Fritz Köhler

Title

Fritz Köhler

Description

Fritz Köhler's account of the events at Bahnhofstraße 11, Große Rosenstraße.

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

1944-03-24

Contributor

Harry Ziegler

Rights

This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Language

Type

Identifier

Record 50
BKasselVdObmv10050

Coverage

Conforms To

Spatial Coverage

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

Translated from the original in German: Present is Mr Fritz Köhler, born 23 March 1910, formerly of Bahnhofstraße 11, now of Am Friedhof 3, Wabern, trainee railway conductor, and makes the following statement:
When the alarm came, I was in my flat. I went to the cellar with my wife and our two children. My father, who is completely deaf, was also with me. They have all been saved. There were people from the post office and residents in the cellar because our house was also a place where people from post office no 26 could stay overnight. I calmed them all down and went back up and brought bedding, sewing machine, radio and everything into the cellar but it then got all destroyed by the flames anyway. I kept an eye on the house from the street. Because there was no fire in the house, I went up to the attic. Here, I put out two incendiaries and then went to my flat. In my father’s room (on the fourth floor), some of my father’s furniture was already on fire. Mr Siebert and I extinguished it. In the apartment of Mr Rumpf, which was above ours on the top floor, the whole room burnt out where we could not salvage anything. Around us, the whole city was on fire. I stood for half an hour at the window and watched the spectacle. That was about a quarter to nine. The constant explosions did not bother us. Because I saw that nothing could be saved, I went to the air raid cellar. As I closed the door, the staircase collapsed. It was burnt up.
I now drove my family and the other residents towards Lutherplatz. We stayed below ground. But Rosenstraße 22, the so-called jewschool, had taken a direct hit, and our way was blocked. I had knocked through our breakthrough myself. So we had to go back to Bahnhofstraße – this was still during the raid – my wife and children just about managed to get out through the windows in the pub Regenbogen. A service club was there and the soldiers helped them get out. They had made their way underground and had come out in the pub. From there they ran to Lutherplatz above ground. I went back to Baker Hohmann’s, Bahnhofstraße 7, and helped firefighting. Then I went back to my cellar because Mrs Biazzi with her crutch had stayed there. Mrs Biazzi could not walk properly and I had to drag her underground and through the breakthroughs. I took her under the arms and the legs dragged on the floor. She is 86 and could not lift her legs anymore. She was once a royal court singer at the state theatre. I took her as far as the entrance hall of Baker Hohmann’s because the air was still okay there. Then I looked for my father. I found him too in the entrance hall and said to him: “Come on, we want to get out of here.” And we went to Lutherplatz where I looked for my family. I found them all but the house bothered me. Because there was nothing to be saved, I returned above ground to Lutherplatz.
There was a captain with two soldiers looking for volunteers. I came forward because I knew my family to be safe. We went to Grüne Weg, Sedanstraße and showed the way to Lutherplatz for the people who were standing there helplessly. And we assisted the people who could not walk and guided them to Lutherplatz. As many people were standing helplessly in secondary moderns nos. 15 and 16, we also showed them the way. Everything was on fire but the raid was over. People were all very calm. The children went with their parents to the square. The people fleeing were often wrapped in cloths. I did not have one myself. The rain of sparks was very thick. Here and there, fire was already on the ground. When we returned the second time to the school, several walls and gabels were already falling down. But we tried to get through anyway. As Wörthstraße had already become impassable we went through Schillerstraße to get to Grüner Weg. It was already difficult to get through there. We nearly got trapped ourselves. Our eyesight had been weakened by the smoke. We then stayed on Lutherplatz.
Towards half past four, I made my way to Hohentorstraße where my mother lived, near the Graben. It was difficult to get through. But I tried it anyway. I had visited my mother on the evening of the raid roundabout six. She was in bed because she was paralysed. Her usually weak heart was on that day calmer and healthier. She said to me: “I hope the Tommies won’t come.” In the morning I got as far the cellar of Hohentorstraße 20. On the way, I only saw smoke and dirt. Many people were still standing at Martinsplatz. When I got to the cellar, the house had collapsed and was on fire. I then tried to clear the cellar entrance and succeeded in that. The air in the cellar was still good – because it is a fair way underground and has firm barrel vaulting – so that I was surprised that I could not find anyone there. So I gave up on my efforts and went back to my family on Lutherplatz. My eyesight had got much worse and so I made my way to the Schöne Aussicht where a military doctor had his quarters. The doctor washed out my eyes and said: “If you can look out of your eyes tomorrow, you’re in luck. Otherwise, you’ll be blind.”
I could not let it rest, however, and made my way into the centre again at about 10. To Hohentorstraße and the air raid shelter in the Pinne. The shelter in the Pinne had been opened. But the soldiers said, they were all dead. I asked whether, and if so when, the shelter would be cleared up because the people living in no. 20 tended to go there. Then the cleaning-up crew came and brought out the first ones. But I could not find my mother. So I went back to where my friend Karl Gunkel had lived (Müllergasse 10). But that house too had collapsed. I tried together with Italian military internees to open the cellar but the rubble kept sliding back down. A German soldier said to me I should leave it because they had already tried to knock with iron bars. But no one had answered them. That was in the houses nos. 12 and 16. As I learnt later from his sister, her brother and the other people in the house had burnt to death.
The city was one pile of rubble and smoke. You could not see any streets, they were all buried under debris. Very many people, mainly men, were looking for their families and made their way through the ruins. Towards evening, a car brought us from Lutherplatz to the Wittich barracks where I stayed for two days. My family stayed in the barracks but I went into town every day. As my mother could not be found, I made my way to Leipziger Straße 64 where my brother lived, Alfred Köhler and his wife. But there too everything was burnt down. But both of them are still alive. Because I also have a sister-in-law, I went there, to Frankfurter Straße 111. There too everything was destroyed. But they all saved themselves (the Ortmann family and Mrs Loni Köhler and her daughter Heidi). At the moment, they live in Grebenstein.
As I knew that all the others were alive, I made an unhurried tour of the city. Many dead bodies were lying in the streets, mainly women and children. In Wittich barracks, the names of the children were called out, and some found each other again there. Some could also give information where children were.
Afterwards Mr Köhler said: “I have seen so much death, in enemy territory, that nothing can daunt me. But what happened here is inconceivable. You can’t see them. I stood for half an hour at the window and saw the fire and heard the bombs and the invisible planes above us and I thought: Is there justice in the world or isn’t there? There is none!.

Citation

Vermisstensuchstelle des Oberbürgermeisters der Stadt Kassel, “Fritz Köhler,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed December 8, 2019, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/8708.

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