THE FIRST DAYS OF WAR IN ROTTERDAM
Early on May 10, 1940, the Germans capture the Waalhaven military airfield and soon German seaplanes land at the Maas bridges on the Maas. Due to the lack of resistance, the enemy can quickly take up positions on both sides of the Maas bridges, which are essential for the German advance. With the exception of the marines stationed in Rotterdam, the Dutch soldiers are under the command of Colonel Scharroo. They are unable to recapture the Maas bridges and two attempts to do so by the navy with torpedo boats and a destroyer come to nothing. Despite the fact that some German units manage to hold on to the northern bridgehead, the enemy cannot advance any further for the time being. The German and Dutch troops shell each other across the Meuse.
Five days of struggle
The period from the German attack to the Dutch capitulation spans five eventful days. When it becomes clear that the Germans want to penetrate further into Holland from Rotterdam South via the Maas bridges, the marines are ordered to prevent this. The Maasbruggen must be recaptured from the Germans and blown up. It is in this futile battle that heroic Marines in the imagination grow into “black devils” who would have slaughtered fearful Germans in hand-to-hand combat with knives. The fact is that the marines, with little support, hold their ground at the Willemsbrug for a long time due to their tough and tenacious defenses.
Air raids May 10-14
At least twenty air raids on Rotterdam will take place between 10 and 14 May, carried out by the Luftwaffe (10), the Military Aviation (5) and the Royal Air Force (5). The total number of civilian deaths is estimated to be 850-950. On 11 May, a heavy bombardment is carried out by the Luftwaffe at midnight. The target is the barracks of police troops on the Westersingel and the accommodation of soldiers on the Robert Fruinstraat. Among other things, the Schietbaanlaan is hit by a few direct hits. 40 people are killed. During the May days in Rotterdam and the surrounding area, the Dutch armed forces lost a total of 185 soldiers due to bombardments and shelling. Of these, 33 belonged to the Royal Netherlands Navy and 152 to the Royal Netherlands Army.
ROTTERDAM 14 MAY 1940
All questions about the devastating German bombardment of Rotterdam on Tuesday 14 May 1940 have still not been answered. It is certain that at a high German level such a heavy bombardment is regarded as a means of hastening the Dutch surrender. That is also what is happening, despite the preference of the German commander in Rotterdam, Schmidt, for a targeted light bombardment and negotiations with the Dutch army command to force Rotterdam to surrender. The bombing of Rotterdam on 14 May is carried out by about 90 Heinkel bombers of the squadron Kampfgeschwader 54 ‘Totenkopf’ (KG 54), which is commanded by Geschwaderkommodore Oberst Walter Lackner. The large surface bombardment of Rotterdam-Centre, Kralingen and Rotterdam-North will take place between 1.27 pm and approximately 1.40 pm. The dumped cargo destroyed more than 30,000 homes and properties. In total 800 to 900 people died as a result of this bombardment. 550 of them have been given a final resting place at Crooswijk cemetery.