Grete G

Title

Grete G

Description

Grete G's account of the events at Große Rosenstraße 9.

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

1944-05-08

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 81
BKasselVdObmv10081

Coverage

Conforms To

Spatial Coverage

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

Translated from the original in German: Present is Miss Grete G., born 25 October 1917 in Kassel, now of Parkstraße 38 and makes the following statement:
On the evening in question, I was visiting a friend, Mrs Ilse Weber, in Große Rosenstraße 9. I was knitting a jumper when the sirens started wailing. I didn’t feel like going into the cellar. When ack-ack started shooting, we took the child and went into the cellar. It was a terrible din. Maybe fourteen people were in the cellar, mainly residents from the building, and a Hitler Youth leader from the self-protection troop stood at the door. So we sat down. After ten minutes a terrible cloud of dust came into the cellar and I got really angry about getting so dirty. I hadn’t imagined anything like that. And then came hit after hit and we had to wrap wet cloths around us. We took the baby’s nappies, soaked them in water and tied them so that they were in front of our mouths. After the first shots had been fired, we ran up again because we realised that this time, it would be serious. We fetched down some things, clothes. Then we heard stones falling and the Hitler Youth leader came back in and the air pressure had knocked him down a couple of times and he was bleeding from the head. My friend bandaged him with a nappy. When we ran up the stairs earlier, I was afraid, I was terribly afraid and my knees were trembling.
Then a few people tried to get out. I did not know the building and the cellar. A bit of wall had been knocked through; I suppose it was a breakthrough. And a few people crawled through that. And I ran with my friend up to the entrance hall but this was full of fire; she had the baby in a basket, and she said to me: “I can’t go on. Try it on your own.” But I stayed with her. So we went back down into the cellar. But everyone had gone with the exception of an old lady (Miss Bock) who lodged with my friend and she sat, godforsaken, on a bench under the cellar vault. The cellar was already full of smoke; we had to cough constantly and the light had gone out. The Hitler Youth leader was also still in the cellar. And I was spooked because there were so few people in the cellar but four people came back from the cellar next door because it had got a direct hit. And I told them: “Sit down over there!” That’s what they did. There was on old quilt lying on the floor which we used to stuff into the window opening to stop the smoke from coming in. My friend had to use the climbing irons as it was the emergency exit. And then she plugged the hole.
So we sat there for a while – I can’t tell you anymore how long – and then one of the four who had joined us fainted and started to groan terribly. And so I said to my friend: “Ilse, do you think we’ll die in here?” And she said: “Nonsense; don’t talk like that!” And then there was another terrible blow and I fell forward and I was out before I hit the floor. Then I must have come to again because as I felt around me, everything was lying on the floor. So I said to my friend: “I feel terribly cold!” And she said: “So do I.” And I went back to sleep and then I came around again. And then I had the feeling as if lots of bricks were falling on the Hitler Youth leader. He took his pistol and swore terribly and then shot himself. And I was so afraid that he would shoot me too and I positioned myself in defence. And he ranted: “Why do I have to struggle so much! We won’t get out of here anyway! Bloody hell!” And as I went back to sleep and woke up again, it felt as if my right arm had gone to sleep; it felt as heavy as a sack. So I used my other hand to lift it and move it up and down because I thought this will get the blood to circulate but the arm stayed as it was. It was a bit as if it wasn’t my arm at all. And then I asked: “Ilse, are you still alive?” And she answered very softly; “Yes!” The baby started to cough and to cry and I don’t know how long it took until the crying and coughing stopped. And when I touched the baby a little later, the legs were cold (five months).
And I tried several times to get up and pull the blankets from the holes so that we could see something because the darkness was terrible and the others were groaning loudly and I thought, I don’t have to groan. But maybe I just didn’t hear my own groaning. And then I felt sick and had to vomit several times and then I had something in my eye which felt like a knife and I kept shouting: “Someone pull this out of my eye or I’ll go mad!” And then I rubbed and it got worse but then I had to cry and the tears washed it out. It was all made worse because I knew: You won’t get out of here again! Then I tried to get up and managed to kneel and then I fell over again. And then I shouted at one of the soldiers to take the axe off the Hitler Youth leader and to use it to open the window and I said: “Give him a shout” and immediately corrected myself and said: “You don’t need to call him, he’s been dead a while.” But the others did not know that yet. I got the impression that I had been awake more often than the rest of them.
And then the sister of one the soldiers kept whining: “I will die, I will die!” And I was really brutal in that moment and said: “Shut up! My father will get us out of here!” I knew very well that my parents had no idea where I was but I was certain that I wouldn’t die and felt no fear of that. And then the soldier got up and went through a second door. He came back immediately, however, and said: “There’s such a terrible heat, we won’t get out of here.” We guessed later that this must have been about Saturday lunchtime. And then I had to vomit again. And the cellar had already half caved in. And I tried to get up again and feel around me and there was a rump, probably Miss Bock. And then I fell over again. And then someone kept kicking me in the head with heavy boots. I had bruises from that. And I said: “Stop kicking!” But the worst was the thirst. And then I slept and dreamt of leather bags – I can remember that.
And when I came to again, the others were talking. And I called for my friend but she didn’t answer. And suddenly the soldier shouts: “There’s fire in the cellar.” So he kicked some rags to one side and there was a torch which lay underneath. So he took the torch to his mother who was lying under a gasmask on an air raid bed and who was already dead. So the daughters grieved over her. And one of them said: “We have to get out of here, even if we get roasted.” And they pulled the Hitler Youth leader away from the door and put me on my feet. But I had no sense of balance and kept falling over. Then we opened the door and I said: “Look for my friend.” And as they shone a light on her, her eyes had rolled up and as he touched her hand, she was already cold. Strangely enough, I was very matter-of-fact about her death, which I could not understand afterwards because we had been very close. I could not understand it afterwards. At the time, I did not care much.
Then we climbed over the smouldering rubble, the soldier first, then me and then the sister who at first did not want to come. The soldier had taken me by my left arm because the other one was just dangling and the others held onto my clothes and kept pulling on them. One woman was the soldier’s sister, the other his cousin – they are now in Kolberg (their last name is Janus). I felt very odd and kept thinking ‘I won’t die’, maybe the others and I will be the only ones who survive. As the cloud of dust came, I thought: Thank God that you’re wearing old shoes and stockings. To have such petty ideas in the face of death! It was very odd and I was disappointed that I didn’t have greater thoughts.
So we got out of the entrance hall, two meters of rubble on the entrance hall and we stood on top of the smouldering rubble and could not get down. It was night above us, but there was air and I can’t describe how that felt. I think I sighed. We still thought that it was the same night. So we crawled more than walked to the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Platz, I don’t know why that was, but my knees kept buckling and I got annoyed about it but I could not do any better; I kept falling over. Be that as it may, as we stood on the square I thought: ‘God, what a sight! I am sure none of us are left. And I regretted that we’d come out. But then we lay on the lawn and it was wonderful that we could breathe again. And then came footfall and we shouted but I only heard things as if from a distance as if I had soap in my ears. We could also barely talk. One of us was completely hoarse. And then a soldier came and another man and they told us first that it was about eleven on Saturday night and we were shocked that we had lost a whole day.
So I asked what it looked like in town. And the said: “It’s really terrible, the same as here.” And then I asked after Hohenzollernstraße and they said: “Completely destroyed up to Annastraße.” And then I had hope that my parents might still be alive. And because I was so thirsty, I always opened my mouth so that the rain could fall in. The two wanted to bring us the bunker at the railway station. But that was so over-crowded that we made our way to the police lodgings in the labour exchange building. They did not have as much as thimble-full of water either; we nearly died of thirst. One of the two gave me a sweet; at least that produced a bit of spit. They also gave us some bread but I just wasn’t able to chew it. And my eyes hurt and were all puffed up. They put us on straw where we could lie packed like sardines. We were terribly cold. But I must have fallen asleep as some point anyway. And we were longing for the next morning. And the following morning I managed to get up on my own. And then I sniffed at my arm and thought it had been frozen but it was only the smell of the blanket I had been lying under.
At about six, the four of us went to our house and as we got to Parkstraße, I kept thinking: Please God, let our building still be standing! And it was still standing there. And suddenly I felt so strong, I ran up the stairs, would you believe it? Well, and then I was home again and with my parents and I lay down on the settee and cried but it was a good feeling, liberating, unending wellbeing and knowing yourself safe.
The arm had been paralysed by carbon monoxide but it’s getting better.

Citation

Vermisstensuchstelle des Oberbürgermeisters der Stadt Kassel, “Grete G,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed December 8, 2019, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/8934.

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