If you go around the side of the Maritime Museum, you will quickly see an open “plein” (square) with an imposing statue in it.
This, probably the best known statue in Rotterdam was sculpted by the Russian artist Ossip Zadkine and has been a landmark feature in the city since it was unveiled in 1953.
In Dutch it’s known by two names: “De Verwoeste Stad” (The Destroyed City) and “Stad zonder hart” (City without a heart).
Ossip Zadkine produced the work in bronze after witnessing the devastation and destruction of Rotterdam’s city centre after German bombs rained down in World War Two. Zadkine had been in Paris and came to the Netherlands to visit a friend, and passing by the ruined city was shocked at seeing what was little was left of the centre first-hand.
This is the memorial to the day in 1940 when only a few buildings survived the bombing raids intact and the history and heart of the city was all but wiped out.
The hole in the statue where the heart would have been, represents that destruction of the Rotterdam’s heart, and 04 May every year “Nationale Dodenherdenking” / “Herdenkingsdag“ is observed , the Dutch National Day of Remembrance.
On 04 May, the Dutch gather the length and breadth of the country to commemorate these fallen in military conflict and in peacekeeping service and to observe a two minute silence. This memorial is now one of The Netherlands major sites for this commemoration.
The figure clearly represents pain, the arms are outstretched to the sky in agony. It’s a compelling image and with reminders like these we are hopefully inspired and reminded that making Peace is always the better option than making war.