File No.: Battle Study # 14

Title: May 7th 1945 Amsterdam shooting
Investigation made at: Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Period Covered: May 7th, 1945

Date: August, 2008
Case Classification: Senseless shooting into cheering civilian crowd by German Navy personnel, two days after Nazi's signed treaty to surrender to The Netherlands.
Status of Case: Closed

REASON FOR INVESTIGATION:

This investigation was initiated after close analysis of numerous  photographs and film footage of the shooting incident on Dam Square in Amsterdam, two days after the Germans had surrendered. Close study of the available images revealed that there hardly exist any pictures of the soldiers who started shooting rifles and machine guns into a crowd that had gathered on Dam Square. This Battle Study sheds light on details of the actual shooting and what had started it.


SYNOPSIS:

It is estimated that about fifteen photographers and movie camera operators were present when a crowd started getting bigger and bigger on the 7th of May 1945. Two days earlier, German Generaloberst Johannes Blaskowitz
signed a treaty in Wageningen, stating that all German forces in The Netherlands surrendered. Even on the 7th of
May, the people of Amsterdam had not seen any of its Allied liberators. Armed German soldiers were still on the
streets but on the 7th news had it that Canadian forces would enter the city. To welcome them, crowds grew, a
special pedestal was installed in front of the Royal Palace on Dam Square, an organ played music and armed and uniformed  members of the Netherlands Internal Armed Forces (Binnenlandse Strijdkrachten or "BS" in Dutch)
patrolled the streets. Finally some reconnaissance vehicles appear. The odd situation developed that German trucks, laden with armed soldiers and British armored cars drove past each other with numerous citizens in between them:
 

 

Meanwhile armed member of the BS start disarming stray German soldiers. Then, at about three o'clock a single shot sounds form the direction of the Royal Palace, followed by automatic gun fire. Panic breaks out.


The triggering cause
It is often said that the disarmament of a German soldier by member of the BS resistance group on the corner of Spui Straat and Paleis Straat, led to the shooting incident.

The situation shortly before this alleged incident, was photographed:

 

 

For two  reasons, however, it is doubtful if this is really what caused the shooting.

 

Kriegsmarine men want to end vigilante tribunal, 'trying' Dutch women

In the official documentation of Dr. Lou de Jong's The Kingdom of the Netherlands in World War Two, Part 10b,
second volume we read about the start of the shooting:

"What was the cause? It is not determined (there has been no official investigation). In that period itself it was
believed that men of the Kriegsmarine, who had barricaded themselves inside in the building of the Grote Club
(Grand Club), which was situated near the entrance of Kalver Straat, wanted to come to the aid of a German soldier who , under the Kriegsmarine's eyes, had come into a gun fight with a BS-member who wanted to disarm him- an eyewitness named P.K. Marquenie who was twenty four at the time wrote us however in '68 that the shooting had
had a different start. On Dam Square, close to the balcony of the Grote Club, was, according to his recollection,
a truck
 

        'and on this hand-pushed truck women who had had relations with Germans were brought in,
under the crowd's hilarity. These women were tried before some kind of tribunal. The heads were shaven and painted with lead vermillion. All this did not happen quite gently. Blood poured over their faces. The women screamed and cried for help.
This all happened under the eyes of the Germans.
         The Germans shouted to leave the women alone, this, however did not happen. Meanwhile BS-ers circled the Palace. Some of them stood at the organ with loaded rifles or something like that.
         The commotion and the screaming of the women grew heavier. Then shots were fired. At first the Germans fired over
the heads. The BS-ers took cover behind the organ and shot at the balcony, diagonally above their heads.'-

before long the Germans and the BS-ers started shooting at each other, and the Germans' intent went so far that
they started firing one or more machine guns. Among them there were no casualties, as far as is known, nor among
the BS-ers, but yet among the common citizens on Dam, who in deadly fear took cover on the square or ran away (many on bare feet to run faster) there were many: there were twenty two dead and almost sixty severely wounded
of whom some (their number is unknown) later passed away.
"
 

Kriegsmarine men could not see the disarmament scene on Paleis Straat

Unless the Kriegsmarine men leaned out of the windows of the Groote Club, they could not see what was going on at the corner of Spui Straat and Paleis Straat.
Photographic evidence shows that prior to the shooting, personnel of the German Kriegsmarine was seen on the rooftop and behind the windows of the balcony of the Groote Club.

 

Rooftop

This photograph shows nine Germans on the rooftop and was taken before the shooting started:
 

(click on the thumbnail to enlarge)

 

We have enlarged the soldiers in the previous photograph. This picture shows that all of them lean against, or sit on
top of, a guard rail on the rooftop. This photograph was taken by Wiel van der Randen and is copyrighted by the Spaarnestad Photo Archive of Haarlem, The Netherlands.
 

(click on the image for an enlargement)

 

UPDATE 6MAR2016: Images of disarmaments on Dam Square in view of Kriegsmarine men
We have recently discovered two photos taken on Dam on may 7 1945 of of Dutch Forces of the Interior (BS in Dutch) disarming German military.
One image, in full color, shows two men in civilian cloths with their hands up, herded forward by a Sten gun toting Dutch BS-man.

(click on the image for an enlargement)


The other image is in black and white and shows a BS-man disarming a man in a uniform we have not identified yet:
 



We have enlarged the image to show that, judging from the ornate lamp posts, the scene took place close to the Royal Palace on Dam:
 

(click on the image for an enlargement)

 

These scenes are likely to have irritated the Kriegsmarine men in De Groote Club, causing them to intervene by opening fire on the BS-men and the crowd.

 

Balcony
Various photographs show the balcony and the window behind it.

In this photograph, taken earlier when the crowd on Dam starts to swell, we see that the doors and the curtains
behind the balcony are closed:

 

 

A short while later, when the crowd got bigger, the curtains were moved and figures, looking through windows in the doors behind the balcony are visible. The barbed-wire road blocks in front of the entrance under the balcony can be seen.

 

 

The next photograph was taken during, or shortly after, the shooting. The doors, leading to the balcony, are opened.

 

 
 

Access to balcony and rooftop of "de Groote  Club"
The buildings on Dam, including the Groote Club, have not changed much over the years. The Groote Club today, however, is divided in a section on the first, second and third floor around the balcony, housing a branch office of Rabobank and a larger section, with offices of various, mostly financial, businesses.
This is an impression of today's interior:

(click on the thumbnails to enlarge)

 

Battledetective.com was given special permission to step onto the balcony There were no Germans on this balcony
until the shooting started. This is the view, however, looking into Paleis Straat:

The corner of Paleis and Spui cannot be seen from here.

We were also granted access to the rooftop of the Groote Club building. After a daring climb on a painter's ladder,
from a roof terrace to the ultimate top, this is the view towards the corner of Paleis and Spui:

The men on the roof weren't able to see the scene on the corner, either.

Fields of fire

From the balcony and from the rooftop, the Germans had wide fields of fire. This is a sketch that accompanied the sworn statement from C.F. Overghoff, Commander of the BS in Region 10, dated May 9, 1945, in which he described the events on the 7th:

We took these photographs from the rooftop:


(click on the thumbnails to enlarge)

This is the field of fire from the balcony:

(click on the thumbnails to enlarge)

These pictures clearly show why most victims ("slachtoffers" in Dutch, indicated with an "Γ" symbol in the sketch, pictured above) fell at the corner of Dam Square and Damrak.
 

Other findings
While on the rooftop, we came to the section were the Kriegsmarine men were seen, leaning against and sitting on a guardrail. The rail has gone but there still was a light colored object that is visible in the photograph taken in 1945. It is a construction on top the roof made of an off-white material, presumably housing ventilation ducts:

(click on the thumbnails to enlarge)

CONCLUSIONS:
Although there were numerous witnesses to the incident, it remains uncertain what really caused the Kriegsmarine
men to fire into a crowd of people, when the war had just ended. The next day, May 8th 1945 ("VE-day") Allied
troops ordered the Germans out of the Groote Club and they ware loaded onto trucks to be transported to a Prisoner of War facility. None of them were questioned, let alone charged, as a suspect of the senseless killing of civilians in a peace situation. Some accounts say that the use of alcoholic beverages by the Germans was instrumental to their actions. Frustration over loosing the war may also have been a factor.

We have not found photographic evidence that substantiates the story of the "Women Tribunal on the truck on Dam Square".
We do believe that through our examination of the views from the rooftop and balcony "crime scenes" we have established that the arrest at the corner of Spui and Paleis Straat was not, what caused the anger of the Germans.

EXHIBITS:

As stated in the Synopsis, there were many photographers and movie cameramen on Dam on the 7th of May, 1945.
This is a selection of a few of the images taken on that fateful day, compared with the current situation:
12
3 4

5 6

 
 

 

 

 

Descriptions:
Photographs 1, 2 & 3 taken from Bijenkorf department store by Margreet van Konijnenburg.
1
People taking cover. Note bicycles Now & Then.
2
Victim is being transported in a cargo tricycle.
3 The same tricycle moving in direction of Dam. Note the window ledge Now & Then.
4 View from Eggert Straat towards Groote Club during or shortly after the shooting. Photo by J. W. Hofman.
Photographs 5 & 6 by Paul L. Bessem
5
Armed members of the BS-resistance look towards the Groote Club under the roof of Beurs Poortje.
6
A man peaks around the corner of Rokin and Dam as another victim is wheeled away on a hand-cart.

April 28th 2014 UPDATE:
On this day Dutch newspaper NRC published an article about journalist Auke Kok's research into the May 7th
1945 Dam shooting.
The paper's website has an online reference to the longread article of Kok's report which is accompanied by a magnificent animated reconstruction of the incident created by Fosfor Publishing:

 


Back to Battle Studies

 
 
 
 
 
 
(c) 2007-Present Day Battledetective.com. Email: tom@battledetective.com. all rights reserved.