23.1.16

The 'Witte Huis'

The building on the cover of Spynest is the 'Witte Huis' (White House) in Rotterdam on the corner of Wijnhaven and Geldersekade. It dates from 1898 and is a 43 meters high private office building. It is a classic construction with Gothic and Romanesque motifs and contemporary Art Nouveau decorations. The façades are made of white glazed brick. In the niches on the first floor are six statues placed, which depict Labour, Progress, Industry, Trade, Shipping and Agriculture. During the Battle of Rotterdam in May 1940, the Labour statue was destroyed by shrapnel. The Shipping statue is moved leaving an empty niche. In the façade are all kinds of decorations made with stone and brickwork coloured in yellow, red and blue. Above the windows are tiles with curly plant and floral motifs. Under the corner towers are stone winged dragons. The interior has stained glass and ironwork. It was recommended as very modern. It had two electric elevators, which in those days were a novelty for Rotterdam. For a few cents people could go up to a platform on the rooftop, where you had a good view of the city. The building survived the destructive German Luftwaffe bombardment of 14 May 1940, because the Heinkel bombers had to avoid bombing nearby positions of their own paratroopers. During the First World War the German Imperial Consulate General had its office in the Witte Huis. From there it coordinated espionage in Britain and orchestrated smuggling operations.