Although it is clear to everyone that the war will soon draw to a close, both pessimistic and optimistic news reports about the liberation alternate on a daily basis at the end of April 1945.
The news of Hitler’s suicide on April 30th, reaches Rotterdam the very same day. Since on that day the massive food droppings at Terbregge have begun as well, the population finds itself in an elated state of mind, reminiscent of the situation during Dolle Dinsdag (‘Crazy Tuesday’). Hundreds of people ignore curfew at evening hours and venture to go into the streets. On May 1st as well, there is a humming of rumours about the approaching liberation, and once again many citizens of Rotterdam stay out in the streets in the evening. To everyone’s disappointment, the liberation fails to occur. The festive mood soon disappears when patrolling German soldiers begin to shoot and there are casualties.
The capitulation of Germany ultimately takes place in the night of 4th May 1945. At 20.30 p.m. the news about the German surrender can already be heard in a Flemish broadcast of the European Service of the BBC. Although the possession of radios has officially been declared forbidden by the occupant, the great news also reaches Rotterdam very quickly. In all parts of the city the news causes quite a stir. People are dancing in the streets and also various bonfires are lit. In Kralingen many people go to the house of Mayor Oud, who had kept his residence at the Hoflaan after his resignation in 1941. On 6th May, when Mayor Oud himself raises the national flag in front of his house, he is once again given a thunderous tribute. Oud, who is still popular with the population, and who had been secretly involved in city matters, is picked up at his home by car on 7th May. Oud arrives at the Town hall, together with the new superintendent of police, the commanders of the Forces of the Interior and others. At that time Mayor Müller of the NSB (the Dutch National Socialistic Movement), has already been arrested. Thousands of people at the Coolsingel witness the return of their own beloved Mayor, who, later on, appears on the landing.
Images of the liberation
Chaos and confusion
Since the Germans in Rotterdam still have not surrendered officially, there is, besides euphoria, also chaos and confusion during the days after 4th May. The Dutch Forces of the Interior have already been active in the city since 5th May and here and there they are involved in combat with German troops. The Germans only want to officially surrender to the Allies, and on 6th May, they request the Forces of the Interior to maintain rest and order in southern Rotterdam. In this part of the city there is even a shoot-out between the armed resistance and the Kriegsmarine. On 7th May the German commander still has not capitulated, but commanders of the Forces of the Interior work their way into the Town hall. The Mayor and councilmen of the NSB and some other head men who collaborated with the Germans are arrested.
The Allies’ plan is to advance to the west on 7th May, but they have to postpone that plan one day. By Jeep, Prince Bernhard however, does pay a flying visit to some cities, amongst which Rotterdam. On 8th May the liberator finally makes its entry in Rotterdam. The German capitulation is a fact and the retreat of the German troops finally begins. The march into the city of the Canadians results in a delirious joy. There is a swaying with handkerchiefs and flags and people are throwing flowers and ticker-tape. Especially youngsters are climbing onto the tanks and lorries, which are riding in the streets while everybody is cheering. In the Town hall the Mayor Oud appears on the landing with general-major Forster of the 1st Canadian army, and once again it is swarming with people at the Coolsingel. Most Canadians pitch camp along the Heemraadssingel that day.
The oppression which lasted for years evokes feelings of revenge with some citizens of Rotterdam. After the liberation, at several places in the city, one begins to bring in moffenmeiden (kraut girls). These women and girls, of whom it is known that they associated with Germans, are not very lucky. During a kind of people’s tribunal the women’s hair is cut off and their bald heads are sometimes rubbed in with tar or red lead. After that, the woman are driven through the city on wagons. These unedifying spectacles last for several days.
Arrest of collaborators
From 7th May onward members of the NSB are picked up everywhere by arrest teams of the Dutch Forces of the Interior. Leader Mussert ends up in the prison of Scheveningen. On 10th May already 700 members of the NSB and collaborators have been caught in Rotterdam. Already a few days later a number of them are put to work. They must help clear the Maastunnel, which is barricaded by the Germans who also placed explosives there. In mid-June the arrest teams of the Forces of the Interior are dissolved; at that time approximately 5000 men and women have been arrested in Rotterdam and its surroundings. As a shelter for these NSB members serves the Marines’ Barracks at the Toepad.
Later on citizens of Rotterdam who collaborated are locked up in meat factory Vianda in Hoek van Holland. Their children end up in school buildings especially equipped for this purpose, from whereon they are placed in special homes later on.
Soon after the liberation festivities have somewhat calmed down, the day arrives on which the war began five years earlier. On the site, where the Marines’ Barracks used to be, on 10th May 1945 at 10 a.m. a private commemoration service is held for all victims, civilians as well as military men. Around a simple, wooden cross with the inscription For those who gave their lives, many people participate in a floral tribute. At the General Cemetery Crooswijk a big commemoration of the dead, amongst which the perished members of the Rotterdam Police, takes place in the afternoon. On 14th May, Mayor Oud visits the places where political prisoners have been executed in the previous months and at the Crooswijk cemetery he lays a wreath on the grave of a head of an resistance group.