Kitty Michel

Title

Kitty Michel

Description

Kitty Michel's account of the events at Platz der SA (Housing Inspectorate), old Lutheran church am Graben.

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

1944-05-17

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 90
BKasselVdObmv10090

Coverage

Conforms To

Spatial Coverage

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

Translated from the original in German: Present is Miss Kitty Michel, born 26 February 1891, of Druseltal 2, and makes the following statement:
It was eight o’clock. All the staff reported: two workmen from the old town; when the alarm came, a third man joined us. Driven by some anxiety, the staff went down to the cellar to check that everything was in order. We noticed that the common room of the shelter was filled with the smell of gas which was seeping in from the boiler room next to it. I gave the order to open the air vents. That’s when the full alarm came. Two people took care of getting rid of the smell of gas. I went with one of the watchmen to the front door of Marställer Platz. Everything was quiet. After about five minutes the searchlights came on, on all sides, and after another ten minutes, we could hear engine noise approaching from afar. The noise became stronger and stronger. At approx. 20 past eight, I could see the first bombs dropping and I could see phosphorous canisters burst on the roofs of the lower new town.
I returned into the house immediately and ordered that fire extinguishing equipment be made ready. On the square outside, you could hear the police shouting: “Large-scale attack in progress!” They shouted on Königsplatz and everywhere. Because of this, two of the men went up to the ground floor, equipped with fire extinguishers. The enemy planes were flying over the old town. The tremors in the house made us aware that the first bombs had dropped on buildings. The Housing Department was the first to be on fire; phosphorous canisters were dropping through, doors and windows were torn open and it was impossible to go up in the stairwell because smoke and fumes from the neighbouring buildings and ours got into all the rooms. The building could not be saved. It was impossible to stay in the building. The firefighters therefore went down to the cellar and tried to get through the breakthroughs. This was not possible because the neighbouring buildings (half-timbered houses) had fallen down and there was too much smoke. In the direction of Schloßplatz, everything was on fire. We therefore only had one way out left: With a great effort we managed to get onto Marställer Platz. The stairwell was already destroyed and the entrance hall had collapsed.
Here, we were met by the police. The men tried to get into the Aue. As the attack was still underway, however, and because I thought getting through to the Aue would not be possible, the police took me on the fastest route to the shelter underneath the old Luther church at Am Graben. With great difficulty we reached the cellar through flying sparks, and over burning beams, and I was glad to be safe for the time being. It may have been around nine that evening. I saw several hundred people from the old town, women, children, old men and an especially exemplary leadership of the shelter: local party group leader Werner, the sexton Pinkenburg and the businessman Krummel. They did their utmost, they constantly controlled the cellar, checked the exits, for example, which had fire in front of them, and calmed people down in exemplary fashion. Tongues and throats became dry through the dust which came in. In the cellar – they are old cross vaults made of brick – you could hear the constant drop of explosives and blockbusters. The cellar shook, it was easy to believe that it would be impossible to escape from that hell.
I asked the local party group leader whom I knew through work, whether we would ever be able to get out of the cellar? He said that they knew what it looked like outside. “We will do everything to lead people out of here as soon as possible.” By now, the smoke was burning in our eyes. The pain was reduced somewhat by holding wet cloths to the mouth and cleaning out the eyes. You could barely see out of your eyes. There were terrible fumes in the room. People had become anxious through the shaking of the room and through the smoke and the dust. The children were screaming constantly, the mothers were jumping up with every explosion. The older people were exhausted and were lying on the beds. It was very irritating that the doors to the shelter were pulled open with great force while the bombs were dropping, so that people thought the whole thing would cave in. Then clouds of smoke and dust came in. The lights had stopped functioning early on. The water supply worked until the end.
When the drone [of the planes] was getting less, people urged the shelter leadership to let them out. Provision had already been made that women and children should leave the cellar first. I helped them with moving prams and suitcases so that they would get to the front quickly. Mothers were holding their children by their hands or carrying them on their arms. There was a long corridor with a bend. We reached the exit through that. A few minutes later they came back because the exit was blocked by smouldering beams and fire. So the shelter leadership fetched sand and water to create a way through the fire. Then we were told: “The brave-hearted first!” We were told that everyone was to wet their clothes in the vats and should wrap wet cloth around themselves. Next to me was old Mrs Kühlmeier from Tränkepforte ½. I took her by the hand and pulled her with me to the exit. I was the first one out.
The flames were shooting out at us from both sides. We ran quickly through the flames and to the stone porch of the rectory. Above us, everything was ablaze – just imagine! At the porch stood a policeman and he directed us to run as fast as possible past the fires on Marställer Platz and through the indescribable firestorm. You had to be quite brave to follow that instruction. But the idea that we would get under free sky drove us forward. Forward all the way to the Rondell on the Fulda. Here too stood a policeman who gathered the refugees from the old town. I looked back and observed that people from the shelter were running after us and was horrified to see that the whole of the old town was on fire. The court building, the Schloßplatz, Tränkepforte, Marstall, Wildemannsgasse, Brüderkirche, Renthof, it was one sea of flames and an indescribable firestorm. The exhausted people were put on the lawn in front of the courts and given first aid. All the other ones were sent up to the Court building. Here, we were met by soldiers and they led us in single file across bomb craters down the steep slope on the River Fulda to the mouth of the little Fulda. Here more soldiers stood and helped women and children to get across the water to the other side. We could not use the Löwen Bridge because all along the government building was one crater after another. A large number of people went through under the old Löwen Bridge on the right, towards the theatre hill and from there to the meadows along Affenallee.
It was touching that people still showed some calm and composure after that terrible experience; I did not hear a single reproach or accusation. Everyone had salvaged something, the most precious were the little children. They were carried on people's backs in rucksacks or laundry baskets out of the city. Everyone went calmly and quietly to the holding areas as directed. From the Affenallee we could see that the upper new town, the old town, the Frankfurter Tor and even the restaurant in the Aue Park were on fire.
After an hour’s rest alongside the refugees from the old town most of whom I knew – they had already greeted me in the shelter with a big hello! – as they saw me now, they were crying and saying: “We have no homes anymore!” I comforted them and said: “We will rebuild and then the Housing Department will work again and you all will have lovely flats again!”
Then I tried to get home via the Philosophenweg. This was impossible, the corner of Frankfurter Straße was ablaze. It was the same in Tischbeinstraße. So I returned to the Aue. Along Landaustraße, there were many bomb craters which made it impassable. Then I tried Wittichstraße, up to the Auefeld. Then I crisscrossed Wehlheiden. In Kantstraße, I had to take cover in a house because duds were going off nearby. Then I got to Wilhelmshöher Allee. I passed burning houses and fleeing, crying people. At the Wilhelmshöhe train station, there were great fires and much damage. The bridge was nevertheless passable. Because of the fires, Landgraf-Karl-Straße was impassable. So I turned back to Wilhelmshöher Allee and made my way to Baunsbergstraße, fires on both sides, people who had to watch from the street as their buildings were burning down, until I got to the Wahlershäuser church where the police had cordoned off the street. A blockbuster was lying there and it had turned the houses, tram and the overhead wire into a terrible tangle. After half an hour, I was allowed to pass.
And here I could observe the steady arrival of vehicles and rescue parties from the surrounding towns and villages. Looking back on the city you could see a grim picture. Our beautiful Kassel was burning and the wind drove great clouds of smoke into the distance.
It was about four when I arrived at my flat. The building where we lived was still standing, my siblings were alive and were preparing to go into the city and look for people who could stay with us. The flow of people leaving the city must have lasted for a fortnight. The organisations of the party helped people. Cars came, carriages drawn by horses and oxen, lorries; it was a crying shame to see all that.

Citation

Vermisstensuchstelle des Oberbürgermeisters der Stadt Kassel, “Kitty Michel,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed November 21, 2019, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/8942.

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