The last act of terror

De Spiegel, May 7 1955

On that notorious May 7th I had made an appointment, which will stay with me for the rest of my life. In the disturbance of the festivities of the liberation we had missed each other a few times, but eventually we would meet; 03:00 pm in front of the city hall on the Dam. Everybody was cheerful. Five long years behind us. The Germans surrender. The Canadians would come. The heavy machines flow monotone over the city and for the first time their snoring sounds like music, because this time there was no fear for bombs or shooting. Somewhere out of the city they throw there food parcels outside. Food cigarettes…… the needs were mainly materiel. The Germans gone, the allies in town and then food, at last enough food.

So far there was no sight of the allies. In the morning a few tanks came rolling in to the city via the Vijzelstraat, but they disappeared via the Dam. In the mean time the Germans were still on guard, heavily armed and with provocatively faces. They had lost the war but they acted like winners and it would have been considerable pleasant when a few Canadian soldiers should disarm them. Everybody was filled with joy, but behind that joy there was an atmosphere of discomfort. Those guys were capable of anything and only one small incident would bring them in action. But the crowd,rolling from the Kalverstraat, Rokin to the Dam,the Canadians would come, everybody was sure of that. Reliable reports etc…..nobody wanted to think about another possibility. The BBC had informed about the capitulation of the Germans and there had to be a party, although there were no allies in the neighbourhood.
From the S.S. building next to the Nieuwe Kerk a German soldier had been fired, and killed a pedestrian, that was the rumour, in the Groote Club was still the Kriegsmarine, but come on, they wouldn’t do any harm. The Dam was crowded with thousands of people,they were filled with joy and they were all coming to the heart of the Nation to take part of the alleged entry of the Canadians. Some people walked demonstrative with a scornful smile on their lips along the fence, the Germans had made it around the Groote Club, no improper words were spoken.
And as happy as the others I search my way through the crowd to the Palace. It was 03:00pm.

What then exactly happened, is difficult to describe. Above the buzzing of the cheering crowd I heard a shot and I saw how a German guard, posted on the roof of the Groote Club, all of a sudden ran to the centre, his rifle on his shoulder and started to fire into the crowd. It all took place in a split second, the next moment I was laying on the ground and had to find a way to keep the people off me. By the first shots the crowd shrunk and flee in panic.
By the first shock I was already overrun. Under such circumstances you can’t think. You fight, push and press, you feel tearing of your clothes, you feel the heavy weight become stronger, with one extreme push, you breathe and the next moment you will be swept away by the falling crowd. Somehow you see things bright. You see legs, arms, hands, the strange model of shoes, a face contorted with pain and blood streaming out his face (three holes)and the peculiar is ( you observe that later) nobody talks, nobody screams, nobody yells; only a grim, tensed muscles to be released. Once again I don’t know how I released myself. The pressure got gradually less, I could breathe; I noticed that I was dragged on the corner of the Amsterdamse Bank; my upper part of the body was free, I pulled myself on my hands, one jerk, my legs,my legs! and suddenly between the bullets of a machine gun I turned around the corner leaving behind my shoes, socks and trouser, into the Damrak and entering the shop of Meeuwsen who opened his door. In the hallway, downstairs and upstairs, there were more people,beaten up just like me, but happy, because
they get off scot-free. On the floor a man was laying. He was bleeding, but no change of recovery. He mumbled,he came from Aalsmeer to Amsterdam to celebrate the liberation. I was sitting on the stairway, stunned and pain through my body. Another man stumbled inside, with one hand he squeezed his wrist. A bullet had gone right through it…..

Later on the shooting stopped. Men with white flags, scouts and staff of the Red Cross pulled wooden carts with wounded people through the deserted streets. The Dam looked like, as I only know from pictures about revolutions in South-America or St.Petersburg. Party goods broken down, bent bicycles, a run down pram, a sunk barrel organ, a man with the arms spread……… Twenty-two dead people and numbers of wounded.
It was the price, that the Germans demand from Amsterdam at the last moment.

 

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