I’m also a survivor of The Shooting. A long time I wonder, from historical view, what has happened to me. It wasn’t obvious a loose case of senseless violence.
In Berlin and Moscow is commemorated that the Wehrmacht, in the night of May 8-9 1945, capitulated to the Red Army. According to the annals the shooting at the Dam on May 7 was previous. This puts the readings that it would be a German violation of the capitulation into question. Accidental the German soldiers hide themselves in the building of the Grote Club, they obvious didn’t surrender. That is, for people like me, the knowhow at the present. Somehow we knew that we had to come at that fatal day to the Dam. But their was a sense of danger we didn’t know at all.
My father, mother and I approached the scene from the Rokin. The Dam was crowded with people that it was impossible to go any further. Like so many others we just stood there. Until somebody shouted: they are shooting, they are shooting! We looked around us but saw nothing. However people started to run away and we ran behind them in the direction of the Rokin. Behind the building of Peek & Cloppenburg is an alley and everybody got into there. I knew it was a blind allley, but I thougth that the people knew what they were doing. The alley was packed with people, we got stuck halfway. At the rear of the Peek & Cloppenburg building are a few solid doors. People were bashing on the doors to get themselves in safety. No reaction. I thought then, if they are shooting, I let myself fall under the bodies.Nothing happened. Gradually people were leaving the alley and so it was able for us to go away. We looked to all sides but we saw no danger. We didn’t heard any shots. We walked from the Rokin in the direction of the Munt to our home. So, we were at the shooting but didn’t understand it at all.
But the shooting must be seen in a wider context. I was during the war at the Prinsenschool, N.Z. Voorburgwal 282 by the stamp market. At that school was a teacher who had a special wooden stick by which she gave you a painful tap on your fingers if you had spoiled or slipped with ink by writing. You could choose which hand you had to reach out. There was a teacher who gave a boy a beating and when I thought it was done, he started over again. I didn’t know why. After the day in question, May 7, the teacher told the class (I was in the 6th ) that we had to go to the Nieuwmarkt at 02:00pm, for singing. He said don’t forget to come because I see right away if your not there. Don’t forget to sing he said because I can see if you make a noise.The whole class was flabbergasted. I told this at home and said I don’t want to go. My father said: just go, we don’t want any problems.
When I arrived at the Nieuwmarkt at 01:45pm it was crowded with classes. Only the children from a protestant school had a paper flag (red,white,blue) on a stick in their hand. We received a stencil with three songs: our National Anthem, Merck toch hoe sterck and Wilt heden nu treden voor God den Heere. A speaker stood on a raised platform. He held a speech and gave the floor to the “mayor”. He also held a speech. Then we had to sing the songs and than we were allowed to go. I felt abused, but didn’t understand it.
But I can give my interpretation from my own experience. I had the privilege to be married with Jet van Gelder. She was older than I and during the war she was a courier of ‘De Waarheid’ [red: Dutch newspaper which does not exists anymore]. On her deathbed she told me a little bit more about her war experiences. Her mother organized before the war the Red Aid. They had to prevent that German political refugees had to return to Germany and would fall in the hands of the nazis. I know from my parents that they were arrested in 1939, dressed as shabby unemployed, by two plain-clothes policemen because they thought that they were Germans. But when my mother reacted in pure Amsterdams, they were allowed to walk on. Well then, a neighboor of Jet went at the end of the war to her mother and asked her simply if her daughter wanted to work for the Domestic Armed Forces. Apparently he knew that it was safe.That’s the way Jet started by the Domestic Armed Forces. In Amsterdam you had two departments. One was round up by the Germans. Jet was in the other one. It were not so many people. The team met each other in the workplace of a company at the Amsteldijk. They mainly talked about the future. A woman declared that the guns had to be turned in.
On May 7 Jet has been all day on that adress as a’reserve’. I asked her if she never applied for a payment? Ah, she said, I didn’t do that much, and it was only a short period. From her inheritance were no suprises, not even medals. She also risked her life, but didn’t now the truth.
These personal experiences could be associated with other information, like this column. I discovered on internet amazing shots: you see people running away before the shooting started, I’m not on that shot, and if the Dam becomes empty you see against the Paleis an empty platform with to your right and left a staircase. There are also images were there are standing soldiers and civilians on that platform. This reminds me of the Nieuwmarkt. And then it did click. According to the eternal calendar, May 7 1945 was on a Monday. Apparently I didn’t had to go to school and the meeting at the Nieuwmarkt on May 9 1945 was on Wednesday in the afternoon, then you’re free from school.
Here is my following speculation.
A group of leading citizen would present themselves on May 7 to the people as the new leaders; a fine platform were everybody could see them and was already set up. Because of the violent emotion of the German occupiers it fails pitiful and ends in a massacre. Then a similar demonstration is held at the Nieuwmarkt. On a unknown moment people are standing on a white platform, the unclear images show that there was public,but not that much. In the book ‘De Dam’ from Bool and Hekking are several photos of the white platform, but I didn’t noticed it. This is typical a case of: you see it if you get it. The following questions are: Who can confirm my report of the Nieuwmarkt, complete or improve? Who has seen the stencil with the songs and wants to send a copy? Through which channels were the instructions given to set up a platform, to mobilize public and children, and were the so-called mayor and his secondant also on the platform, when as that? Why was Jet put on the reserve-list during Operation The Three Castles? This reminds me on the Velser-affair, by which it also goes about sidelining the Communist and the difficulty to prove it. But several cases also shapes an evidence. If I am standing by the Monument where this column is going about, I want to know this time what I’m commemorating. People, please respond, because we write history.
Published in De Oud Amsterdammer, july 22 2014