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Dutch passenger ship during WWII home to U-boat crews in Hamburg

Strafed and bombed in two harbours

Tags: Immigration

Every ship has its own unique characteristics and history. The Veendam II is no exception. The Holland America Line ship, named after a town in the northern Dutch province of Groningen, served for about 30 years, six of which under German flag. The ship had been launched on November 18, 1922, a few months after her sister ship, the ‘Volendam’. She was built in the shipyards (dockyard 650) of Harland and Wolff in England.

On April 18, she began her maiden voyage from Rotterdam to New York. In 1928, the Veendam underwent remodeling for extended passenger accommodation to meet changing demand. The ship now could accommodate 262 in first class, 430 in second class and 480 in tourist class, a change from 262, 436 and 1200 respectively. The ship then also was used for cruises. 

The Veendam first became involved in the World War II conflict on September 17, 1939 with the rescue of survivors from the British aircraft carrier ‘Courageous’, which had been torpedoed by a German U-boat.

During the bombing of Rotterdam on May 14, 1940, the Veendam - back in her home port - was severely damaged. The flames consuming the ‘Statendam’, at anchor next to her, unfortunately spread to the Veendam. With the surrender of the Dutch armed forces the following day, the Veendam fell into the hands of the invaders. The Veendam subsequently was repaired and signed over to the Hamburg-America Line. It became a home to German submarine crews stationed in Hamburg. While berthed there, the Veendam again sustained heavy damage during Allied bombing raids and attacks. After the war, the Veendam was returned to her owners, the Holland American Line. The ship was taken to Amsterdam for repairs and re-entered service on the New York route in January 1947. She now could accommodate 233 first class and 363 tourist passengers. Her tonnage was between 15,540 and 15,652 GRT.

The Veendam ended her career in 1953 on a Baltimore, Maryland scrap heap. She outlived her sister ship the Volendam, which had been scrapped in 1952. Both ships were taken out of service when emigration from the Netherlands was at its peak. 

The S.S. Veendam measured 176.5 x 20.5 metres and was manned by a crew of 350. 

Copies of passenger lists are welcome at the Windmill Archives. Anyone who has such a passenger list available and has not already done so in the past, is requested to call 1-800-881-0705 to verify if their particular list - only four Veendam lists of the 90 in total have been received - already has been added to the collection.