As a former Amsterdam citizen of 84 years old, I have nasty memories of the shooting at the Dam on May 7 1945. It is my story, how I experienced it. On the day in question, as a boy of 14 years old, I walked from Sloterdijk, on my wooden shoes with a hungry feeling, togeter with friends to the Dam. Because there is a rumour, that our Canadian liberators are on the way and for that reason I went there to welcome them. They were only rumours. There was no radio, no newspapers, nothing. The news that we had was being distributed by means of pamflets like the Waarheid, Vrije Volk, Parool etc.
Amsterdam was liberated on May 5 1945, but still occupied territory. You had not a feeling of relief. Everywhere you saw the hated occupiers. German soldiers patrol in grey uniforms, walking on the streets, on stolen bicycles or stolen trucks. Observed by anxious, hungry and nervous people. Afraid that something bad or unexpectedly could happen, especially as the Grune Polizei appaered.
They were very nasty and cruel. Our streets were filthy and the drains bulged out or overfull with mess and a horrible decomposing smell of dead bodies and other rubbish. There were also abandoned and looting houses, they were partial demolished and all the woodwork was removed to be burnt in the stoves.
Arrived at the Dam, I stood in front of the Grote Club fences and other barricades. Behind these barricades, stood young German soldiers from the Kriegsmarine, on guard before the entrance of the Grote Club, with the rifle at the ready. A number of Germans arrived early that morning in the Grote Club to wait the unforeseen incident.
In the mean time you saw groups of men, women and children who were frenzied of joy and stood in front of the barricades and calling names.
The tormented civilians came to the Dam, because they didn’t want to miss the festivities of the Liberation. It worked out otherwise. In the middle of the Dam, a barrel organ from Perlee, I think, played lovely melodies. Also from the direction of the Nieuwe Kerk, it became crowded, and people gathered in front of the Royal Palace. There were also members of the Domestic Armed Forces, in their blue overalls with their stengun at the ready, who kept an eye on us, and mixed themselves in the crowd to protect us.
Youth work was allowed to go on the street, like the Scouting and scouts in uniform, they assist by first aid.
The Germans felt unpleasant and the crowd openly admitted that they wanted to take revenge for the grief that they had suffered. At the corner of the Nieuwendijk and Dam was an Ersatzburo with lots of glass and posters. Many youngsters climbed up via the shopfront and took place at the glass extension, to look out over the crowd. You could hear the roaring of the crowd.
It must have been around noon that the balcony doors of the Grote Club opened and the atmosphere changed. At that moment I stood in the crowd in front of the Koninklijk Paleis and somewhere was a shotgun. My eyes focused immediate to the second floor of the Grote Club, where you could see a machine-gun and helmets.
Suddenly there was a shot from the Grote Club, I ran away, in panic, falling and stumbling, over the crowd. People ran to all directions. The terrible noise of hitting bullets on the cobble stones and the screaming of wounded and falling people. Everywhere around me was moaning. It was shocking. I duck over people and fell between them behind the barrel organ. Around me I heard people moaning, they were hit by bullets. I also saw the ones who were hit deadly and they laid quietly at the cobble stones. Suddenly it was dead silent. I didn’t realize that I was walking barefoot.
I also saw that the glass shopfront of the Ersatzburo collapsed, with a roaring noise. I laid for a while behind the barrel organ, it has been my rescue. I walked or stumbled, via the Bijenkorf to the Warmoestraat. I felt alone. I ended up, via the Central Station, in the Jordaan. Unfortunately I don’t remember who the woman was that offered me help, a window opened, and she asked me where I came from and let me in. She felt sorry for me. It was my first contact after the shooting. My feet were bleeding. I told her this and that, she gave me some worn-out shoes after she took care of them, from her deceased son during the hungry winter. I have never forgotten that. From there I walked, on my shoes, to my home. I think back to it, especially as I walk over the Dam, and consider myself lucky that I’m still alive.
Coming home, I got a roasting, because I went to the Dam without saying anything, and the worst of all my wooden shoes were gone.Weeks later I received a message that I could collect my wooden shoes at the Bijenkorf, by lost property. I discovered that they were cracked.
It is a part of my postwar memories. Happily, I’m still alive and can retell it. I think of it often.
Piet Boon, first published in Newspaper “de Oud Amsterdammer”