Wiel van der Randen

Wiel van der Randen was during the shooting present at the Dam. He was standing, with others, at the roof of the vicarage of the Nieuwe Kerk. Before, during and after the shooting he took pictures, two rolls, with his Leica. Many photos from that incident became world famous, like the people who searched for cover behind a lamp post. Two years after the shooting a report of Wiel was published in the Katholieke Illustratie, an article that we recently found in an archive.

Verslag Wiel van der Randen

The Bloody Monday of May 7 1945

In the morning of May 7 1945 German troops went as usual to the Dam for changing of the guard in the Grote Club. To this group belonged soldiers, who were bitter by the defeat, and shot at the crowd at the Dam. Six Canadian combat trucks, covered with flowers, drove at the Dam, cheered by the enthusiastic crowd.
It was an exiting moment when, two trucks from the Grüne Polizei appear, to chase away the cheering crowd from the tanks, but this show of strength caused only jeers. For the Amsterdammers started this liberation day, like so many other days, with hunger. My breakfast consist of a small portion of cold brown beans, it was donated by “good” calling patriots against the sum of 22,50 per pound. When I left our home to report our liberation, not even the Sicherheits Dienst would be able to find one gram of food in our house. Those delicious food parcels, cost us almost a third of the first American loan, were thrown away a long time ago but we couldn’t find one, except on the official black market. The pleasant flavor of Virginia-cigarettes, stolen from the “invisible”food parcels, caresses sometimes our nose.

Under deadly silence the German guard was changed at that sunny and crowded Dam. The Germans didn’t sung this time, they had an excuse, but the rhythmical sound of the iron soldier boots on the pavement, that had worked on our nerves, still irritates. There was one comfort: it would be the last guard. No one could suspect that this last guard would damper the city into deep mourning.
I was with others on the roof of the vicarage form the Nieuwe Kerk. Somebody had tobacco. The changing of the guard by the Germans was recorded by camera and everybody waited for the Canadians.
Suddenly, under loud cheering, six small Canadian trucks, drove at the Dam. They were covered with flowers and fiddling young people, the drivers had trouble to see the road. However this was’t the end of the story.
Two large trucks of the hated Grüne Polizei swerve suddenly at the square and stopped close to the tanks, I believe that everybody hold their breath. Quickly the Grünen left their trucks and tried to chase away the young ones who swarmed around the tanks. My camera was ready and I saw the opportunity to record those breathtaking minutes with different lenses. Slowly the tension took off, the Grünen left because nobody obeyed their commands. The trucks disappeared under jeering grinning. That whole emotional incident took preciously 4 minutes. Apparently nobody had the opportunity to record the struggle between the Allies and the Grünen there was no camera man in the neighborhood. The reporter in me was content, I thought about going home to develop the film but something inside of me ordered me to stay. Maybe it was just curiosity, maybe my journalism instinct; I stayed.

Somebody at the roof offered me a glass of tosco, we smoked and waited. It was crowded at the Dam. The Domestic Armed Forces in blue overalls, armed with stenguns made a parade in front of the palace. Barrel organs at the square and in the side streets took care of the music. A company of drunk men and women make a party of it and somebody made a remark about the black market and alcohol. He was still speaking when salvo’s sounded on the side of the Nieuwe Zijds Voorburgwal. It must have been 03:00pm.The resounding bangs follow each other quickly and the celebrating crowd shoved from the Nieuwe Zijds Voorburgwal via the Mozes and Aaronstraat to the square. At the Dam the crowd became restless and all attention was focus in the direction of the Nieuwe Zijds Voorburgwal were the salvos sounded.
I watched to the reaction of the Germans, they stood in the windows and at the roof of the Grote Club, when it suddenly flashed on the balcony; a ball of fire followed and heavy machine-gun missile swept over the square. Every shot hit the mark in such a crowd, immediately a loud screaming arose, followed by a ball of fire from the left. Again flashes on the balcony of the Grote Club, and a second cluster of missile hit the defenceless crowd, terrified they tried to fled to the side streets and the Damrak and Rokin. In their agony children and women were overrun, mothers lost their children and women lost their men. Some of them found shelter under the pillars of the Palace, others hide behind the lamp post or fled into the Nieuwezijds Kolk. Meanwhile, the sound of machine-gun goes on.

foto 2In an unbelievable short time the Dam was deserted. A crooked barrel organ, whose cheerful tunes were smothered by the killing bullets, stayed behind. A child,from one or two years old, wandered crying over the abondend square. Dark spots on the pavement are the tragic evidence. Nearby us on the corner of the Nieuwe Zijds Kolk laid an elderly person on the pavement, his head resting on the edge, his brains streamed slowly in the gutter.
In front of the Grote Club were different spots, they didn’t move and behind the lamp post, nearby the Mozes and Aaronstraat, people hide behind the lamp post.A soldier from the Salvation Army wore his uniform again after five years, it would become his shroud, today.
The fire grew in full force and the salvos came from all sides. I sat behind the parapet of the roof, the others lay flat in the gutter, shouting, I had to search for cover, but I have work to do with my Leica. With one eye I can overlook the Dam, while I quickly change lenses; the view is made with short focal point, for the black spots I use my telephoto lens, I get a greater part of it and with my normal focal point what lies beneath me.Taking cover for a bang from the balcony and bending over the edge to take pictures. A lot is happening, a few bloodstains, bicycles, prams, ladies shoes, purses, hats and coats, a sad still life. People hide away in porches. The window of a pub is broken, inside, anxious people. A scout with a white cloth on his stick walks peaceful over the square, the boy shows courage. The Red Cross takes under cover of his white flag, wounded people into security. Suddenly thunderous salvos sound from the direction of the Rokin. A truck with Grünen is heading to the Central Station. They shoot like a madman. The Domestic Armed Forces respond. One of the Grünen rolls from the truck, the Domestic Armed Forces approach, they salute, the Grüne is dead.
My eye is still focused on the balcony; from there come the deadly clusters. I can see two Germans, behind the cast iron ornament of the balcony. They crawl inside. Somebody pours a bit from a bottle, they drink and crawl back to their place. L made a picture from the guys with my teltelephoto lens. Suddenly it shoots through my head, that I can hit them easily from my place, with a heavy machine-gun. No stengun, but a machine-gun and nobody will move again in the Grote Club. Unfortunately I have to take cover.
An elderly German officer cross over the Damrak, slowly, over the empty square to the Grote Club. No shooting. He disappears in the entrance. Under cover of the white flag, the transport of wounded and deceased goes on. The deceased are being loaded on wooden carts and covered with a white cloth. Beati mortui.
The officer leaves the Club, he walks slowly in the direction of the Kolk, a Domestic Armed Force follows him, with his finger on the trigger of his stengun. The officer risk his life, nothing happens.
Heavy bangs sounds from the Paleistraat. The Domestic Armed Forces seems to bombard the Germans with American armour. No German in sight. The shooting stops. In the Nieuwe Kerk the wounded moan. I walk along the Palace, my legs are unstable, that’s from my bent position in the gutter. Someone from the police gives me a cigaret. He whispers into my ear ”Forty deceased”. Along deserted canals I go home, my legs feel like led. Forty deceased. I’m going to develop my films.

Wiel van der Randen, Katholieke Illustratie May 8 1947


People searching for cover behing a lamp post, girl at the left is Tiny van der Hoek

Between 1934 and his dead in 1949, photographer and journalist Wiel van der Randen, made many beautiful coverages for the Katholieke Illustratie and Panorama.

Van der Randen used as one of the first photographers, a Leica a miniature camera, by which he gave the photos dynamic and vivid.The result is an oeuvre with vivid reports from the most various Dutch issues: the diamond fair, the army, Schiphol, the catholic south, the Jordaanoproer and the shooting at the Dam(May 7 1945). He photographed the liberation parties, trades like aviation and eggs and the high society circles. Beside it Van der Randen made day-to-day reports like, Stad and Land, about villages and cities in the Netherlands, and as a moving highlight, the seeing of his destroyed birthplace Venlo, after the liberation.

Leave a Comment

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