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May 7th 1945 Amsterdam – The Shooting

Posted on: May 19, 2015


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

The Shoot Out On May 7th 1945 In Amsterdam

The Dutch tried to remain neutral during the Second World War like they did in World War One 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.

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

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 prostitute in Amsterdam
Amsterdam, year unknown. A german soldier with a prostitute. 

Fast Forward To 1944 – 1945 And 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.

May 7th 1945 Germany Surrenders

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 right in the heart of Amsterdam.

Amsterdam Dam Square on 5th of May 1945.
May 5th 1945 – Spectators watch the allies during the liberation of the Netherlands, on Dam Square. The Royal Palace is seen in the background. 

The Germans Shot 263 Amsterdammers On The 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. Here’s her story:

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 it was the place where the 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 the Dam, 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

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

Now, it’s May 7th 1945. The sun is shining, no wind and the temperature is maybe around 20 degrees Celsius. Thousends of Amsterdammers 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
The Grand Club (Groote Club)where the German marines were stationed is pictured here on  right. (Source)

It is claimed that a German soldier standing outside The Grand Club resisted against a member of the Dutch Interior 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 Germans 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 A Street Organ

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

No Germans Were 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 Forces shouldn’t have tried to disarm German troops in the first place.




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.

A Monument in Amsterdam For The Victims

On the 7th of May 2016 a new 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 Dam Square.

May 7th 1945 Memorial On Dam Square
The new memorial in the streets on Dam square. created by Studio Moniker.

Amsterdam History Tour

During our Amsterdam History Tour we’ll walk across Dam Square where you can see the monument dedicated to this dark day in Amsterdam’s history for yourself. During this interesting tour our licensed tour guides also walk past the Anne Frank house and teach you about the persecution of Jews in Amsterdam among others. This tour gives you a great overall picture of Amsterdam’s rich history, about the Second World War and much, much more.

BOOK HERE >

Also check out this Free Webcam at Dam Square and The History of Prostitution in the Netherlands

4 Responses to May 7th 1945 Amsterdam – The Shooting

  1. john says:

    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 says:

    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 says:

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

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