Shooting on the Dam, May 7 1945
Officaly World War II ended at Saturday May 5 1945, but some lost groups of Germans didn’t believe that. Also a group of the Kriegsmarine in the Groote Club (on the corner Paleisstraat/Dam/Kalverstraat), a building that before the war was used as an association. During their stay the Germans had damaged for about 4 hundred thousand euros.
On the pavement before the building had been brought on a barbed wire barricade. Disappointed about the fact that they had lost the war, they didn’t want to keep to the order of surrender and barricade themselves in that building. By virtue of an appointment during the German occupation between the director of the branch in Amsterdam of the Schweizer Press-Telegraph in Zurich(my articles in our Maandorgaan of December 1970 no.79, February 1971 no.81 and March 1972 no.93)and the direction from the illegal Parool, I would help the Parool if the liberation was a fact.
That Monday morning May 7 1945 I was called by a courier and reported myself in the building of De Telegraaf on the Voorburgwal. During that day I got an assignment to go to building of Fox Movie on the Rokin(nearby the Dam) to organize the sale of the first legal numbers of the Parool. Below follows my personal memories of that notorious day:
There they come!
This Monday we are busy showing our first legal paper in the afternoon for a cheerful curious crowd that gathered on the Rokin and Dam, we hear rumour on the Rokin that rises and goes over in cheering. Rushing outside we discover a few small combat cars with on the top some of our liberators. “Those boys look tired”, is our first comment. The noise is deafening. The cars are being stormed by the exuberant youth of Amsterdam that
you hardly see them. It’s over no more Germans. In the meanwhile the cars disappeared, and the Dam and Rokin are filled up with free people. Some proceed with caution because they know that there are still armed Germans in the neighborhood, they stay in a respectful distance of the Dam in the porches, just observing the situation. By the combat cars is also a usual car and on top of it is a whole other figure, a war-correspondent.
He is sitting high and dry and can see everything. Suddenly we hear the shots and ran again outside, we would like to see what is going on. You could see that the war correspondent isn’t afraid of anything. When the first shots fell the car turns towards the VVV-office because there is a shelter; the man jumps from the car and looks at the situation. The shooting goes on for a while and to our dismay we see that the Germans
from the Groote Club are shooting on the cheering people on the Dam. People step back terrified and search, as far as possible, a place to hide, leaving all their belongings behind. We see empty prams, bags, a carrier cycle, a fish car, umbrellas and even a barrel organ. The organ-grinder is perhaps vanished or has taken cover behind his instrument. An appalling spectacle: many wounded here and there.
The crowd is excited. Where are they coming form? Nobody knows, but suddenly you see everywhere scouts( in their well-known uniform from before the war) and many other helpful people, among them first aid with white flags, on their way to the Dam. Shortly the first handcart comes along with an injured person………. There is a cease fire. But what now happens is irresponsible of those people:they are going back to the Dam. You can compare it with an elastic: pressure and relaxation. There are some heavy shots, they cause a lot of dead and wounded.
Our Domestic Armed Forces are advancing and also a few Military Police in their pre-war blue uniform, some with guns, others with carbines or stengun. The Dutch are opening the fire on the German soldiers. The crowd is quiet, which is strange, because they understand that the war isn’t over yet. On the contrary. It just begins. A truck, with an open platform and on both side seats, loaded with Grunen drives along. They see the shooting
Dutchmen and they drive away fast. In the mean while one of the German got hit and lies on the side of the truck. The next German truck makes a U-turn and disappears to the other side of the Rokin along the Robaver( Rotterdam Bank). From a distance a section of the Domestic Armed Forces approach the Dam (about 25 men) equiped with stenguns. At the moment that from the direction of the clothing warehouse of Peek and Cloppenburg(corner Dam/ Rokin) are coming hostile shots, they let themselves fall in front of our building and on command of their commander they shoot all together in the direction of the Dam. What a sound between the houses. The sound reflects from the wall. The front man(probably the commander) drops his stengun. He is hurt and immediately the Domestic Armed Force who lies next to him takes over his stengun and goes on shooting.
He is being shot by friendly fire from behind and a bullet goes through his lungs. Apparently he wanted to give an order to his mates who were laying behind him that’s why he put up his upper part of the body, with the consequence that a bullet from a stengun hits him. During a cease fire he’s being dragged to the other side of the Rokin and the rest of the men spread out. Reinforcement is on his way. A red truck is speeding and stops in front of the office of the VVV. The doors opens and a few Domestic Armed Forces jumps outside, with a stengun at the ready. It is getting more and more dangerous for the
civilians, but it seems that they won’t understand that. Our building is in the mean time filled with people. You can’t prevent it, it’s crowded and we are overlooking the situation outside. I want to keep myself
informed about the situation. Oops………there’s a shot it sounds like thunder, followed by the rattling panes of glass. They say that somebody had fired with a bazooka from the Koninklijk Paleis on the Groote Club. What a battle. Everybody must go in the hall or rooms. Of course need these people protection. You feel save in a building of stone but a packed house is not beneficial if it is in the middle of a
warzone. From time to time I look out of the window if the rumor is getting closer. In the mean time the police is busy getting the people out of the houses and helps them to get away via the Rokin and other alleys.
We are also evacuating the building. Children have lost their parents and parents are searching for their children. Terrible scenarios.
In the afternoon I had settled the sale of the newspapers and I left the building with my pockets filled with money. Through the alley to the Kalverstraat to go to the office on the Nieuwe Zijdsvoorburgwal, it is not allowed and we try it a bit further on. In vain. Finally I decide to wok home with the hands on my pocket. Tomorrow is a new day. This shooting lost the live of 19 people and 117 became wounded.
The war correspondent seems to be the British journalist Marsland Gander, who visited Amsterdam again 30 years later, on invitation by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs(see Het Parool May 5 1975).
Gander:”When we drove into Amsterdam on May 7 1945, I was with a scout patrol, existing 2 combat cars and 2 or 3 jeeps from the 49e Reconnaissance Regiment of the First Canadian Army. We were enthusiastic greet by the people of Amsterdam, but everywhere you saw armed German soldiers. When we arrived at noon on the Dam, were armed German soldiers stood on guard, I persuaded the lieutenants of our patrol to withdraw because the situation was to tense with those armed Germans. Although I had no authority, I was only a correspondent, they listened to me. A few hours later the shooting on the Dam developed,
because the Germans started to shoot. After that massacre the soldiers with whom I drove got the assignment to re-establish order, we came there with 6 combat cars, but when we arrived there the situation was under control by the Domestic Armed Forces. On May 8 the military force of the Canadians came in Amsterdam. I remember that the official capitulation of the Germans took place in the room of the mayor”.
Documentatiegroep ’40 – ’45 Pag. 193 t/m 196