The objective of this site

Shooting on Dam Square

May 5, the Germans capitulate but the western Netherlands remains occupied while waiting for the Allies.

On May 7, the big moment seems to have arrived for Amsterdam: thousands of people have gathered on Dam Square in a festive mood to welcome the first liberators.

Around 12:30 a handful of Allied vehicles drive onto Dam Square via the Rokin. It is a reconnaissance unit of the English Polar Bears division. Soon the armored cars are packed with revelers. A few German trucks come from the opposite direction to take a closer look. Separated only by a thin hedge, people pass each other near the Nieuwendijk.

The Polar Bears passing the Germans. Photo: Wiel van der Randen, National Archives

A tense moment, but it still ends well. The Germans disappear and after a round of Dam, the English drive out of the city via the Rokin. They realize that they are in a very explosive situation and are waiting for reinforcements. The Domestic Armed Forces (BS) take to the streets and start disarming Germans. First at Central Station and then around Dam Square as part of Operation Three Castles: securing the palace, money office and main post office. The German occupation is disarmed and removed. A grim atmosphere arises and when shots are fired during various clashes between German soldiers and the BS – with possibly several victims – the situation escalates. It’s 3:00 PM…

On Dam Square, Germans open fire from their Kriegsmarine support point in the Groote Club. Panic breaks out on Dam Square! The crowd jostles to get away towards Nieuwendijk, Rokin and Damrak. After the first shots, a second volley follows. Then there is a firefight between the BS and German units, both on Dam Square and behind the Palace. Later the shooting moves to Central Station.

In total, the shooting lasts approximately two hours. In between, boy scouts, Red Cross employees and nurses provide assistance to the victims. Major Overhoff, commander of the BS, assisted by Hauptmann Bergmann of the Ortskommandantur, eventually manages to persuade the warring parties to cease fire. At least, that’s one of the stories. According to another version, the shooting on Dam Square ends after the firing of bazooka grenades from the Palace towards Groote Club. The German occupation remains there until it is picked up by Canadians on May 9, 1945 and deported to Germany.

Afterwards, no thorough investigation was conducted into the precise reason and cause of the shooting, and therefore also into the question of guilt. It was always assumed that 19 to 22 deaths occurred, as stated in newspaper reports at the time. However, without a casualty list, the question remained what these figures were based on and who this last group of victims of the war were. The Memorial Foundation has started to find out their identity and, through contact with family members, give them a face and include their name and story on this website. In addition, extensive historical research has been conducted into the origin and cause – the context – of the drama. The ultimate goal has been achieved: With the help of public participation (see, a memorial with their names was unveiled on Dam Square on May 7, 2016. The book Drama on Dam Square, May 7, 1945 was published in the spring of 2017 and one more name stone was added. And with this, a total of 32 people have been identified by the foundation as ‘Dam victims’. This means: everyone who died as a result of the shooting on and around Dam Square on 7 May 1945; excluding the victims on the German side (at least two deaths on and around Dam Square, see: Balance of a Massacre ).

Photo J.W. Hofman, City Archives Amsterdam

Of the 32 Dam victims, 25 died on May 7, four the next day, one on May 9, one on May 18 and the last on June 22. Among the dead were two BS members and another member of the resistance; eight were under twenty years of age; the youngest victim was eight, the oldest 74 years old. There may have been more deaths; A number of files are still under investigation for which it has not (yet) been determined with certainty whether they concern Dam victims.

Although the shooting at Central Station on the same afternoon is directly related to the shooting on Dam Square, it is a separate ‘case’ for the foundation (we have not been able to trace any civilian victims and the BS members De Jongh and Zeeman who died as a result have each received its own plaque).

The number of injured is not entirely clear, newspaper reports and archive documents mention numbers from 50 (seriously) injured to 200 in total (see: Balance of a Massacre). The injured people found during our investigation are also included on the website. The research page contains a call for relatives of victims. You can find more detailed information, if known, about them via the overview page of proven victims.

In addition, we try to include as much testimonials and media information as possible on this website. And don’t forget material about the Domestic Armed Forces and photographers present. The testimonies, newspaper clippings, etc. have not been edited. Where possible, source information has been included. If we have unexpectedly passed someone by, you can report this to us by e-mail. All other articles and testimonials were written by board members and employees of the foundation. These may not be reused without our permission.

The foundation has personally spoken to almost all relatives and eyewitnesses. You can read about their experiences on this website. We have deep respect for all those who wanted to share so much personal suffering with us, and with you. This makes it clear that many people still experience the consequences of the event on Dam Square on May 7, 1945 on a daily basis. The images and the sound, the contrast between the euphoria of the liberation and the sudden suffering, are in their memory. engraved. When they saw the images and talked to us about their memories of that afternoon, it often came back in full force, something that people try to repress. Not wanting to think about it, but it still comes back again and again, that image, that sound, the fear and panic, when you are in a busy crowd, in a narrow alley, or during fireworks or thunder. People often feel unheard and there is misunderstanding by others who were not there or do not share the same experience.

Any material like testimonies, newspaper articles etc has not been edited and we have endeavoured to acknowledge any known sources. We apologize sincerely in case someone was overlooked and would appreciate it if you could notify us of such discrepancies via email.

Any other testimonies came about through the efforts of the members of our project team. These statements are not allowed to be reproduced without our permission.

Stichting Memorial 2015 voor Damslachtoffers 7 mei 1945 (‘Foundation Memorial 2015 for Dam victims 7 May 1945’) was set up specifically for this investigation.

We are much obliged if you want to support us for our investigation and website.
ING: 8136685
IBAN: NL10 INGB 0008 1366 85
Beneficiary:  Foundation Memorial 2015 for Dam victims 7 May 1945


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.