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Rotterdam Without War

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.

About Tammy

A Canadian living in France with her Dutch hubby after 17 years in the Netherlands. A total TV and movie junkie who is never not knitting. She also enjoys other crafts, nail art, cuddling her dogs and general geekery. Otherwise just working on getting by and making a life for herself in her ‘new’ country.

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  1. Very interesting post. I like older buildings better:) They’re full of history.

  2. Thanks for this post! I have been to Rotterdam, but never caught on to the fact that it looks like it does because of the war. Good history lesson!!

    marits last blog post… Mobile confusion

  3. That was a great post. I have only been there once and I like the city. I do prefer the old buildings, but it could be that I’m still a bit on the “new” of living here :)

    Melissas last blog post… I’s done gone to da south!

  4. Marit – Yeah I didn’t know about it either until I moved here and my husband told me about it. There are monuments around the city about it. I think the most eerie one is about 5 minutes from here where the train station was where they shipped all the jews off to the concentration camps.

    Bluefish / Melissa – I like old buildings as well, and they can be found here in Rotterdam but that old city charm has been lost here. When I’m here I wish it was more like the other older looking cities. When I go to Amsterdam I come back glad Rotterdam is the way it is haha Grass is always greener, etc

  5. This is an amazing blog post! Thanks for sharing this. It’s sad, interesting, thoughtful and full of so much information, all in one.

    Isabellas last blog post… Op de Fiets

  6. The first picture looks weird at first but I actually like it.

    Looks like my hometown, Nantes… half of the city was bombed during WW2. As a result, one side is very historic and nice and the other is pretty ugly, big buildings built quickly to shelter families.

    Zhus last blog post… Tiananmen Square (天安门广场)

  7. Hi. Your comments here are spot on. I’ve only just come back from a week in the Netherlands. I and my partner are thinking of moving over from the UK, but as I’ve only ever visited Amsterdam, I thought I ought to visit rotterdam to see what it’s like. I like modern architecture as a rule and thought I might like Rotterdam, so I was pleasantly surprised that I actually prefer it to Amsterdam (as far as the bigger cities go). I know I’m in a minority on this one, but there you go…

    I wish I came across your site before I came over – I would have asked to meet for a coffee and a chat. The benefit of your experience (10 years and counting..) on Dutch life would be useful to hear. Perhaps on another visit! I live in Leeds in the UK, by the way. Oh, and your blog is great!



  8. The foto’s of the bombing wth the Grote Kerk are taken from nearly the same position. The second foto is presented mirrored

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