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German and Allied bombing raids on the Netherlands (in numbers)

During the Second World War, the German air force carried out bombing raids over Dutch soil. And the Allies, too, carried out about 600 bombing raids over Dutch soil during the occupation. The overview on this page is incomplete and intended to give an impression of the consequences of the air raids for the population.

The German air force carried out the following bombing raids over Dutch soil (the numbers quoted refer to civilian deaths):

  • Luftwaffe, 11 May 1940: Amsterdam, Blauwburgwal, 44 deaths. Target unknown, a German plane hit by anti-aircraft fire may have dropped its bombs indiscriminately.
  • Luftwaffe, 11 May 1940: Zevenbergen and Zevenbergschen Hoek, 36 deaths. It is likely that the Dutch and French troops in the area were the intended targets. 
  • Luftwaffe, 14 May 1940: Rotterdam, inner city, 650-900 deaths. Initially an intended target, but it had been cancelled.
  • Luftwaffe, 14 May 1940: Den Helder, 28 deaths. Target unknown.
  • Luftwaffe, 17 May 1940: Middelburg, town centre, 22 deaths. Intended target. Nowadays, it is doubted whether the city fell victim to a major air raid. It is possible that some aircraft bombs were dropped over Middelburg, but most of the damage was probably caused by German artillery shelling on the ground. 
  • Luftwaffe, 19-20 September 1944: Eindhoven, city, 180-227 deaths. Probably the intended target; a carelessly executed attack on transport targets and lines of communication.
  • Luftwaffe, 2 October 1944: Nijmegen, Waal Bridge area, 93 deaths. ‘Collateral damage’ (the bridge across the Waal was the intended target).

The Allies carried out approximately 600 bombing raids over Dutch soil during the occupation (source: A. Korthals Altes, Luchtgevaar (‘Danger of Air Raids’),  Amsterdam 1984, p. 12). In the vast majority of attacks, there were no or relatively few civilian deaths. Forty Allied air raids with around 40 or more civilian casualties are listed below. This overview may be incomplete; it is primarily intended to give an impression of the consequences of the air raids for the population. 

  • RAF, 24-25 June 1940: Den Helder, 38 deaths
    Intended target (harbour area), considerable ‘collateral damage’
  • RAF, 3-4 October 1941: Rotterdam, 106-130 deaths
    Intended target (harbour area), considerable ‘collateral damage’
  • RAF, 28-29 January 1942: Rotterdam/Schiedam, 71 deaths
    Intended target (harbour area), considerable ‘collateral damage’
  • RAF, 5-6 October 1942: Geleen, 83 deaths
    Mistake bombing (the German city of Aachen was the intended target)
  • RAF, 6 December 1942: Eindhoven, 138 deaths
    Intended target (Philips factory area), considerable ‘collateral damage’
  • RAF, 19 February 1943: Den Helder, 50 deaths
    Intended target (naval dockyard), considerable ‘collateral damage’
  • USAAF, 31 March 1943: Rotterdam, Tussendijken,about 400 deaths
    Intended target (harbour area), considerable ‘collateral damage’ due to strong winds
  • RAF, 16 April 1943: Haarlem, 85 deaths
    Intended target (railway workshops), but most of the bombs hit a densely populated residential quarter
  • USAAF, 17 July 1943: Amsterdam-Noord, 158-185 deaths
    Unintended outcome; the intended target, the Fokker aircraft factory, was not hit
  • USAAF, 10 oktober 1943: Enschede, 151 deaths
    Mistake bombing (they were looking for a German city as ‘target of opportunity’)
  • USAAF, 22 February 1944: Nijmegen, close to 800 deaths
    Mistake bombing (the intended targets were the German towns of Kleve and Goch)
  • USAAF, 22 February 1944: Arnhem, 60 deaths
    Mistake bombing (the intended targets were the German towns of Kleve and Goch)
  • USAAF, 22 February 1944: Enschede, industrial quarter, 40 deaths
    Mistake bombing (the intended target was the German city of Münster)
  • RAF, 11 April 1944: The Hague, Huize Kleykamp, about 60 deaths
    Intended target (population register)
  • USAAF, 31 May 1944: Roosendaal, railway station area, 73 deaths
    Intended target (railway yard), but most of the bombs missed the target
  • USAAF, 18 August 1944: Maastricht, residential area, 91 deaths
    Unintended outcome; the intended target, the bridge across the Maas, remained largely intact
  • RAF, 11 September 1944: Breskens, harbour area, 199 deaths
    Intended target (the harbour), considerable ‘collateral damage’
  • USAAF, 17 September 1944: Wolfheze, mental institution/village, 87 deaths
    Intended target (German artillery positions), considerable ‘collateral damage’
  • RAF, 17 September 1944: Ede, 80 deaths
    Intended target (German barracks), considerable ‘collateral damage’
  • RAF, 17 September 1944: Biggekerke, 46-50 deaths
    Intended target (German artillery positions), considerable ‘collateral damage’
  • USAAF, 17 September 1944: Wageningen, ‘de Sahara’ residential quarter, about 40 deaths
    Unintended outcome; the intended target was the German anti-aircraft artillery at the Lexkesveer
  • RAF, 2 October 1944: Huissen, 99-106 deaths
    Intended target (German troops), considerable ‘collateral damage’
  • RAF, 3 October 1944: Westkapelle, seawall, about 150 deaths
    Intended target (the seawall), considerable ‘collateral damage’
  • USAAF, 6 October 1944: Hengelo,about 100 deaths
    Unintended outcome; the intended target, the shunting-yards, were hardly hit
  • USAAF, 12 oktober 1944: Venray, at least 50 deaths
    Likely target (tactical targets)
  • RAF, 13 October 1944: Utrecht, station area, about 50 deaths
    Intended target (railway yard), considerable ‘collateral damage’
  • USAAF, 13 October 1944: Venlo, at least 40 deaths
    Intended target (the road and rail bridges, which sustained minor damage), considerable ‘collateral damage’
  • RAF, 14 October 1944: Zutphen, residential area near the river IJssel, 73 deaths
    Intended target (bridge across the IJssel), considerable ‘collateral damage’
  • RAF, 24 October 1944: Dordrecht, park Merwestein, 52-69 deaths
    Intended target (German headquarters), considerable ‘collateral damage’
  • RAF, 3 November 1944: Venlo, about 40 deaths
    Intended target (the road and rail bridges, which sustained minor damage), considerable ‘collateral damage’
  • RAF, 26 November 1944: Amsterdam, Euterpestraat, more than 50 deaths
    Intended target (SD Headquarters), considerable ‘collateral damage’
  • RAF, 29 November 1944: Rotterdam, Mathenesserstraat/Heemraadsingel area, 45-64 deaths
    Unintended outcome; the intended target, the SD Dienststelle, sustained only extensive air pressure damage
  • RAF, 11 December 1944: Leiden, station district, 54 deaths
    Intended target (central station), considerable ‘collateral damage’
  • RAF, 21-22 January 1945: Montfort (Limburg), 183 deaths
    Intended target (German communication lines)
  • RAF, 3 March 1945 The Hague, Bezuidenhout, at least 520 deaths
    Unintended outcome; the intended target was a V-2 warehouse in the woods of the Haagse Bos.
  • RAF, 21 March 1945: Doetinchem, more than 100 deaths. Probably bombed by mistake
  • USAAF, 22 March 1945: Enschede, 65 deaths
    Probably the intended target (tactical targets), considerable ‘collateral damage’
  • USAAF, 22 March 1945: Nijverdal, town centre, 72 deaths
    Probably the intended target (tactical targets), considerable ‘collateral damage’
  • USAAF, 24 March 1945: Goor, town centre, 82 deaths
    Probably the intended target (tactical targets), considerable ‘collateral damage’
  • USAAF, 24 March 1945: Haaksbergen, town centre, 50-75 deaths
    Probably the intended target (tactical targets), considerable ‘collateral damage’

Of the air raids listed here, five or six were ‘mistake bombings’, in which the Allied pilots thought they were flying over a German city (Geleen in October 1942, Enschede in October 1943, Enschede, Nijmegen and Arnhem in February 1944, probably also Doetinchem in March 1945). Six times there was an ‘unintended outcome’, where the aircraft tried to hit the specified target but missed it (almost) completely (Amsterdam in July 1943, Maastricht in August 1944, Wageningen in September 1944, Hengelo in October 1944, Rotterdam in November 1944, The Hague in March 1945). Allied aircraft did hit the intended target in the other cases, but caused considerable ‘collateral damage’ in the process. However, it is not always easy to distinguish between an ‘unintended outcome’ and a ‘hit with collateral damage’.

According to A. Korthals Altes (Luchtgevaar (‘Danger of Air Raids’), Amsterdam 1984, pp. 323-324), the Allies generally exercised restraint in planning the bombardments. The mistakes in the implementation usually caused the greatest damage. Cities such as Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Den Helder, Den Haag, and Breskens were hit hard by insufficiently accurate targeting. Sometimes the targets were so small or so narrow that the risks of ‘collateral damage’ were extensive, as in the bombings of the SD headquarters in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, the railway stations in Haarlem, Utrecht, Roosendaal, and Leiden, and the bridges in Zutphen and Venlo. However, the number of attacks on smaller targets remained relatively limited, according to Korthals. Still, one could argue that the Allies might have exercised more restraint in bombing residential areas along the frontline (Huissen, Venray, Montfort, Nijverdal, Goor, and Haaksbergen).

The exact number of civilian deaths resulting from the air raids is not known. According to an anonymous list kept between 1940 and 1945 (in the NIOD archives: file 249-0116A, document a20), there were over 8,000 victims of air attacks after 15 May 1940. According to Korthals Altes, this overview is incomplete and, on several points, incorrect. He estimates the number of Dutch bombing deaths at around 10,000 (Luchtgevaar (‘Danger of Air Raids’), Amsterdam 1984, p. 324).

A comprehensive day-to-day overview of the air war over the Netherlands during the German occupation is presented in En nooit was het stil... Kroniek van een luchtoorlog (‘Never a Moment of Silence...; Records of an air war’) by Gerrit J. Zwanenburg, published in two volumes (The Hague, 1990 and 1992).

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