different position & made encouraging announcements to subjects back home via Radio Orange and the BBC.
The Hunger Winter in 1944 – 1945 was a desperate time in Holland. The British-led Operation Market Garden had been a huge failure and the Allies abandoned all efforts to liberate the Netherlands. The Nazis stripped the whole country of its food and resources, and mass hunger ensued. Many Dutch had to eat tulip bulbs to survive. Canadian soldiers finally liberated the Netherlands in May 1945.
On May 7th 1945 – the very same day Germany surrendered to the Allied Forces under Eisenhower, Churchill and Montgomery – German Forces in Amsterdam took their machine guns and started shooting at the feasting crowd of Dutch citizens at the Dam Square right in the centre of Amsterdam. Dam Square is just 10 minutes away from the Central Station and the Red Light District by foot. The Palace on the dam – or Royal Palace as some say – was built in the 17th century and was then the largest building on the face of the earth. It was funded by the city of Amsterdam as a house of and for the city. The Netherlands in that time was probably the wealthiest nation in the world.
The brutal, barbaric and completely meaningless act on May 7th 1945, took the lives of 32 unarmed and completely innocent civilians. Two hundred and thirty one  others were wounded. This is a perfect demonstration of the barbarism of Nazi-Germany that held Europe in it’s cruel clutches for 5 long years: 1940-1945. The only question that remains is why the German population for all those years didn’t revolt against this clearly fascist regime, that came from their midst in 1933. Amsterdammers tried to hide in long narrow rows behind lantern posts and behind a street organ, showing the brutality of the soldiers and at the same time the vulnerability of the people in the street.
People seek cover behind lampposts on Amsterdam’s Dam Square.
Amsterdam, Dam Square, May 7th 1945. Civilians hide for German soldiers.
After a horrible winter of famine, more than 2,000 Dutch died of cold and starvation [the Nazis blocked food to the West of the Netherlands]. The Allied Forces of America, the United Kingdom, Canada and Poland succeeded in chasing the German forces away and beat the hell out of them, which lasted until the end of April of 1945. Hitler committed suicide and at last the Germans surrendered.
Now, it is May 7th 1945. The sun is shining, no wind and the temperature is maybe 20 degrees Celcius. Hundreds of Amsterdammers fell into each others arms that day. Amsterdam was feasting, singing, yelling. The street organ played. Liberation! Freedom!
The party on the Dam Square was watched by German Marines on the roof of The Grand Club in the corner of the Dam. Men of the IDF (Interior Dutch Force) wanted to disarm two German soldiers, but they refused. Subsequently one German soldier was shot dead. The Navy soldiers saw that and started to shoot from the Grand Club at the Dutch IDF men. The IDF started shooting back.
Not one of the Kriegsmarine men was arrested or tried after the shooting took place. It looks like a cover up. Apparently no one wished this incident on May 7th 1945 to be remembered. Maybe that has to do with the fact that the Interior Forces shouldn’t have tried to disarm German troops in the first place.
http://placeastone.nl is building a new memorial for the victims of the shooting on Amsterdam’s Dam Square in 1945. “In this digital age we reach each other better and more than ever. On placeastone.nl remembrance generates new meaning by involving everyone actively in the development and realisation of this unique memorial. You too can help write their names. The collaborative digital design will be realized in stone and placed on Dam Square – for them, from us – so we never forget them.”
Placeastone.nl is a new, interactive website whereby people from all over the world can place a stone and help to build the new memorial. Since a few years Amsterdam has a free webcam at Dam Square available for everyone. Great way to see what Dam Square looks like nowadays, or to see what the weather is like or just to do some people watching! 🙂
After the Second World War, the Netherlands was shattered both economically and spiritually. War trials ensued in which 66.000 were convicted of cooperating with the Nazis and about 900 got the death penalty. Unfortunately, the number of collaborators was much higher and some – like the parties who ratted out Anne Frank and her family – never saw justice.