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The aftermath


The major fires in Rotterdam would be extinguished at 16 May, three days after the raid. But many small fires and collapsing buildings would occupy the fire-brigade and civil support units until well into August 1940.

The bombardment in itself was not a direct ground for the general capitulation that followed a few hours after. We will cover the events that contributed to the general capitulation in Part III.

Balance of losses in the south and Rotterdam

The city of Rotterdam paid a tremendous price for the courage and firm defence by the Dutch army. Over 80.000 citizens had lost their homes - mainly due to the 14 May Luftwaffe raid. It is estimated that about 800 people lost their lives due to the bombardment. 25.000 houses had been destroyed, 2.350 shops, 2.000 factories, 1.450 offices, 550 hotels and pubs, 62 schools, 25 governmental buildings, 24 churches and many hospitals, cinemas and other facilities.

Netx to the high toll of the Rotterdam raid, many hundreds of civilians had been killed during the battle in the south of Holland too. In Brabant plenty cities and villages had been targetted by the Luftwaffe bombers, especially those that saw French headquarters or concentrations. Cities like Breda (including Ginneken), Bergen op Zoom, Roosendaal, Etten and villages like Zevenbergen en Zevenbergschen Hoek were confronted with much destruction and civil casualties. The same applied to virtually all inhabitant parts of the Island of Dordrecht. Dordrecht itself had seen large scale destruction, largely caused by Dutch artillery. The small village Willemsdorp had virtually been wiped of the map. Partially by the first strike of a few German bombers but again mainly by Dutch artillery. In the Alblasserwaard all cities and villages in the west part of the island had been raided by the Luftwaffe. It had caused plenty of destruction and also civil casualties. The Island of Ysselmonde had not seen too much destruction beyond Waalhaven. The southern and southwestern part of Barendrecht had suffered from Dutch artillery again. Around Rhoon and Pernis some mild damage. And also in the south of Rotterdam some damage around the southskirts of the Noordereiland and the Afrikaanderplein. All in all, the battle zone wasn't hard to spot for any visitor from elsewhere. The traces of war were clearly visible. The civilian population had paid its dues too.

In the five days' war in and around Rotterdam 185 Dutch military personnel got killed. On and around the Island of Dordrecht 249 men were KIA. In the south [Brabant and Limburg] 223 men were accounted for. Together these figures cumulate to 657 men killed in action in the relevant theatre. In total the five days' war costed the lives of 2.332 Dutch officers and men [to which we will reflect later]. In other words one quarter had fallen in and around the Southfront of Fortress Holland.

The German losses are not known exactly - as we have said before. The facts and figures that are known today are [in particular] based on a very thorough study of Lieutenant-Colonel [ret.] E.H. Brongers of the German war-files and the files of the German war cemetery in Ysselstein [Holland]. Some sort of summary can be presented from that.

In West-Brabant the Germans lost 16 men KIA on 13 and 14 May 1940. At Moerdijk and Willemsdorp 31 men, mostly on the 10th. On the island Ysselmonde and Rotterdam [including Hook of Holland] together 123 men KIA. At Overschie 6 men were registered [although amongst the Ypenburg/Delft KIA roll also Overschie KIA were listed] and finally on the Island of Dordrecht 98 men KIA. Against the 657 Dutch KIA stood 274 Germans. The German losses were therefore about half the Dutch losses in this theatre.  

In total about 1.750 Germans were taken prisoner of war. Of these, about 1.350 were shipped to England [later Canada] and would never serve again. This figure was mainly formed by Luftwaffe, airbornes and airlanding troops. 

In total the Germans had lost between 2,000 and 2,200 men KIA during the invasion in the Netherlands. The 274 men KIA in the south-west were therefore a representation of only a mere 15%. Considering the intensiveness of the battle a relatively low figure. Especially when one takes into account that the Dutch lost 657 men in the same theatre.

Last words about the bombardment of Rotterdam

The bombardment of Rotterdam is still one of the major historical facts known to many Dutch today. In those days it made such a huge impact on the Dutch [and the allies] that the event is still one of the most significant ones in Dutch national history. Understandable, once one realizes that it was the first real connection this small country made with modern warfare. Holland had not experienced all out war since 1815. The last Dutch acts of war [in Europe] had been in 1815 [Waterloo] and 1830-1831 when Belgium fought its war of independence with Holland. The two major conflicts of the next one hundred years [French-Prussian war in 1870-1871 and World War I] the Netherlands successfully relied on neutrality.

Although many local wars and battles were fought in the colonies [Dutch East Indies], the average Dutchman living in 1940 had no experience with war whatsoever. Holland did no lose a generation to the terrible conflict in 1914-1918 and as a consequence in 1940 many generations in a row had known only peace. War was a phenomenon that seemed to be a "privilege" of the large countries. The German invasion of May 10, 1940 still came as a huge surprise to many. Communications were not the same as today. Communities were still much confined and self supportive. Many people outside the ever moving west never came beyond the borders of their own villages. People were mainly minding their own business and the church and the nearby work floor were the main meeting grounds. The war changed all that. Suddenly the small trade nation that the Netherlands were got involved in a major conflict with horrifying effects on the daily life. The bombardment of Rotterdam was a devastating blow to the sober Dutchmen and that is probably why still today 99% of the Dutch bear the knowledge of this event.

Yet on the scale of the events that [at 14 May 1940] still lay ahead of the western world, the bombardment of Rotterdam was a marginal event. The punishment that cities around the world would suffer in the years to come, in particular in Germany, England, Soviet-Union and Japan, far exceeded the suffering of Rotterdam in May 1940. Cities with millions of inhabitants were flattened in the five years of war, and millions of civilians would perish. On that scale Rotterdam may be a detail. To the Dutch it was a major blow and it would become [and remain] a symbol of the tragic Five Days' War that raged in the The Netherlands in May 1940.