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Shoot Out On Amsterdam Dam Square on May 7th 1945

Posted on: mai 1, 2024

Amsterdam, May 7th 1945. The shoot out on Dam Square.

Holland in WW2: Dam Square Shooting on May 7th 1945

263 people shot on Amsterdam Dam Square. Read here what happened on May 7th 1945, just after WWII, on the same day that Nazi Germany surrendered.

What Happened on Amsterdam Dam Square on 7 May 1945?

On May 7th, 1945, a tragic event occurred in Dam Square, Amsterdam, known as the Dam Square shooting. This happened just two days after the official end of World War II in Europe, in the brief interim period before Allied forces had fully secured control of the Netherlands.

German soldiers, who were still stationed at a building on the square, unexpectedly opened fire on a large crowd of Dutch civilians who were celebrating the liberation of the Netherlands from Nazi occupation. The sudden shooting resulted in the deaths of 22 people, and many others were wounded. The reason behind the shooting remains unclear, but it is often attributed to tension and confusion in the chaotic final days of the war in Europe. The shooting stands out as a somber reminder of the violence of the war, even as it was coming to an end.

1 | Second World War

Amsterdam May 1940 German Soldiers
Amsterdam, Prins Hendrikkade, May 1940. Nazis cycle through occupied Amsterdam.

The Dutch tried to remain neutral during the Second World War like they did in World War One. But in May 1940, Nazi Germany 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 escaped with her whole family to the United Kingdom. The monarch, who had been key in maintaining Dutch neutrality during the first World War, now found herself in a completely different position & made encouraging announcements to subjects back home via Radio Orange and the BBC.

German soldier with Amsterdam prostitute
Amsterdam, Muntplein, May 1945. A german soldier with a prostitute. (source)

2 | 1944 – 1945: The Hunger Winter

The Hunger Winter in 1944 – 1945 was a desperate time in Holland. With the failure of the British-led Operation Market Garden the Allies abandoned all efforts to liberate the western parts of the Netherlands.

The Allies had already conquered South Limburg, the normal delivery of coal from there completely stopped. At the request of the Dutch government in London the railways were also on strike. This lead to the closure of the gas- and the power plants at the start of October.

Amsterdam became cold and dark. The Nazis also stripped the whole country of its food and resources, and mass hunger ensued. Many Dutch had to eat tulip bulbs to survive.

In the Netherlands as a whole around 20,000 people died because of the hunger winter. Canadian soldiers finally liberated the Netherlands in May 1945.

When was Amsterdam liberated?

Amsterdam, the capital city of the Netherlands, was liberated from Nazi German occupation on May 5, 1945, towards the end of World War II. The liberation of Amsterdam was part of the larger liberation of the Netherlands by the Allied forces, which began with the southern provinces of the country in September 1944 and progressed northward towards Amsterdam. The city was liberated by Canadian and British troops, and May 5th is now celebrated as Liberation Day in the Netherlands.

3 | May 7th 1945: Nazi Germany Surrender

On May 7th 1945 – the very same day Germany surrendered to the Allied Forces under Eisenhower, Churchill and Montgomery – German Forces in Amsterdam started firing into the celebrating crowd of Dutch citizens at the Dam Square.

Amsterdam Dam Square on 5th of May 1945.
Amsterdam, Dam Square, 5 May 1945. People watch the allies during the liberation of the Netherlands.

4 | Nazis Shot 263 Amsterdammers On 7th Of May 1945

The brutal act on May 7th 1945, took the lives of 32 innocent civilians. 231 others were wounded. Amsterdammers tried to hide in long narrow rows behind lantern posts and behind a street organ, showing the complete vulnerability of the unarmed people in the street.

Amsterdam, may 7th 1945. People hide on Dam Square.
Amsterdam, Dam Square, May 7th 1945. Civilians duck for German bullets.

The picture above shows people hiding in slashes and one little girl that did not hide behind the lantern posts. Read the story of this little girl who did not hide here below:

The Little Girl Who Went For Ice Cream

My name is Tiny van der Hoek. I was 2.5 years old and I was standing at the ice cream cart on the corner of the Nieuwendijk street and Dam Square where I had just got an ice cream.

Immediately the ice cream fell on the ground to my great disappointment… People ran or stood behind something. I saw that from the ‘Groote Club’ (Grand Club). At the time this was the place where German flags were hanging and German soldiers were sitting. They were to blame for not having ice cream anymore so I went there. My mother was left with the ice cream cart.

Walking on Dam Square, towards the Groote Club, between running people, but exactly against the direction that they went, I was already on my way when I was suddenly picked up by a gentleman. He took me in his arms, put his jacket around me, and ran towards Nieuwendijk where I lived at the time.

May 7th 1945 Amsterdam Dam Square Girl
Two adults trying to safe the little girl on Dam Square.

My mother came back but nowhere there was shelter inside, everything was full and we were refused. That gentleman saw that there was still room under the billiards in that shop. He kicked in a window, my mother crawled inside and took me in and we had shelter under the billiards. That gentleman disappeared towards Dam Square. Was he going to provide more help or find shelter himself? I do not know.

In my memory was always “slashes”. Later, in an amateur video recording made by Bert Haanstra, I understood that those “slash people” behind the lampposts were looking for cover behind each other. During my “mission”, complaining about having no more ice cream, I was so focused on the corner window of the “Groote Club”.

It’s the window I still look at when I am in Amsterdam, that in my memory people on the street were resting. I didn’t realize then that I was walking past injured or dead people, so mesmerised I was to tell those evil people how mean I found them. Fortunately I was picked up and brought to safety. This event on May 7th 1945 is still on my mind and of course it was only later that I understood what was really going on.’ (source)

May 7th 1945 Amsterdam

Amsterdam Dam Square WW2
People running and trying to find a safe place to hide.

Now, it’s May 7th 1945. The sun is shining, no wind and the temperature is maybe around 20 degrees Celsius. Thousands of Dutch fell into each others arms that day. Amsterdam was feasting, singing, yelling.

The street organ played. Liberation! Freedom! The party on Dam Square was being monitored by German Marines from the roof of The Grand Club in the corner of Dam Square. From here one the generally accepted explanation goes as follows:

May 7th 1945 The Grand Club On Dam Square
German marines were stationed in The Grand Club (Groote Club) on the right. (Source)

It is claimed that a Nazi soldier stood outside The Grand Club and resisted against a member of the Dutch Interior Armed Forces (BS) who wanted to disarm him. This action of the BS went against the general orders of the Allies, who had ruled that the BS should remain aloof. The Allies themselves would disarm every German occupation soldier.

Another source claims that at one point two German soldiers were being detained by members of the BS on the corner of Paleisstraat and Spuistraat. They were summoned to hand over their weapons, to which one of them refused. He was shot dead, after which the Nazis started shooting from De Groote Club in the direction of the BS’ers who shot the German.

From the Rokin and the Nieuwendijk other members of the BS started shooting at the Germans, after which they shot back with all kinds of weapons. The crowd on the Dam fled in panic, with a number of them entering the field of fire or being overrun.

May 7th 1945 Amsterdam sheltering people
People hide behind anything they could find. Source: W.F. Leijns / nfa, coll. Nederlands Fotomuseum.

People Hid Behind Street Organ

Street Organ “Het Snotneusje” (translated: the little snot nose) was brought to Dam Square for the festivities. The organ men brought it in the hopes to make a bit of money.

People were incredibly happy that day; there was an exuberant mood. During the shooting, people ducked behind that organ. Het Snotneusje received bullets and thus saved people’s lives. The organ has become an iconic image in Amsterdam. There is a huge contrast between that cheerfully playing barrel organ and the misery and chaos of that last shooting.

Amsterdam street organ
‘Het Snotneusje’ before being restored. Source

5 | No Germans Prosecuted

Not one of the German marines was arrested or tried after the shooting took place. Apparently no one wished that this incident on May 7th 1945 was remembered. Maybe it had to do with the fact that the Dutch Interior Armed Forces shouldn’t have tried to disarm German troops in the first place.

6 | The Netherlands After World War II

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 those who disclosed the whereabouts of Anne Frank and her family – never saw justice.

7 | Deceased Victims: 32

Holland in WW2
Amsterdam, Dam Square, 7 May 1945. Photographer: Jacobus Wicher Hofman.

The 32 deceased victims have been published on the website of the Foundation Memorial for Amsterdam Dam Square Victims May 7th 1945. The names, ages and backgrounds of these victims are briefly explained. Additional video and photo material of this day can be viewed on this website.

8 | War Memorial on Amsterdam Dam Square

On the 7th of May 2016, a new war monument was installed for all the victims of the shootout. The victims, ordinary Amsterdammers who were killed on that day, which should have been a liberation day. All the names of the victims are engraved into separate stones that were placed into the street on la place du Dam,.

May 7th 1945 Memorial On Dam Square
The new memorial on Dam square. Created by Studio Moniker.


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5 Responses to Shoot Out On Amsterdam Dam Square on May 7th 1945

  1. john dit :

    That 7/05/45 I was saved by my mother from being shot,she threw me is the open beer cellar of hotel l L’Europe, at the Munt square where shootings went on as well, so never made it to the Dam.

  2. Kenneth Novak dit :

    Quite a story! Thanks for sharing. Where do you live now?

  3. […] On May 7, 1945, two days after the liberation of the Netherlands people were out celebrating the allied victory on Dam Square, Amsterdam’s main square. Then suddenly around 3:00 pm German soldiers suddenly started opening fire into the big crows of partygoers. The German soldiers were stationed at a corner of Dam Square and fired from the balcony. In total 32 people were killed and 231 injured. A bloody start for a city that regained its freedom. Dam Square is also a part of our Amsterdam History Tour. If you’d like to know more about the May 7th shooting incident we recommend this Dam Square Shooting article. […]

  4. brian curran dit :

    very sad story, as if these people had not suffered enough

  5. Frank Murphy dit :

    I did not know about this story that happened on 7th of May in Dam square.thank you

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