Ernst Exner


Ernst Exner


Ernst Exner's account of the events at Kastenalsgasse 5.



Temporal Coverage

Spatial Coverage





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Record 88


Translated from the original in German: Present is the master smith Ernst Exner, born 9 January 1888 in Kassel, formerly of Kastenalsgasse 5, and makes the following statement:
I had gone to fetch a few glasses of beer from Rudolf – he’s also dead now – and as we were having dinner, the alarm came. So we quickly got ready and made our way into the cellar. I had carried a couple of valises down. My wife had her handbag and her shopping bag with her. When we were in the cellar, we could hear the bombs falling. There was a terrible draught. The people from no. 3 were shouting and knocking on the breakthrough because their stairs had already been buried by rubble. So I opened the breakthrough. We were forty people in the cellar. My sons were not with us. People came also running from Pferdemarkt. The neighbours came through the breakthrough and then we opened the breakthrough to no. 7. I went upstairs, however, and intended to get the kerosene lamps in case the lights went out and I looked out on the street and I saw that the whole street was on fire. So I thought to myself: Stop, now you have to get going. So I went back down to the cellar and said: “Soak your blankets in the vats, we have to get out!” And to my wife I said: “Come, I go first!” So that she would take courage. And I brought her up the stairs and then I realised that no one had followed us.
So I went back down to talk to them. “For heaven’s sake, running out into that hell!” And there was also an air force sergeant who also thought that it was safest to stay in the cellar. And I said: “Yes, now maybe but what about later on?” And others thought they would rather try and get through the breakthroughs. And I said: “Make up your minds. If you want to try the breakthroughs, fine, but I will go above ground. Those who want to try, come with me.” Then I searched for my wife in the house because she was gone when I came up. So I asked several people I didn’t know whether they had seen my wife who had been standing here? Well, a few people had just run away from here, they said. The house opposite started leaning towards us and it collapsed so that our gate was blocked too. So I said to myself: There’s no point hanging around and got on my way. I still believed that my wife was ahead of me.
I went left and wanted to go to the Wall. But there was Bornmann’s building and Bechtel’s which collapsed. So I had a look through Kruggasse. It was passable but the fire was fierce. The flames came shooting out left and right so that I ran through up to the corner. And then a house collapsed in Müllergasse. So I turned right into Müllergasse and went as far as Schäfergasse and then more people came. Together we went to Holländische Straße and Holländischer Platz to the bunker in Henschel’s main building. And then I went under a roof which was sticking out and lifted the grate and we went into the cellar of the building. And women came with two children and I helped them down as well. And as we got there, there were already a great many people, I was taken directly to a doctor and he treated my eyes. I couldn’t see a thing for three days. I stayed there until the following morning. Then they put some more drops into my eyes and then I went to Sommerweg to my in-laws. There too I asked whether my wife had arrived – the in-laws’ house was badly damaged but they weren’t bombed out. And I only heard: No, she wasn’t there.
So I ate a piece of bread and had some coffee and then I went to the police. And they only had a hundred soldiers to clear up. I told them exactly where the entrance to the cellar was but they could not do anything because they had no water and the ruins were still smouldering. And so they did nothing for six days. Then they dug out the stairs to the cellar and brought the dead bodies out. Altogether there were 80 bodies in Kastenalsgasse 7 and 5 because more people had sought refuge there. But my wife was not among them. So I thought you’d better have a look yourself and a soldier came with me who was also looking for his wife (Frank) – he had just come on leave. I had taken a light and a hoe with me. And then the son of the Baker Diehl, on the corner, said to me: “Here on the floor is your wife’s ID.” And there was also the ration card which we found in the cellar of no 9.
So I went through all the cellars where the water was standing a foot high because people had opened the taps to get water and to cool themselves down. And in the same cellar, there was a heap of old rags, blankets. And as I pulled them apart with the hoe, the soldier says to me: “Look, there are all kohlrabi underneath!” But they were skulls, browned by the heat. And in the water, we also found feet in shoes, they had not been burnt. And a few ribs were also there. But none of the shoes fitted to my wife. I did not find a trace of my wife. The people were all lying in a heap. Maybe they had been trying to get through the breakthrough and then a big suitcase had blocked the way. And then they fell on top of each other – that’s at least what I think.


Vermisstensuchstelle des Oberbürgermeisters der Stadt Kassel, “Ernst Exner,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 9, 2023,

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