Heinrich Peter, Sch


Heinrich Peter, Sch


Mr Heinrich's account of the events at Hohenzollern-straße 56.



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Spatial Coverage





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Record 7


Translated from the original in German: Present is Mr Heinrich Peter Sch., formerly of Hohenzollern-straße 56, and makes the following statement:
I came at about 8 from the Wilhelmshöhe train station and managed to get with the tram as far as the Red Cross [hospital]. Then the alarm went and we had to continue on foot. I walked through Kaiserstraße at a leisurely pace and got home by about half past eight. Part of the people living in the house were in the cellar, the other part in the offices of my business. I was debating with my housekeeper whether I should go and get my two dogs from the flat and wanted to put on my firefighter’s uniform to go to my deployment site when the anti-aircraft guns started to fire. So I went quickly to get my two dachshunds and helped to carry down the air raid luggage which was on the ground floor and then we waited for what was going to happen. It took a few minutes and then we had incendiaries close to the house and on the pavement. I put a bucket over them and extinguished them this way. I also ran several times up to the attic as I had to assume that the houses would be hit by incendiaries too but so far, everything was fine. I was once briefly in the cellar when we had a hit close by. I can’t even say where. I only went to the cellar to calm down the women – most of the people in the house were women. I managed to do that.
Then I saw from the courtyard, that light green smoke was coming from my cousin’s bedroom window on the third floor. I shouted down to the cellar that my cousin should come up and I showed him that and then we both ran to fight the fire. The bedroom was full of smoke, the incendiary bomb was lying on top of a wardrobe. We tore down the curtains and it was relatively easy to extinguish the bomb. My cousin was too particular and wanted to clear the dirt but I said we had better look in the attic as that bomb had probably not been the only one. I found another three, two of which I extinguished with sand and water. The last one I grabbed and threw through the window down on the street as I had run out of sand and water. By doing so I could see Hohenzollern-straße and had a shock. The whole street, as far as I could see it, up to Annastraße and Ständeplatz, was covered with incendiary bombs. I was reminded of the torch parades of the SA, only that these things burnt green rather than red. I assumed that things would look the same on the court-side of the house. I had the right vantage point on the third floor. But to my delight, the print shop had not yet been hit. So I ran back to my cousin who was still working there and told him: “So far, it’s gone well. I hope our luck holds. Get a move on to get finished; I’m going to extinguish a few bombs in front of the house.” I put out some more bombs with a bucket downstairs and had a little inward fit of rage. The whole street was deserted and I thought if only one person from every house helped cover that big source of light – because for that mob up there our brightly lit street was a wonderful target and I expected that further incendiaries would follow.
And that’s why I was worried about my cousin who was still up there in the house. I thought if they now hit the house, he’ll be blown to all four winds. When he still did not appear, I ran up the stairs, shouting his name more and more loudly but I could not make myself heard over the infernal noise. I found him finally on the third floor and upbraided him for not coming down instead of using his fire swatter. So we both ran down the stairs. And now comes the tragic bit: as we are about the level of the second floor, there was a scary blow, I squeezed myself into the wall and we both lurched and fell down the stairs without understanding what had happened. The smoke, dirt and grime we had in our respiratory passages were excruciating, in our mouths, noses and lungs. I only recovered my sense as I reached the entrance to the cellar. I called: “Henner, are you here?” You couldn’t see anything of course. Everything was dark. It seemed that we were unscathed. I immediately ran down to the cellar stairs to go and see how the women were doing in the air raid cellar. I tripped over a chunk of masonry, it was dark everywhere, when I remembered my torch. And as I want to get into the room, I had a terrible shock. The light of the torch reached maybe half a foot. Everything was full of dust. And to my horror, I see that the room is full of the fragments of the cellar vaults. The ceiling had been penetrated. I said to my cousin: “They’re all dead.” Then I shouted individual names in order to find out whether anyone was still alive under the rubble. And I could hear, when the outside noise wasn’t too strong, a low whimpering noise. My cousin said immediately that we had to fetch help from the neighbouring houses and I said to myself, the stairwell we also be impassable because it is above the cellar. We also could not get to the breakthroughs; that way was blocked. The only remaining escape was across the courtyard and over the garden walls.
When I had climbed up the wall to the next courtyard far enough so that I could look over it, I saw that number 54 was ablaze from the ground floor up and that the entrances to the cellar were blocked by burning beams. It was unlikely that we would find help there. Then I thought: maybe we can do it on our own. Maybe a hollow space had been formed when the vault collapsed and I can get to the people underneath. Therefore we quickly made our way back to the cellar. At the entrance to the cellar I shouted again the names and listened very closely. I also shouted the names of my dogs but all I could here was whimpering, fainter than the first time. We urgently needed help. My cousin came and shouted: “Go and get help!” So back on the wall to number 54. After I jumped off in the courtyard next door, I must have stayed on the ground dazed for a bit but I woke up again, through the roar and crackle of the fire. I felt a leaden tiredness and exhaustion and it took me a few moments to get up again. I had probably inhaled smoke and gas. As I was upright, I lurched and staggered like a drunk. Now the paling to Westendstraße 5 blocked my way. I threw myself against it a couple of times with my full weight and it finally gave way. On the short way to Westendstraße, I had to lie down a few times because of exhaustion. The courtyards were full of smoke. But luckily I kept my wits about me and every time I fell I told myself: “Keep your mouth close to the ground, breathe deeply.” That helped. At the entrance to the cellar, I finally saw another human being, a young air force helper! A marvellous chap! He dragged me into the cellar where someone washed my face and gave me something to drink. I vomited much grime and dirt and I felt better. In exemplary readiness to help, Benno Mainzer and two neighbours volunteered to follow me. We could no longer travel via the courtyards. Through the cellars, then! We got as far as a few metres to the breakthrough to our house - but there we came to a stop. White, acrid wood smoke came in through the windows into the cellars and filled them and made it impossible to breathe. We had to turn back. So we went back to Westendstraße 5. That cellar was also filling with smoke and fumes, it had to be evacuated. I quickly helped to guide people into the open and then I tried to get through Westendstraße to Hohenzollernstraße. At the junction, I saw what had happened. Our house (number 58) and the one next to it (number 60) had disappeared and the same went for the house opposite. Heaps of bricks from both sides had trapped a van in the middle of the street and it was burning out. Behind me, a man came out of the cellar of the Martini-Eck. I shouted at him: “How many people are left in your cellar?” Answer: “I’m the last one!” I shouted: “I need help! In our house people are trapped under the rubble!” He advised me to get help from the railway bunker in Bismarck-straße.
This was a terrible journey. Luckily, the firestorm made its way up Westendstraße, I therefore had it in my back. Park-straße was impassable. Therefore: Kölnische Straße. Down Bismarckstraße, against the firestorm to the entrance of the bunker – that finished me off. I had to go to the emergency room first because of my eyes, a mate from my fire brigade unit led me there. After I had been patched up, I searched for the guardroom. And there, I had a terrible disappointment! I was told that it was no longer possible to get onto the street, to help people. I tried several times that night on my own, occasionally with the help of neighbours who had also found their way to the bunker, and at two or three in the morning, we managed to get as far as the junction of Hohenzollern- and Westendstraße but it was impossible to get closer.
Concerning the time, I think that we were hit about a quarter past nine and that the raid lasted until about a quarter to ten. Round about that time, i.e. the end of the air raid proper, I must have reached the bunker.
The morning after the disaster, towards eight, a rescue unit of the SHD arrived. We could first recover my cousin’s body, sitting at the bottom of the stairs. People then also found his wife’s body. When I asked what would happen with the dead bodies, I was told that they were seized by the police who would see to everything. “You have no authority to make any arrangements!”
In the afternoon, I took my car, which luckily had been spared, and drove to friends in the countryside in Reichenau near Hess. Lichtenau as I was literally on the street. I drove every day to Kassel to help retrieve bodies and to discharge all my other duties. That was particularly difficult as all documents had been destroyed.
A few days after the disaster I realised that I had an increasing pain in my anus. First, I thought it was piles. When I was in Fulda at Christmas time, visiting my sister, it became unbearable. Prof Dr Hertel diagnosed a tear in my gut. I was operated upon on 11 January.
On the first floor of our house lived the families Schade and Noll. Luckily, none of them were there that night of terror. I lived on the second floor with my housekeeper, Miss Katharina Wölk, and also a Miss Margarethe Walter who were both among the victims. On the third floor [lived] my cousin, who died as did his wife and their domestic Miss Bachmann (Anneliese). Their child, Michael, was in a kindergarten in Sooden-Allendorf.


Vermisstensuchstelle des Oberbürgermeisters der Stadt Kassel, “Heinrich Peter, Sch,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 21, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/7337.

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