Rotterdam , city (1994 pop. 598,521). One of the largest and mostmodern ports in the world, Rotterdam is the major foreign-trade centerof the Netherlands and its second largest city. The city's inner port,which lies mainly on the left bank of the Nieuwe Maas, is connected toHoek van Holland, its outer port, by the New Waterway.
Europoort, alarge harbor area opposite Hoek van Holland built largely in the 1960s,is designed chiefly for unloading and storing petroleum. Among thebridges and tunnels spanning the Nieuwe Maas is the elegant ErasmusBridge. Rotterdam owes its importance mainly to the transittrade with the Ruhr district of NW Germany, with which it is connectedby several waterways and oil pipelines. The city is also a center ofindustry'the petrochemical industry being the most crucial to itseconomy. Rotterdam was chartered in 1328.
Although it grew considerablydue to the efforts of the Dutch statesman Johan vanOldenbarneveldt, the city was long overshadowed byneighboring Delft and its port Delfshaven (a present suburb ofRotterdam), from where the Pilgrims sailed to America. The separation of Belgium from the Netherlands diverted much trade from Antwerpto Rotterdam. However, Rotterdam experienced its principal growth withthe construction of the New Waterway, making the portaccessible to the large oceangoing vessels, along with the industrialexpansion in NW Germany from the late 19th century, and the Europeaneconomic boom after World War II. During World War II the entire citycenter was destroyed by German air bombardment, severalhours after it had capitulated. Most of the old houses of Rotterdam(including the birthplace of Erasmus) were destroyed; the Groote Kerk(a 15th-century church) was damaged. Among the noteworthy buildingsthat survived the raid were the stock exchange (18th cent.), the city hall (1920), and the Boymans'Van Beuningen Museum, with its collectionof paintings by Dutch masters.