When I was out with my friend Penny the other day we were talking about Rotterdam and how it’s changed because of World War II, and it got me to thinking about how different things might be here had it all never happened.
You see, during the war, the Nazis bombed the city center to bits. They didn’t just blow up some shit, they flattened it. The few things they left standing included the Grote Kerk (“Big Church”) and the Stadhuis (City Hall). Before the war Rotterdam was like any other city in the Netherlands. It’s city center had that same old Dutch charm that Amsterdam, Utrecht and all the other Dutch cities still have today. Now, for the most part, that is gone.
This is a typical view in Rotterdam. It’s modern, mostly because it was forced to be. Some people love it, others hate it. I guess it depends on your taste and how you feel about everything that has happened here.
These are photos taken after the city center of Rotterdam was bombed. All the old shops – gone. The old canal houses – gone. Everything that made the city of Rotterdam like the rest of the country was blown away. You can see the Grote Kerk left standing in the middle of nothing.
This is the same church from another angle today. This beautiful old church seems lost in the middle of all the modern architecture.
If you look carefully you can see evidence of the war when walking around the city, especially around the city hall. There are still bullet holes in the building and I remember seeing it first hand in a painting when I did a tour of it a few years ago.
If you look closely you can see one of the bullet holes below the leaves of the tree. This was one of many seen inside the city hall. The painting was brought from Greece in 1920 when the city hall was being built and it’s still there today. The day the Nazis entered the city hall they left the building standing but killed everyone inside.
Another example of the differences the war created…
This is Hofplein, in the center of the city, before the war.
This is what it looked like in 1945, after the Nazi strike…
… and this is what it looks like today.
It’s not that I don’t like Rotterdam. In fact, I do. I like that it’s modern and in many areas is more spacious than other cities here. When I go to Amsterdam I often feel cramped and crowded, even more than I do here. I also like that Rotterdam has a lot more modern and interesting buildings.
I can’t help but wonder sometimes how it would be if the war had never happened though, what kind of old beauty this city may have and how it would compare to cities like Amsterdam. We’ll never know though.
For more info on Rotterdam and the war, visit this site and follow the Rotterdam links.