Rotterdam Blitz Commemoration

Rotterdam Blitz Commemoration

May 14, 2023

Every year on May 14, Rotterdam commemorates the 1940 aerial bombardment that destroyed most of the city. Typically, there are many events and gatherings taking place in the city centre to commemorate the momentous event in Dutch history

The Rotterdam bombing on May 14, 1940, aka Rotterdam Blitz

During the treacherous Rotterdam Blitz, 850 people were killed in the onslaught and 80.000 people lost their homes. The Netherlands surrendered the next day. This bombardment (bombardement in Dutch) was carried out by the German Luftwaffe during World War II. The attack was part of the larger German invasion of the Netherlands, which began on May 10, 1940.

The German army, led by General Kurt Student, had initially planned to capture Rotterdam without using military force. However, the Dutch defenders put up a strong resistance, and the German troops were unable to secure the city. Faced with this unexpected setback, General Schmidt gave an ultimatum and General Student ordered the bombing of Rotterdam as a means of forcing the Dutch to surrender.

The attack was carried out in the early hours of May 14, 1940, and lasted for several hours.The bombing of Rotterdam was a devastating event that resulted in the deaths of over 800 people and the destruction of much of the city. The attack was condemned internationally, and it marked a turning point in the war.

The Rotterdam Blitz was a clear example of the brutality and ruthlessness of the Nazi regime. It was an attempt to intimidate and terrorise the Dutch people into submission, and it had a profound impact on the city and its population. The attack was a tragic reminder of the catastrophic consequences of war and the importance of working towards peace and understanding between nations.

How did the bombing of Rotterdam affect the Rotterdam population?

The bombing of Rotterdam was a devastating event that had a profound impact on the city and its population. The attack, carried out by the German Luftwaffe, resulted in the death of over 800 people and left the city in ruins.

The immediate aftermath of the bombing was one of shock and horror for the people of Rotterdam. Many residents had lost their homes, their possessions and their loved ones. The streets were littered with rubble and debris, and the city was in chaos as survivors searched for their missing families and friends.

In addition to the psychological trauma, the bombing had a significant impact on the economy of Rotterdam. The city was a well-established and important hub for trade and commerce, and the destruction of its port and infrastructure had far-reaching consequences. Many businesses were destroyed, and the city's ability to import and export goods was severely limited.

Despite the devastating impact of the bombing, the people of Rotterdam were resilient and determined to rebuild their city. Reconstruction efforts began almost immediately, with residents working together to clear the rubble and begin rebuilding their homes and businesses.

The reconstruction of Rotterdam was a long and difficult process, but it was ultimately successful. The city emerged from the devastation as a modern, thriving metropolis, with a renewed sense of pride and resilience. Today, Rotterdam is one of the largest and most important ports in the world, a testament to the strength and determination of its people.

Commemorative monuments, plaques and statues in Rotterdam

Walking around Rotterdam, you will find a lot of statues and monuments made to commemorate the bombing. Rotterdam burned for days after the bombing, and soon after, the periphery of the bombardment was coined brandgrens, or fire boundary, which is nowadays marked with plaques dotted around the perimeter.

On Plein 1940 (named after the year of the bombardment), you can find the sculpture City In Ruins by Ossip Zadkine (pictured above). It shows a warped image of a human being with its hands thrust up into the air and its heart missing.

A steel skeleton-like reconstruction of the outlines of the once-famous Delftsche Poort was placed on the Hofplein to remind people of one of the many buildings that were ruined.

Metal church frame at Delftsche Poort Rotterdam

Rotterdam in the 21st century

Rotterdam has arisen like a phoenix from the ashes and that's why the city is now renowned for its many interesting buildings, where the city motto is "Make it happen". Nowadays you can learn a lot about the tragic events of the Rotterdam Bombardment online, such as the Brandgrens website.

Commemorations in the Netherlands in May

The Rotterdam Blitz Commemoration takes place less than two weeks after the country's largest war memorial days: Remembrance Day on May 4 in which those killed in wars and peacekeeping missions are remembered, and Liberation Day on May 5 which celebrates the Dutch liberation from German occupation in World War II.