The raid of Rotterdam in 1944
There are many novels set in Rotterdam. Each of them show another, new side of the city. For Rotterdam, I Love You I’m discussing some of these novels. Today I will tell you about the non-fictional The raid of Rotterdam in 1944 (De Rotterdamse razzia van 1944) written by Lourens Reedijk (L.J. Veen, 1999). This article may contain spoilers!
It’s early November 1944. The allies invaded France six months earlier. Their advance lead them through Belgium into the Netherlands. There, they were stopped at the Rijn, near Nijmegen and Arnhem. As a result, the southern part of the Netherlands were liberated while the northern part (above the Rijn) was still occupied by Nazi Germany. The fighting continued as winter approached. Food became scarce, a curfew affected the daily lives of the people. But soon, life was even about to become much worse. On November 9, 1944 German troops in Rotterdam surrounded many neighbourhoods and ordered every man between the age of 17 and 40 to report themselves. Estimates vary, but between 40.000 and 50.000 men from Rotterdam and Schiedam were captured and deported. A large part of them were brought to stadium De Kuip, home of the Rotterdam soccer club Feyenoord. The future of the young men was unknown, for themselves but for the Germans as well. Among those scared men we find our protagonist and writer: Lourens Reedijk.
This is a story that starts and ends in Rotterdam, but takes us on a journey to many other places in between. Our hero, Lourens was a teenage boy who lived at the Dordtsche Straatweg in Rotterdam South. He was just an ordinary boy. He studied at the Maritime Academy in Rotterdam before it was closed during the war. He had a girlfriend and tried to read the Dutch classics, with mixed success. When the Germans ordered all men to report themselves, his mother gave him a bag with some sandwiches, blankets, a towel and a spoon. He left together with several other scared men. The men were directed to the Feyenoord stadium. Nobody knew what was going to happen. Hours and hours passed while the men drenched in the rain. Finally the signal came and they walked to a nearby harbour. The Germans fired bullets in the air to prevent any escape attempt. There, they were loaded into a cargo holt and took off in the night.
Reedijk edited his notes right after he got back, but it wasn’t until years later that he decided to write a book about the raid. So we have to be careful with what we interpret as real events and what may have been added later. Nevertheless the story is a real page-turner. It shares many thrilling moments, even some life-and-death experiences. But no matter what happens, Reedijk stays positive and always finds a solution for the hardest situations. Unsurprisingly he finds a way to flee from his captors and escape months of hard hard labour. Solely based on that fact, the teenage Reedijk is a person to look up to.
The raid of Rotterdam in 1944 is an intriguing story about the biggest raid in Rotterdam during the war. It shows the horrors and doubts the men had to go through. Nevertheless, it isn’t a tough or depressing read. It has a positive vibe, even during under the hardest situations. This book is a must read for everyone who is interested in personal stories during the war and wants to learn something about it.