In the morning of Tuesday May 14, 1940, nobody on the Dutch side could predict that this very day would be brand-marked forever in the history of the city of Rotterdam. This very city was about to become the third member in the select group of cities that experienced the German doctrine of "the scourged earth". Guernica in Spain  and Warsaw  in Poland had been the first two cities to undergo the all out ruthless punishment of the German Luftwaffe. On the fifth day of the German invasion of the west, Rotterdam was about to share in the tragic fate of the two aforementioned cities ...
[EDIT: partially updated on 1 September 2010]
Prelude to the bombardment
The much extended prelude to the events that would unfold on this day in Rotterdam was described in the previous summaries. One will remember that the local German command [Generals Schmidt and Student] applied for a concentrated tactical bombardment of the Dutch stronghold north of the Nieuwe Maas. As such a path through the Dutch defences would be created for the 9th Tank Division to advance across the river into the wide open Fortress Holland. One will also recall that the General Command in Germany had more radical plans. They considered it imperative that all Dutch resistance in Rotterdam would be cracked and that the city would capitulate this very fifth day. The means to establish such were found in an all out surface bombardment of the city-centre north of the river. The ancient centre with plenty of historical buildings and rich cultural architecture would have to be destroyed completely. For that purpose around 90 bombers [He-111P] of the KG.54 had been made available, which could be further supported by Ju-88 of KG.4.
At 0900 hours the XXXIX Corps issued orders to its commanders that at 1320 hours [Dutch time] a concentrated Stuka raid would be pointed at the Dutch positions north of the Nieuwe Maas. After this ordeal the troops would advance and cross the river. A modest side show had been organised on the east of Rotterdam, where a small formation prepared for an amphibious landing accross the Meuze.
We have to remember that in the morning of the 14th the German High Command in Germany was still very anxious to redeploy many of the units occupied in Holland to the main theatre in Belgium and France [note: we say "still": later that day the German progress in the sector Dinant-Sedan made the requirements for reinforcements less imminent]. This consideration shall certainly have contributed to the decision to force a quick defeat of the Dutch by means of extremely aggressive measures.
Also - as we said before - quite some agony existed with the commander of the Luftwaffe over the fate of his airbornes and air landed troops. Mind you - the revolutionary airborne and airlanding operation in the West of the Netherlands had been supervised and commanded by the Luftwaffe. Goering was very aware that this operation had not been a convincing show of competence. The operation around the Hague had been an operational failure and the men around Rotterdam were clinging on by the finger nails. He received stress calls from cornered formations around Valkenburg and Overschie and feared for their fate. He had already suffered agony over the massive loss of airplanes over Holland, what at the 14th had grown into a number of a substantial 450 planes (of which about 250 were total write-offs). He felt the stinging eyes of the competitive Heer command in his back. Goering was totally committed and felt exposed. His good name and fame were at risk and as such this narcist personality felt the urge to set things straight.
The Commander-in Chief of the German army [Generaloberst von Brauchitisch] also insisted on a quick and decisive operation. He desperately needed the units of the XXXIX Corps for other assignments, as said before. Last but not least the boss himself expressed this desire in his Weisung no. 11 on the 13th (issued on the 14th).
All ingredients for disaster - on the Dutch part - were there. The recepy was being cooked overnight in Berlin. Rotterdam had to yield, one way or the other ...
Battle plan and first ultimatum
The plans that XXXIX Corps had developed overnight were [briefly summarized] as described hereafter. Following the tactical bombardment, the available German units would be divided in three taskforces: A, B and C.
Taskforce A was designated to break through the Dutch lines in the northeast of Rotterdam and proceed in the direction of Gouda [east]. C would follow this first taskforce along the first leg but next proceed to Overschie [releasing the airlanding troops there] and than proceed into the direction of Delft and The Hague. The smallest taskforce [B] was assigned to cross the river east of Rotterdam on the Island of Ysselmonde. They would cross and form a bridgehead. This move was an alternative element of the plan, required to be able to skip a crossing of the river through the heart of Rotterdam should the airstrike fail to achieve a Dutch city-surrender. The remaining troops would stay south of Rotterdam awaiting further orders [which would be pending the progress and developments].
During the night Generalleutnant Schmidt had prepared an ultimatum, which was to be handed over to the Dutch commander of Rotterdam. The text of the ultimatum was set in Dutch [with some clear mistakes - which have been improved obviously] and stated [literaly translated]:
To the Commander of Rotterdam
To the Mayor and aldermen and the Governmental Authorities of Rotterdam
The commander of the German troops. [unsigned]
The fact that the Germans addressed both the military and the civil authorities was in full accordance with the Geneva Convention. It showed that Schmidt was a decent officer and gentlemen, or at least aware of the applicable code. Now the city authorities at least received ample warning of an imminent German air offensive. After all, the Dutch themselves had chosen not to evacuate the city in the previous four days although the city had been under siege all of the time. On the other hand, a two hour warning was by far too short to evacuate the entire population of the northern city end, which was in fact the majority of inhabitants of Rotterdam. Experts on the Geneva Convention state that 12 to 24 hours would have been the minimum grace periods the Germans should have granted.
Anyway, the German negotiators - with the ultimatum of Schmidt - appeared at the Maas bridges at around 1000 hours. The three men [Hauptman Hoerst, Hauptmann Pesendorfer and Oberleutnant dr Plutzar] held the banner of truth [white flag], but were treated extremely harshly by the Dutch. They were stripped of all their weapons [which were thrown into the water] and blindfolded [which is fully allowed according to the international code]. The men were then sent to the command post of Colonel Scharroo. At 1030 they arrived. A few minutes later the leading German officer, Hauptmann Hoerst, handed over two envelops to the Colonel: one for him, the other for mayor Oud. Verbally the German officer stated that a Luftwaffe bombardment was imminent within two hours. Another detail of the conversation between the two men has created confusion up until today. Apparently the German also added that should Rotterdam refuse to capitulate, other major cities [Amsterdam, The Hague, Utrecht and Haarlem] would follow. Although this detail has anchored firmly in the Dutch history files, the only source that confirms this additional threat was the Colonel himself. It is very well possible that this threat was made up by the German officer himself (or the Colonel). There is no proof whatsoever that the Germans indeed planned to bombard other cities such as the ones mentioned by Hauptmann Hoerst. Would that proof be found, it would automatically form the inevitable proof that the bombardment of Rotterdam was all but tactical. Should the Germans have had plans to bombard all cities mentioned before, it would be obvious that a strategic plan to force the capitulation of Holland would have been the basis under the decision to come to an all out bombardment of Rotterdam. As said, no such proof exists.
Whereas the Colonel made study of the ultimatum, the Hauptmann was sent out of the room. The Colonel noticed that the ultimatum had not been undersigned and that no rank and name of the commanding officer had been added either. He was unaware that both matters were not required by the international code rules. The Colonel then first decided that he had to consult his Commander-in-Chief over a matter of such paramount importance. General Winkelman confirmed that he would give the matter proper thought and would return to the Colonel with a reply soonest. The mayor of Rotterdam called the Commander-in-Chief himself a little later. He had to persuade some people that it was imperative to speak to the General in person before he was connected. The mayor told the General that he was aware of the tremendous burden the General had to bear in this matter, but that he requested him to carefully consider the matter of the potential sacrifice of the city versus the benefit of prolonged resistance against the mighty Germans. The General promised also him that he would give the matter careful thought.
The mayor also consulted with his aldermen. They spoke about the matter of instructing the population of the north to evacuate. They came to the conclusion that with the 2 hour grace period between ultimatum and [expected] airstrike only chaos would be created if only then the evacuation would be ordered. A decision that would weigh heavy on their shoulders.
In the meantime the German negotiators had been sent back with the instruction that the Dutch would sent a negotiator once the Commander-in-Chief had decided over the matter. It was confirmed that this reply would come prior to expiration of the deadline. The German officers were under the impression that their mission had been successful and that the Dutch would surrender the city. At 1200 hours the negotiators returned at the German headquarters at Rijsoord. General Schmidt - who shared the optimistic expectations of his officers - sent a telegram to the 2nd Luftflotte [responsible for the air raid] stating [literaly translated]:
"Airstrike postponed due to ongoing negotiations. Return to stand-by status"
In other words. The airstrike was postponed, but the bombers should be ready for departure once the outcome of the ultimatum would be negative after all. The receipt of the telegram was confirmed at 1242 hours. Too late to stop the armada from departure. The bombers had already left their respective bases Quakenbruck, Delmenhorst and Hoya [all in the vicinity of Bremen]. Still, these bombers [the leading planes] were equipped with radio equipment to communicate with the ground station in Germany. The large antennas would however be retracted some time prior to the bombardment. It is however determined that - according to German statements - the radio transmissions with these devices hampered a lot. It is however highly doubtful whether these statements were reliable.
Another measure of precaution had been taken in the form of light signals from the ground. As a back-up - should radio transmission fail - red flares would be launched once the bombardment would be cancelled. This was a very unlucky decision. It would have been much saver if the Germans had arranged this to be the other way round: flares if the raid was on! Should that have been the arrangement no bombs would fall in case the bomber-commanders had missed the appropriate signals. With the standing arrangement the changes of missing the signals would result into execution of a [undesired] bombardment.
Another critical note to the red flare matter may be the fact that the operational plan of KG.54 clearly showed a corrupt element as it came to the ability to even notice red flares shooting up. In fact the about 90 planes strong formation was split up into two formations. The largest formation (about 60 planes) would enter the target area coming from the northeast. Bearing in mind that the German positions that could waive them off with red flares were to the south of the city, it would be impossible to notice any launched red flares anyway. Even more so, before these Germans on the ground would even be avble to spot the bombers these would already have initiated their bomb-runs. Obviously one cannot state that this practise is a proof of devious thinking by Luftwaffe commanders, but together with the in itself odd red flare arrangement it is at least food for thought ...
The second ultimatum
At 1145 hours Scharroo was called back by the GHQ. The ultimatum had to be returned to the German commander with the reply that only an undersigned ultimatum, together with statement of name and rank of the commanding officer was to be accepted by the Dutch as a legitimate parliamentary letter of ultimatum. As such a reply was formulated to the German commander [literaly translated]:
To the commander of the German troops.
I am in receipt of your letter. Subject letter has not been duly signed and did not mention name and rank of its originator. Prior to seriously considering your proposal, the letter should be duly signed and mention your name and rank.
Colonel, commander of the Dutch troops in Rotterdam, P.W. Scharroo
This reply would later be subject to extensive study of Geneva and Hague Convention experts. No rule or regulation in the Conventions stated that the Dutch requirements had to be met. Still, the fact that no indication of its originator was given [no name, no rank] was considered a flaw of the Germans by many. Such a conclusion seems to make sense. It is not unthinkable that a cunningly operating local officer would have originated a letter with a general statement "commander of the German troops". Some sort of reference to rank should have been incorporated in the ultimatum, many experts consider. Furthermore many stated that the status of the Dutch troops in Rotterdam was far from desperate. Indeed, the front had not shifted since the early hours of the war, and the last 24 hours the defences north of the Nieuwe Maas had been reinforced considerably. Apart from this new German threat there was no imminent reason to give in to the first German "piece of paper" demanding surrender.
The Dutch sent Captain Backer - acting adjutant of Colonel Scharroo - to the Germans with the aforementioned reply. At 1220 hours the Dutch officer arrived at the Noordereiland. The Germans immediately informed Rijsoord that the Dutch negotiator had arrived. The Germans handled in a very expeditious way. At 1240 no less than three Generals appeared at the Noordereiland: Schmidt, Student and Von Hubicki [commander 9th Tank Division]. The Germans read the Dutch reply and Schmidt immediately started writing his renewed ultimatum [literaly translated]:
I am in receipt of your letter. Since time is of the essence I reply to you incorporating the terms of surrender:
- The city of Rotterdam shall be surrendered to me with no further delay. Any negotiations shall be finalized today, so that occupation of the city can be executed by daylight
- The courageous Dutch troops shall collect and surrender their arms at designated points - arranged by their respective commanding officers. These designated points shall be surrendered to authorised officers of mine.
- The men themselves shall be assembled and marched off to a designated point within our zone of occupation. The specific point shall yet have to be designated by me.
- Officers [and equals] are authorized to keep their personal weapons
- Furthermore the international rules and regulations of the Law of Nations regarding surrender apply
- Military supplies shall not be destroyed
- I am forced to act expeditiously and as such I insist on receiving your reply within three hours, in any way before 1620 hours [Dutch time]. I request upon receiving this letter back incorporating your official reply.
Generalleutnant and commanding officer of an Army Corps, Rotterdam-South, 14.5.40, 1315 hours [Dutch time]
After the General handed over the ultimatum the Dutch Captain was escorted back to the Maas bridges. At that very moment a roaring sound of many aircraft engines was heard overhead. Oberstleutnant Von Choltitz - who had accompanied Captain Backer during the last mile - quickly ran back to his side. Both men realised what was about to happen ...
Also the German Generals - walking back to their cars - suddenly noticed the sound of the air armada. Schmidt was totally astonished. Had he not sent a telegram to Germany that negotiations were in progress? He cried out: "My God, this is a catastrophe!" Seconds after the southern task force of KG.54 unleashed the first bombs.
This particular phase of the German air operation against Rotterdam would remain a hot issue for years to come. German sources contradict where it comes to the ability of the communications that ought to have been possible between the planes and the ground. Many Germans state that radio-contact must have been possible until almost the last moment; some say that antennas had been retracted a few minutes prior to zero hour. It shall remain an unsolved matter forever, we presume. Fact is that the Luftwaffe claimed that no radio contact could be established. Would it have been possible after all, it would have been coordinated between the local and Germany based groundstations and from thereon to the fleet commanders. This detour represented quite an elapse of time and as such it's save to conclude that it wouldn't have come in time anyway. It was the fact that the option had been selected to send the bombers on their way whilst negotiations were ongoing - or - whilst the chance of negotiations being in progress at that very time was huge. This option had been picked by Kesselring himself, commander of the 2nd Luftflotte. Moreover, the so called back-up plan of lighting red flares - which might well have been made up later - was not at all in line with the wing tactics of KG.54. After all the formation was split-up in a southern approach force and a (larger) eastern approach force. The first would cross German occupied soil, but the much larger eastern formation - comprising two-third of the wing - would only fly across Dutch occupied territory. How would that formation be able to notice low drifting red flares against the background of an already burning city?
The choices made by the German high command clearly show determination to push into the direction of a bombardment irrespectively ...
The inferno ignited
Red flares were launched from the south but it was too late. The group coming from the east had already opened its bomb bays and at 1320 hours the bombs started falling. The tragic fact that a large smoke cloud was covering the sky over the east-side of town may have contributed to the fact that the Germans did not see the red flares, but the distance from the Noordereiland to the approaching leg of the eastern bomber force was too substantial as well. Red flares drifting low against a back-ground of clouded houses on the ground would have been hard to spot anyway. Moreover, before the Germans had spotted the eastern fleet approaching, the bombs were already falling, so the red flares wouldn't have mattered anyway.
The bombers had been split into two groups. One group [54 He-111P] was lead by Oberst Läckner [Geschwader commander] and the other [36 He-111P] by Oberstleutnant Höhne. The first group was scheduled to approach the target zone from the north-east; the second from the south. A triangular shaped target zone had been selected. The two groups each had been instructed to aim their loads on one leg of the triangle. The legs came together in the centre of town [north of the Nieuwe Maas]. Each of the bombers was carrying 1.000 kg payload. The first group - with two-third of the bombers - dropped all its bombs on Rotterdam. The second group however noticed that some red flares were launched. They were the ones overflying the astonished German and Dutch officers on the ground. Only the first three planes dropped their bombs, but the rest broke off the attack. Oberstleutnant Höhne and his [about] 30 bombers waived off to the coast, dropping their bombs on alternative targets.
In total 57 He-111P bombers released their loads on the target. According to many secundary sources 158 bombs of 250 kg and 1,150 bombs of 50 kg had been dropped a few minutes later: 97 tonnes. It is however highly doubtful whether that load was indeed actually dropped. This internationally accepted figure (mostly copied and pasted by authors) comes from the official [BA/MA filed] report of the Quartermaster of KG.54, but gives the figure of the entire (!) Kampfgruppe load at take-off. Since only two-third of the bombers unloaded over Rotterdam, it is more likely that 'only' about 60 tonnes were dropped. The personal battle report of Oberst Lackner also states that a mere 60 tonnes were dropped. Given the He-111 configuration used by KG.54 in May 1940 and the respectable distance it had to fly from Bremen to Rotterdam (and back), the maximum pay-load per bomber was 1,000 kg. It is therefore more than likely that in fact KG.54 dropped around 60 tonnes in stead of 97 tonnes on Rotterdam.
Also it is hardly mentioned in secondary sources that after the KG.54 raid, follow up pin-point attacks followed by Ju-88 bombers, most likely of III./KG.4. Not only there are numerous witnesses claiming that bombs continued to fall long after the main raid had ended (around 1340 hrs), but also footage and photographs of shortly after the main raid show unharmed buildings that appear utterly destroyed on pictures that were taken later on the 14th or on the 15th. One Dutch historian (Karel Mallan) claimed this to be the result of timer-fuse bombs, but that is most unlikely. The air raid was to be followed by a major push of German land-forces. The last thing they wanted to deal with was timer-fuse bombs.
It has always been quite a misunderstanding that the Germans intended to destroy all of Rotterdam. The 90 medium bombers would - on themselves - not have had the capacity to establish such. The huge destruction and havoc that resulted from the raid was not only due to the explosive power of the bombs, of which the far majority was of the light weight 50 kg type. Soon after the bombs had destroyed a large part of [in particular] the city-centre, the wind [4 Bft] became the worst enemy of the fire-brigades. The power of the water-supply had vanished due to the many leaks in the water circuit. The bombardment had caused many fires to ignite and the flames were born by the wind. Due to the extreme temperature difference and the already existing 4 Bft wind a local wind grew that sucked the flames to the [relatively] unharmed areas of the city. It caused a huge raging fire which ate its way through the [then] desolated city. The smoke clouds were seen in the entire west and heart of the country. During the day debris fell out of the sky at distances over 50-75 km from the ordeal. All of the country soon learnt what desperate fate had come over Rotterdam.
Curiously enough the ordeal could even have been enlarged when at the end of the afternoon another German wing was sent in to repeat the afternoon raid. Berlin had not yet received the call that Rotterdam had surrendered and thus devious Göring had ordered a repetition of the raid. At the end of the afternoon the formation had left from the airbases involved. When about 30 minutes after the report was received that the Rotterdam defences had yielded and moreover - made up by Generalleutnant Schmidt who had receievd word of the follow-up raid - German troops were already in the raided part of the city (which was not the case) - the German signals service suddenly managed to reach the bombers mid-air and in time. Nowithstanding that the time schedule had been almost identical to the first raid, apparently the atmospheric circumstances allowed the radiographic news to be received in good order this time. The event did not support the later German claims that the first raid had been a tragic mishap caused by all kinds of communication flaws ...
Briefly we would like to raise the question of guilt. It is perfectly clear that the commanders of the local German troops are not to be blamed for this devastating event. Both Student and Schmidt had only required a tactical bombardment by dive-bombers. Also both these officers did not - at any time - try to cover up the fact that this bombardment was the responsibility of the German Army. Unlike others, they never blamed the Dutch or the circumstances. They also were horrified by the events.
The raid had been supported by the German senior command. All senior commanders had been involved in the cause of the matter. On 13 May Generaloberst Von Brauchitsch [CIC Army], Generaloberst Von Bock [C. Heeresgruppe B] and General Von Küchler [C. 18e Armee] had demanded the abrupt conclusion of the Dutch front as a consequence of Hitler's Weisung 11 that had been prepared and evaluated during the evening of the 13th of May 1940. Literally the instructions to the Luftwaffe and the German field command in Holland had been to force the Dutch on their knees 'whatever it takes, whatever measure necessary'. The destruction of Rotterdam was to be threatened with or executed too if it would bring home the immediate victory. Those instructions landed perfectly with the devious Göring, the same who would months later enchant the destruction of London.
Airforce bosses Kesselring and Göring however - both found guilty to the criminal intent of the bombardment [being an infringement of the ruling Conventions] at the Neurenberg trials - and many German authors [even up until today] - blame the Dutch and the circumstances for the tragic event. Some German 'researchers' even state that the red flares launching had been unjust, since the negotiations had not ended yet. Particularly the German author Jakobsen advocated the justness of the raid and is more than often blindly copied by others.
War is a tragic thing and in wartime events happen that are later much regretted. The German surface bombardment of Rotterdam was a deliberate act of criminal warfare, although Rotterdam was a besieged and defended city. It is a fact that - almost certainly with intend - the operation was launched while the knowledge of ongoing negotiations was born in Germany and that makes the bombardment a genuine crime against humanity. Should the German high command have had the genuine intention to follow the international rules, they would not have launched their bombers prior to a confirmation from Schmidt of failed negotiations. They would also have instructed that the bombardment would only be on after red flares would have been sighted, rather than the other way round, which incorporated the substantial chance of missed identification of flares. Remarkable was the fact that when a second bombardment wave was on its way in the early afternoon, they were successfully called off when a report was received that German troops had entered the north of Rotterdam. Suddenly no failing communications ...
Finally one could raise the question if the raid in itself - separate from the process - was a glaring infringement of the Geneva Convention. In fact that question should be answered with a modest "no". Although Dutch and Allied sources usually pose otherwise, one could find only marginal infringements of the Convention articles in relation to this kind of military operation. Rotterdam was a defended city and therefore the enemy was entitled to have his airforce intervene. Also, the civil and military authorities were presented an ultimatum. One could add that the grace period between presentation and execution of the air-raid was too short, which in fact it was. Still, the Dutch had not chosen themselves to evacuate the city during the first four days of the war, although they were determined to defend the city to the bitter end. Last but not least, the city was the one place where the Germans had not been able to break the Dutch defences, not even after almost five days of war. They were unable to push through. A large scale tactical bombardment - probably also with devastating effect for much of the town centre - would have made more sense than the execution of an all out bombardment. During the war allied airforces would repeatedly apply the same methods of operation. Both tactical and strategical, in comparison to Allied raids against cities as Dresden and Hamburg in 1945 [that were plain war crimes], the raid on Rotterdam was not an all out infringement of the international code. The human tragedy however, had been enormous. Moreover, after the Warsaw and Rotterdam raids, the Luftwaffe themselves had set a new standard. They had unleashed a beast that would eventually turn against them.
The city capitulates
The final result of the raid was that 800-900 people got killed - mainly civilians. Over 80.000 people lost their homes and more than 25.000 houses and buildings had been destroyed. The fires that raged on after the bombardment, would ate their way through the city for weeks. The entire country would sent fire brigades to Rotterdam in assistance.
The Dutch defences were hardly hit by the raid and remained intact. But soon the fires started threatening some of the defence positions after all. The troops started to pull back. In the meantime Colonel Scharroo - now isolated from The Hague since all communication lines had been destroyed - had to decide over the fate of the defence of Rotterdam. The mayor and his aldermen insisted that the city had to capitulate. The Colonel realised that his decision would not only decide over the fate of Rotterdam, but over that of the entire country since a capitulated Rotterdam would open up the door to Fortress Holland.
A huge burden weighted on the shoulder of this capable officer! The general staff officer Lieutenant-Colonel Wilson was present as a mandated representative of the General Headquarters. He requested the Colonel to make a decision. Scharroo confirmed that he would capitulate. Wilson replied that he, as the representative of the Commander-in-Chief, concurred and that he would take over the responsibility of the Colonel's decision. He would report to the General Headquarters and should he not be back before a certain hour, the Colonel was authorised to present the capitulation to the Germans. At 1435 Wilson left for The Hague, that he only reached late in the afternoon. General Winkelman approved of the decision to surrender Rotterdam.
The devastated Colonel Scharroo - the officer that had been so dedicated, loyal and capable during the four-and-a-half days that he had led the troops in Rotterdam - collapsed. He blamed himself for the disaster and the ill fate of the city and cried his heart out in shame and despair. The Colonel then grabbed the newest ultimatum and undersigned it with "Angenommen" [German for "accepted"]. At 1500 hours he ordered his troops to cease fire. Together with his aid Captain Backer, Scharroo drove to the Noordereiland. There he was received by the three German Generals. Colonel Scharroo bitterly stated to Generalleutnant Schmidt that he could not conclude otherwise than that the General had broken his word of honour, since the bombers had done their lethal work 2 ½ hours prior to the expiration of the second ultimatum. The General replied "Ich verstehe Herr Oberst, dass Sie bitter sind." ["I fully appreciate Colonel, that you feel bitter over this"]. Schmidt instructed the Dutch troops to be assembled on the south side of town before darkness. At 1850 hours the Germans marched into the northern part of the city. At 1900 hours the formal city-capitulation talks were scheduled.
Curious events afterwards
The German troops started to work their way through the blazing town as off around 1900 hrs. The Dutch troops in Rotterdam did no longer resist. They had laid-off their arms, as ordered by their commander. In the evening the Germans reached Overschie, where they met up with some Dutch formations still unaware of the armistice. This resulted in yet some skirmishes.
Meanwhile a meeting took place between a representative of the Dutch commander Scharroo [Captain Backer] and the Germans. Student met with the Dutch command-representative to arrange the final details of the surrender. Scharroo had refused to attend. He was still very upset about the German "breach of their word of honour" and refused any further contact with them whatsoever. In the square just in front of the staff building where the meeting took place [Statenweg], a German battalion was recovering from their long march. At some point a unit of the SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler arrived on the square. At the same time a Dutch unit was assembling for their surrender - as ordered by the German military authority. For security reasons a huge white flag was waived to the SS men. Suddenly bullets buzzed around the Dutch heads and before anyone could do anything the German battalion at the square started shooting in the wild too. The Dutch all dove to the ground.
Generalleutnant Student, who had just opened the meeting, ran to the window and within seconds he was hit by a bullet in the head. It was a miracle that he wasn't killed; he even remained fully conscious for quite some time before he went into a coma. A skilled Dutch surgeon saved his life and after a view days Student regained his ability to speak. It would take Student 9 months to recover from the serious wounds and consecutive surgery.
The German soldiers considered the fact that their famous General had been shot a cowardly act of [Dutch] betrayal. All Dutch soldiers and officers, including citizens present, were lined up in order to be executed by the SS on the spot. Machineguns were positioned in front of them. If it hadn't been for Oberstleutnant Von Coltitz to intervene, they would have been shot on the spot. The next day investigations by the Germans showed that only German bullets had been found in the wall of the house. Student had been hit by a bullet from one of his fellow soldiers, a few hours after the Dutch capitulation. A handful of SS men had been killed too. Nonetheless there are some clues indicating that it was in fact a desperate Dutch Lieutenant starting the riot by firing his pistol from one of the windows in the staff building where the negotiations were held. The SS men had probably simply responded to something that they considered to be hostile fire aimed at them.
The distrusting Göring however had a special court martial sent to Rotterdam to investigate the matter and prosecute the Dutch traitors. They could not conclude otherwise than that a stray German bullet had crippled the General.