Rebuilding the city

Four days after the bombardment the Mayor and Aldermen ordered W.G. Witteveen, the director of the Municipal Technical Service, to make a plan for the reconstruction of the destroyed city. Although he started energetically, the plan of his successor C. van Traa would ultimately form the basis for the new city centre.

Plans for a new city

Free of debris

By order of the Germans, Mayor and councilmen assigned the GTD (the Municipal Technical Department) to clear the city of rubble almost immediately after the bombardment of 14th May 1940. A temporary Clearing Department had a rather uncoordinated army, consisting of more than 30.000 unemployed at its disposal, of whom nearly half were fired on 22nd May. From the end of May onward, the clearing of rubble was better organized by a new department of the GTD, whereby people worked in six districts in shifts. Most important goal was to clear the roads. Besides the unemployed, the building central department, the demolition contractors and the army were deployed to clear the devastated area as soon as possible. The General Authorized Representative for the Reconstruction, mr. Ringers, wanted to save time and money and decided to set up a National Clearing Department in June.

1400 trucks

Soon, as early as August, a different sorts of remnants were separated with a view to recycling materials. To dispose all rubble some 1400 trucks drove back and forth on a well-defined stretch through the city. The manager of the GTD, town architect W.G. Witteveen had rough debris directly dumped, for instance in the lake Kralingse Plas. Filling in historical canals such as Rotterdamse Schie, Blaak, Schiedamse Vest (partially), Kolk, Nieuwehaven, Schiekolk, Spuiwater and Hofpleinkolk was more radical, whereby sometimes the town council was informed afterwards. With these fillings-in it was clear that Witteveen was taking into account the new roads to be built within the framework of his reconstruction plan.

The plan Witteveen

The reconstruction plan of Witteveen elaborated on his pre-war plans and thus could be presented instantly. The Germans were of course very interested in the reconstruction of ‘their’ main port and under the leadership of High Commissioner Seyss-Inquart they came to Rotterdam to let themselves be informed. On 21st June Witteveen outlined his reconstruction plan to the assembled Dutch and German administrators in the city hall. For the time being the Germans were satisfied and Witteveen was given the go-ahead. In 1940 official support came from the Department of Reconstruction (Diwero) and from the Consultancy of the City Plan of Rotterdam (ASRO) in 1941. The “Beauftragte für Rotterdam” (representative of the High Commissioner Seyss-Inquart), Völckers, saw to the execution of the reconstruction.

Rebuilding the city

On 1st July 1942 the occupant proclaimed a complete stop to all building activities. The plan Witteveen was brought under discussion. His successor and former secretary, the engineer C. van Traa, got the assignment to design a more modern plan. On 15th June 1946 his basic plan Rebuilding the Inner City of Rotterdam was decided on. Afterwards the reconstruction took place under three successive mayors, ‘Men of Authority’: P.J. Oud (1945-1952), G.E. van Walsum (1952-1965) and W. Thomassen (1965-1972).