Anton Sch and anonymous

Title

Anton Sch and anonymous

Description

Two accounts of the events at Wolfhager Straße 38.

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

1944-04-18

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 70
BKasselVdObmv10070

Coverage

Conforms To

Spatial Coverage

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

Translated from the original in German: The owner of the wire-fence factory Sch., formerly of Wolfhager Straße 38, Kassel, at the moment of Wurmberg-straße 75 makes the following statement:
We experienced 22 October in the air raid cellar of our building. We had not gone to the one in the rear building as we usually did but had stayed in the front-building. In the cellar of the rear building there was only the plant security force of the machine factory Beck and Henkel. I guess they had lacked the courage to come through the flames. The following morning we saw their bodies lying in the street.
We experienced the raid in our cellar, heard the close hits of heavy bombs and also the dull thud of a dud which my son (a soldier with the panzers) discovered accidentally as a ten hundredweight bomb in the rubble of the houses. When the firestorm started, I said to my wife: “I can just as well die in the street, I'll make my way to the shelter of the train station in the lower town. I hope that my wooden leg won’t catch fire. If you won’t come, I’ll go anyway.” Then we soaked our coats and hats and I went first, all the people in the cellar followed me. It must have been like that in many cases: where there was someone who took charge, the others followed. The train station in the lower town had already been agreed as meeting and rescue point in case of such a danger.
We had put out several incendiaries in our house but the sparks were flying and constantly brought new fire so that it was all for nothing. I have been told that two bodies were taken out from our cellar but these must have been strangers who fled as far as this and then could not go on. Our building burnt down completely, we didn’t even save a suitcase. All the crystal glasses bar one had melted into unrecognisable lumps in the cellar. Only the china survived reasonably well.
My personal investigation showed that some of the foreign workers from the rear building saved themselves. One woman supposedly persuaded the others to stay because this was less dangerous than going outside. That is why the others died.
Account B, dated 18 April 1944
Present is the wire-fence manufacturer Anton Sch., born 12 March 1894, at Olpe near Meschede in Westphalia, formerly of Wolfhager Straße 38, now of Wurmbergstraße 75, and makes the following statement:
On the evening of the bombing, I was at home with my wife. We were on our own because our son is a soldier in the East. After dinner I listened to the wireless which stopped about twenty to eight. I had already been expecting a terror raid for several days; I had a sense that something was going to happen. And when the wireless stopped, I brought suitcases and other possessions down into the cellar of our four-storey building for the first time in the war. I found carrying difficult and usually my wife did it, because I lost a leg and therefore have problems carrying. At the same time, I urged my wife to ready herself for a raid because I considered a raid on Kassel a real possibility. From what I observed from the short period before, in which terror raids on other cities happened, they all started shortly after dusk. My wife, however, warded this off: “You hear all sorts.” This was probably intended more to embolden herself than to dispute the possibility of a raid. She nevertheless started the preparations for a raid early for once.
After we had brought our possessions into the cellar, we went back up to our flat on the first floor. I went onto our balcony from which I could observe the southwestern sky. After a few minutes – it may have been about eight – I heard the sound of airplanes in the air. At the same time, the siren on the school in Wörthstraße started to sound. The sky was dark and overcast. You could still hear pedestrians in the street as in normal times. The sound of propellers continued strongly and I had the impression that the airplanes were just flying over us because I could see no lights in the sky. I felt spooked, however, and said to my wife: “Come on, let’s go to the cellar, something’s in the air, something is not right.” With these words I closed the door to the flat and went down the stairs. No one else was there. We were the first ones to arrive in the cellar.
More or less at the same moment as we stepped into the cellar, the floodgates of hell opened in the sky above Kassel for a storm of half an hour which even the boldest imagination could not have pictured. Without pause or break you could hear hissing, whistling, gurgling, roaring, crashing, thundering, smashing, battering, and hammering so that you could believe that the end of the world had arrived. The other residents came flying into the cellar. Most of them only had a little hand luggage and some were insufficiently dressed. The general scare had paralysed people so that neither the children nor the adults could make a sound of fear. In the cellar, we did not hear the innumerable incendiaries which dropped nearby. The whistling and hissing of the heavy bombs and blockbusters, however, was bloodcurdling and they exploded with ear-splitting crashes. According to a later count, up to twelve heavy bombs and blockbusters hit within a radius of 50 to 100 metres, which I counted in the first half hour in the cellar. A twenty hundredweight bomb landed as a dud and lay about 15 metres away from the house. My son found it later in the rubble on the neighbouring property of Beck and Henkel. That was four weeks after the attack when my son was on leave because of the bombing raid.
The cellar was well prepared and supported as far as was humanly possible. The cellar vents of which four fifth were below ground, had been bricked up as required and we had also created an emergency exit at the far end of the corridor by breaking through the strong outer wall of the building which we had then again bricked up and about a meter further we had a shield wall and a concrete ceiling as required.
When the first bombs hit about 25 past eight, the bricks from the vents and the breakthrough came flying through the cellar without, however, causing any damage. By now, every close explosion blew dust and air in through the holes in the cellar so that you would have been forgiven for believing that the house would collapse at any moment. You could hear from the outside the rattling of the window panes and the roof tiles which dropped on the pavement. The bursting and collapsing of nearby buildings made a dreadful sound which we could hear, the terrible thunder of two factory chimneys which both fell onto neighbouring properties. Through the cellar vent we could see a small piece of the sky which shone red with fire. After about three quarters of an hour it became a little quieter. There was a lull in the bombing.
That was when two men from the house dared go outside. They came back immediately, however, and gave us the terrible news: “All the buildings are on fire, the whole neighbourhood.” Our building, however, was not on fire yet. After another ten minutes, there was another lull in the bombing. That’s when they made a quick round through the building. All the doors and windows had been blown out and some of them also blocked the staircase. They nevertheless went up to the third floor. Only two rooms in the Heimbergs’ flat were on fire. The door to our flat was also on fire and an incendiary was lying in my son’s bedroom. We put out all of these fires with sand and water. In the meantime a hurricane-like storm arose, that was the pull of the firestorm, which hissed and swept through the streets and the houses. That brought a rain of sparks. It was like a snow storm with fire. The sparks flew into the houses and ate into wooden objects and so our house was set alight too by this storm of little sparks.
It may have been about half nine. The people in the cellar were still paralysed with fear. The heat of the terrible fires around us made staying in the cellar unbearable. It became clear that we had to leave our shelter. I went up to see for myself and used the opportunity to take a few files from my office which was on the first floor and bring them down to the cellar. The question which bothered me, was how to we get out of here into the open? In the cellar we would inevitably burn to death. When I said as much in the cellar, people became agitated. Outside, more bombs dropped. The children were screaming by now and a four-year old girl started praying loudly and called upon her dead little brother: “Rudolf, you are in heaven, you must save us!” Others lay on the floor. One woman held her head in her hands and pulled her jacket over her ears. Little Marga kept shouting: “Do we have to die? Will we be killed?” Then the little one said: “You must pray too, you should all pray!” Someone said: “We won’t get out of here. There’s fire everywhere.” My wife, too, said: “We have to get out of here, there’s fire everywhere; the firewall is coming towards us.” That was because she had been upstairs in our flat and had seen the mess. She thought, however, that the house could be saved if it was not set on fire by flying sparks. But we could not stay, the smoke and the heat would have killed us.
She made another round through the flat. The beautiful crocheted runner was still lying on the table but the lamp had dropped on it. Splinters were everywhere. The door to the smoking room was still closed. Everything was as it should be here, only the windows were broken. Everything stood and hung where it belonged. The clock on the wall ticked as if nothing had happened. In the bedroom, the windows and the mirror were broken. Then she came into Karlheinz’s room. An incendiary was lying in front of the wardrobe. It had dropped into the room at an angle. She took it with her bare hands and threw it out of the window. Then she went to the kitchen. The cooker stood diagonally in the room. But the furniture was all where it belonged, only the windows and the mirrors were broken. Then she ran down the stairs again. At that moment, a jamb from a window hit her in the back. In the meantime, our air raid warden, Mr Meister, shouted: “Mrs Sch., I order you to come down!” But she thought: “Take a flying jump, I’ll save what I can,” and carried bedding and clothing down. The other people in the house, Meisters and Ottes and Heimbergs, followed her example and tried to save their belongings.
Then the raid was over. Now everyone ran upstairs and inspected the damaged flats and ruins and everyone understood that we had to leave the house because the factory behind us was on fire and the wall of fire was coming towards us. And then she went into the shop, into the office where the padded door was lying on the floor. And in the office were about 50 people who had fled there. And a soldier kept running out to check whether the roof frame had not caught fire yet. “It’s not burning yet,” he shouted, “it’s not burning yet – now it’s on fire.” Everywhere people sat, on the floor, on the desk. And when the roof starting burning and the Heimbergs’ flat too was on fire, we left. We made an attempt to leave, armed with suitcases and clothes. And we saw to our horror that all the streets were on fire. So we took everything back down in the cellar and locked it up. And then we tried again, without our belongings, and turned back again. And then we soaked our blankets, dipped the hat in the water and used it as a scoop and the dipped the child’s coat into the water. Ottes’ little one we put into the pram and then, we first, with the raffia bag at hand, a soaking wet blanket over our heads.
Before we left the cellar, we each had a sip of cognac to give us courage. It was a French Hennessy cognac. We had saved it for an emergency. And then we drank it before we left, and quickly another sip, and then we went out.
I was wearing Karlheinz’s rain cape and a hat. And because the fire was so fierce, people wanted to return to the cellar but I said: “Then we might as well die on the street.” The first sight of the street was a sight of hell. All the buildings were on fire, nearly every cobble was on fire, the spring steel factory was collapsing, and flames were shooting out as if blown by bellows from the buildings on both sides. I had to throw the cape away. We turned right, towards the lower town train station. In parts, there were high piles of burning clutter and debris on the street and the pavement. We left the pram in the street, we could not get through with it. The father took his child on his arm. We climbed slowly over barriers and burning barricades. I shouted: “I can’t get through with my leg; if only the wooden peg doesn’t start burning.” Also my wife’s pretty blue shoes were already charred at the tips. In my desperation, I threw the cape away and held a wet cloth in front of my mouth.
We were lucky that the street was broad otherwise we would not have been able to save ourselves. So we arrived at the train station where there were already quite a many people. We thought we could have a breather, air, air, air! But the sparks were flying here even more. You could not see the city burning because everything was shrouded in smoke and flame. Around us, a scene of horror. Mothers with their little children were sitting on the bare ground and sunk over with exhaustion. A woman was shouting for her husband: “Have you not seen my husband?” “Dear lady, how would I recognise your husband?” “Well, a man on his own?” Another woman kept shouting: “Heinrich, where are you? Heinrich, you died today. Heinrich, you are in heaven. Heinrich, you’re up there. Heinrich? I am wearing your shoes. The toes of your shoes are charred.” Another woman kept shouting: “I have lost everything, I have lost everything.” “Don’t drive us nuts; be quiet, we too lost everything.”
We had put apples into our pockets. I had an apple in my hand and gave one to little Marga too. A woman came: “Oh, please give me a bite too!” She tore the apple nearly out of my hand. The thirst was unbearable.
In the meantime, one railway tipper after the other burnt out. The sheds of the goods office burnt out completely. Thousands of hundredweights of coal burnt in the stores of Kassel’s coal merchants. It has been said that it was 2,000 hundredweight. The soot and smoke were terrible. The rain of sparks was such that we were driven further and further, we went from one wagon to the next to huddle and find shelter. “Continue to the cemetery!” That was what we were told during the night. Our eyes were burning terribly. We had wet cloths with us. People tore them out of our hands. We had no water, we could not find a single drop. Then we fled into a shed. A woman was lying there. It was the building where the railway kept the money. The windows were all broken but so far the building held up. We were standing packed like sardines but no one complained. Only the wounded were screaming for water. A lady had terrible burns. She kept shouting: “Please help me, don’t you have tablets? I am thirsty.” Luckily, my wife had her air protection satchel with her. She was able to give the woman some pain killers. A gentleman gave her a glass of wine which he had fetched from the stationmaster’s flat. The woman thanked my wife and said: “Are you a first responder?” And then we searched for someone who could carry the woman away. But she had to stay there for a whole hour that night before one of the carriers was able to come. They all had their hands full and could not manage.
When we were watching as the buildings all burnt down, a man came who kept shouting: “My beautiful cigars, my best cigars!” They were more important to him than the building. And I said: “Look, all the buildings are on fire except the Iron Corner which isn’t. The name is entirely apt.” But later the Iron Corner burnt down too, set on fire by flying sparks.
Mrs Otte stood there with her child. The child did not have anything to drink so the father went, I don’t know how far, and acquired a drop of milk and box of biscuits. And in the meantime, a bus had arrived and took people away. And as the father came back and people on the bus were shouting and waving, he ran away instead of following the bus because he was afraid that people would take off him what little he had. So a woman got off the bus and fetched him and calmed him down. He should come with her, his family was on the bus.
And then the greetings of the neighbours: “Dear God, you are here too? You too?” And then Miss Heinze came, where we had our garage, and said: “Your car was also destroyed by the fire.” And then, there was Mr Lieberum who lay on the ground and cried. We asked: “Where are your daughter and your boy?” “I don’t know anything, I don’t know anything!” They saved themselves but with severe burns.
Mr Otte wanted us to get away in his car. But he could not get through. We hoped that we had at least saved the things in our cellar. We had brought down everything: crockery and bedding and blankets and clothes and hats and shoes and fur coats and the whole of bookkeeping with two typewriters, the cash and the safe box. Churchill got everything, the bastard.
And now morning broke with beautiful sunshine. But the sun came through smoke, about half eight. I won’t forget it. Then busses came and took us. And then my wife noticed that she had hurt her foot, because she had fallen down the stairs when the bloke downstairs started shouting. And then a bus came which took us into the countryside to Calden. And there, we received a warm welcome. But we were not able to sleep. We washed ourselves first – because we looked like gypsies but we were glad to have escaped from hell.
We left in the hope that that we would be able to have something to drink and sleep. The following day we wanted to go back in our house and save our things from the cellar. But it was full of smoke and we could not get in. Everything was destroyed by the fire. Later, the whole building collapsed. After three days we stood in front of the ruins of our building and our belongings and held the keys to the house in our hands. We still have them.
In the rear building, the people who did not want to leave all suffocated and then were lying on the street as charred corpses. That is what would have happened to us if we had not escaped the fire on time.

Citation

Vermisstensuchstelle des Oberbürgermeisters der Stadt Kassel, “Anton Sch and anonymous,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed November 22, 2019, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/8736.

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