Rotterdam rŏt´ərdăm˝, Dutch rôtərdäm´ [key], city (1994 pop. 598,521), South Holland prov., W Netherlands, on the Nieuwe Maas (New Meuse) River near its mouth on the North Sea. One of the largest and most modern ports in the world, Rotterdam is the major foreign-trade center of 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 to Hoek van Holland, its outer port, by the New Waterway. Europoort, a large harbor area opposite Hoek van Holland built largely in the 1960s, is designed chiefly for unloading and storing petroleum. Among the bridges and tunnels spanning the Nieuwe Maas is the elegant Erasmus Bridge (1996). Rotterdam owes its importance mainly to the transit trade with the Ruhr district of NW Germany, with which it is connected by several waterways and oil pipelines. The city is also a center of industry—the petrochemical industry being the most crucial to its economy. Rotterdam was chartered in 1328. Although it grew considerably due to the efforts of the Dutch statesman Johan van Oldenbarneveldt (1547–1619), the city was long overshadowed by neighboring Delft and its port Delfshaven (a present suburb of Rotterdam), from where the Pilgrims sailed to America. The separation (1830) of Belgium from the Netherlands diverted much trade from Antwerp to Rotterdam. However, Rotterdam experienced its principal growth with the construction (1866–90) of the New Waterway, making the port accessible to the large oceangoing vessels, along with the industrial expansion in NW Germany from the late 19th cent. and the European economic boom after World War II. During World War II the entire city center was destroyed by German air bombardment (May 14, 1940), several hours 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 buildings that survived the raid were the stock exchange (18th cent.), the city hall (1920), and the Boymans–Van Beuningen Museum, with its collection of paintings by Dutch masters. Rotterdam's institutions of higher learning include Erasmus Univ. and the International School of Economics. The city is the birthplace of the 17th-century painter Peter de Hooch.
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