Rotterdam Blitz commemorated on 79th anniversary of WWII bombardment

Damage done by the German bombardment of Rotterdam on 14 May 1940
Damage done by the German bombardment of Rotterdam on 14 May 1940Photo: Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed/Wikimedia Commons

On Tuesday Rotterdam commemorated the 79th anniversary of the Rotterdam Blitz, the German bombardment of the city during the Second World War. "We are still for two minutes. Out of respect for the biggest sacrifice that a person can make: his or her life", Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb said about the two minutes of silence. "They did that for our freedom. We walk in their footsteps."

On May 14th, 1940, a German air raid dropped over 150 bombs in the heart of Rotterdam. During the 12 minute long raid nearly 100 thousand kilograms of bombs were dropped on the city. The bombing leveled a large part of the historic city center. Nearly 900 people were killed. The bombs and the sea of fire that ensued left around 80 thousand people homeless. 

Earlier that morning the Germans gave Dutch colonel Pieter Scharroo a letter stating: "Surrender or your city will be destroyed". The bombardment happened while the German and Dutch officers were still negotiating the surrender of Rotterdam. 

The city held two commemorations on Tuesday. The first happened on Statenweg, at the monument for Statenweg 147, at 10:00 a.m. The house on Statenweg 147 was the headquarters for the Dutch troops in Rotterdam. It was in this house that colonel Scharroo received the threatening letter from the Germans.

At 1:00 p.m. the central city commemoration of the bombardment was held on Plein 1940, at the monument 'The destroyed city' by Ossip Zadkine. Two minutes of silence were held at 1:30 p.m.  All the church bells in the area affected by the bombardment and fire rang from 1:27 p.m. to 1:39 p.m.

The bombardment, and its consequences for archeology, will be discussed on NOS news at 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday evening.