Wilhelm Galenbeck and Karl Bunge


Wilhelm Galenbeck and Karl Bunge


Wilhelm Galenbeck and Karl Bunge's account of the events at Obere Karlsstraße 18, Karlsplatz 2 (Youth Welfare Offices and print shop).



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Record 85


Translated from the original in German: Present are the book binder Mr Wilhelm Galenbeck, born 2 July 1884 in Kassel, and Chief Inspector Karl Bunge, born 6 October 1877 in Leipzig, and make the following statement:
We were on watch duty. I was the person in charge and Mr Galenbeck was there too. We were sitting comfortably in our guard room and were reading our newspapers when we received a message from the warning centre in the town hall: air alert 15. We got ready to make our way in the cellar because the alarm came. Mr Galenbeck took the telephone with him and reconnected it downstairs. Then we went out on the street again and the searchlights were moving and you could see airplanes in their lights. One turned off towards Söhre. The other flew in direction of Fürstengarten. This one was being shot at. It was giving signals in various colours. Then you could see how the famous Christmas trees were being set. And at that moment, the bombs started to drop. That’s when we ran into the cellar. People who lived in the buildings in the neighbourhood were already there and a squad of paramedics from the emergency services from the building. Then we tried to get a connection with the phone but that was impossible. The behaviour of the people in the cellar was impeccable. They were really calm because the walls of the cellar were so strong that you could hardly hear the explosions. Some of the children cried of course. When the noises got really loud, you could see some of the people flinch. We quietly made our rounds and took the children in our arms and calmed people down.
I can’t remember times. The light had gone out. We switched the torches on. Then we heard knocking from the adjoining building (no. 16). So we opened the breakthrough. About fifteen people entered the cellar: men, women and children. We also opened the other breakthroughs towards Karlsplatz, and not before time, because the people in the cellars there were looking for shelter because the collapse of Karlskirche had created much anxiety among them. I managed to get them into the cellar of the Youth Welfare Office through the breakthrough in Lottermoser’s big wine cellar. Because it was dark, I made them walk in single file, each with their hand on the shoulder of the person in front of them. Because we tried to find out whether more people looking for shelter were left in the cellar at Karlsplatz, Mr Galenbeck and I walked several times more through the wine cellar. It was spacious and full of nooks and crannies, a right labyrinth towards Karlsplatz, and we noticed that the exit leading from the wine cellar to the yard of the Youth Welfare Office was buried and that phosphorus was seeping into the cellar through the joints between the bricks. Much of the packing material – straw sleeves, wooden crates for the wine bottles, corrugated cardboard and sacks too – had caught fire and together with the people from the paramedic squad, we fetched water from the air raid cellar and used it to put out fires where we could not just do it with sand and stones. Because we had also moved easily flammable materials, there was no fuel for the fire anymore and it was contained to the stairs of the exit. The smoke from the fire had created some anxiety among the people in the cellar because it moved slowly over there (Karlsplatz no. 2/all people).
Every now and again we tried to get out through the main entrance of the cellar to salvage what we could find. But the bombs kept dropping so that we had to give up on that intention. The corridor in the cellar collapsed – the stairs were already on fire and the air pressure caused everything to cave in – we were forced to abandon our attempts at salvage. There was no immediate danger to the people in the cellar yet because the cellar was closed with two iron doors. When we realised that no further bombs were being dropped, and when we could see through the emergency exit that the town hall opposite and the buildings on its right were on fire, one of the emergency squad climbed up to the street, based on a prior agreement with us, in order to see what was happening. He came back very fast and advised me to evacuate the cellar. That is what we did. The man from the emergency squad and I (Bunge) climbed up to the street through the emergency exit and we stationed ourselves there in order to help the people in the cellar to get out. The building of the Youth Welfare Office was on fire down to the first floor. Mr Galenbeck had stayed in the cellar and urged people to leave. It was difficult because they wanted to go back as soon as they saw the fire. We drove them out with good words and with blows. I got many a kick myself because they thought I wanted to drive them to their deaths.
The two gentlemen outside took individual people over to the yard of the town hall and so I had to crawl out, too, to be able to pull people out. There were as many as 60 or 70 people by now. Then I went back into the cellar because no one wanted to come out. With the greatest vigour I managed to convince the apathetic to look for a way out. We managed to get all the people out of the cellar. I then walked round again and called out to make sure that no one had been left behind. I was the last to crawl out. When I stood on Karlsplatz, I did not know where I should go. I did however find the way to the yard by calling behind the town hall and the last ones pulled me with them, up Karlstraße and to the art gallery. Physically I was completely exhausted because it had required a great effort to get the people out of the cellar. I (Galenbeck) still live in Herkulesstraße 61 where my flat had been spared.
Bunge: I would also like to mention something else. After we had brought all the people out of the cellar, I helped with further rescue operations on the houses in Obere Karlstraße and with directing the refugees, who were wandering about aimlessly, from Friedrichsplatz, Wilhelmstraße, Königstraße and Fünffensterstraße. Friedrichstraße was still safe. You could not fight any fires because there was no water to be had, not even from hydrants.
I stayed with many hundreds of refugees in the free space in front of the State Museum where the heat was bearable although all the buildings around were on fire. I stayed there because I was unable to reach my flat in Heerstraße near the Wilhelmshöhe train station because Wilhelmshöher Allee and Hohenzollernstraße were still burning too fiercely. Smoke and flying sparks were bothersome and the lack of water to drink. When the first soldiers came down from Wilhelmshöher Allee into the city to help, I asked them whether the Allee was passable. And when an officer confirmed this, I started to make my way home. Half of the Allee was on fire up to Germaniastraße. From there on, the houses had only partly been destroyed by incendiaries. Only when I approached the Wilhelmshöhe train station did I notice larger fires again. No one fought the fires because there was no water. My building in Heerstraße 25 had been spared. In the neighbourhood canisters with phosphorus and incendiaries had destroyed some buildings. An aerial mine had dropped on the house of Mr Hartwig, a senior official with the railways, and it tore apart the innards of the house but the walls are still standing but it also blew the roofs off our buildings.


Vermisstensuchstelle des Oberbürgermeisters der Stadt Kassel, “Wilhelm Galenbeck and Karl Bunge,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 21, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/8938.

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