Schiphol during World War II
Remembrance Day is commemorated by the Netherlands every 4th May, which commemorates the victims of World War II and later conflicts. Liberation Day follows on the 5th May, on which we celebrate our freedom. Schiphol also observes these days. Like many other places in our country, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol was badly hit during World War II.
Schiphol becomes Fliegerhorst 561
Schiphol was a fully-operational civilian airport in 1939, at at time when the Netherlands was preparing itself for war. Germany attacked the Netherlands on 10 May, 1940. The attack included air raids in several strategic places, including Schiphol. After the Dutch surrendered on 15 May 1940, the Luftwaffe began using Schiphol as an air base. They gave it the name Fliegerhorst 561.
Air raids at Schiphol
German-occupied Schiphol was a serious threat to the Allied Forces thanks to the airport’s good facilities and proximity to the United Kingdom. As a consequence, the airport faced regular air raids from British and American forces. The moment of truth came on 13 December 1943, when up to 1,600 bombs hit the airport. It suffered major damage and lost its strategic value.
German defeat appeared to be in sight in 1944, and the occupying forces feared that Schiphol would become a base for the Allies. German demolition squads destroyed what was left of the runways in order to prevent that situation from arising. Already badly hit, Schiphol was now completely unusable. The only recognisable thing left was the the floor of the former departure hall.
The airport underwent very rapid reconstruction in the first months of peace. The runways were repaired and barracks were installed to provide temporary accommodation for passengers and cargo. An emergency wooden building with two floors served as a temporary air traffic control tower. The first aircraft landed at Schiphol again on 8 July 1945. Later that year, the government named Schiphol ‘the Netherlands’ World-class Airport’. Construction work on what would eventually become today's Schiphol took place in later years under the stewardship of airport manager Jan Dellaert.
Two minutes’ silence
Schiphol also observes 2-minutes’ silence to commemorate the victims of World War II and later conflicts on 4 May each year. For more details you can read our blog on two minutes’ silence: Silence at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.