Staff Sergeant Otto St

Title

Staff Sergeant Otto St

Description

Staff Sergeant Otto St's account of the events at Moltkestraße 7.

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

1944-05-22

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 92
BKasselVdObmv10092

Conforms To

Spatial Coverage

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

Translated from the original in German: Present are – exactly six months after the terror attack – the Staff Sergeant Otto St., born 22 October 1919 in Marktbreit, Lower Franconia, night reconnaissance pilot decorated with the Iron Cross, 1st class, and the Feindflugspange, and his wife Margarete, née L., born 13 March 1924, and make the following statement:
(The husband does the talking, his wife sits next to him without saying a word.)
22 October is my birthday. I came on leave early that morning to visit my wife. We had been married for a few months but were still living with her mother. When the alarm came, we made ourselves ready for the air raid cellar. I brought the necessary luggage from the third floor to the cellar. On the stairs, we met other people living in the building. They were all calm and no one thought it would be a massive attack. The women stayed in the cellar. I stood with some other men in the yard and we waited to see what would be coming. Ten or fifteen minutes after the alarm we observed a plane shooting off a green flare. I advised those present that it would be better to go down to the cellar now.
I was the last to enter the shelter. No one was left in the yard. We could already feel the first tremors caused by the explosions. Now people became agitated, particularly the women. They wailed and screamed and called for their husbands. The children were relatively quiet in comparison. The commotion got worse when heavy bombs dropped in the immediate vicinity. We could feel the air pressure. It pressed on the ears. Dust was blown up. The lights flickered but stayed on. I gave the order that people should kneel on the floor with their faces down, because of splinters and the foul air. Near the floor the air is always better. Because of the dust, people were already forced to put wet cloths over their mouths so that they could breathe. I left the cellar with some brave men to have a look as to whether the building and everything were still in order. It must have been half eight.
When we got into the yard through the corridor, flames were shooting out from the garage towards us. It seemed as if it had been hit by a phosphorous bomb. The petrol created explosive flames. A stack of wood was ablaze. The flames were also shooting out from the ground floor flat, from all the windows. Other floors had also started smouldering, the flames were licking all the way up to the attic. I crossed the hall and went to the front entrance and stepped onto Moltkestraße. From the windows on the ground floor the flames were shooting out even into the hall, they were like fire curtains. I stepped briefly onto the street. I could see that both rows of buildings were on fire. People came running towards us from the neighbouring buildings – we were still in the middle of the attack – because they thought they were safer where we were. So about 25 people came to us, mostly women, a few children; a three-year old was among them. I tried to get into our flat on the third floor. But it was impossible. The front doors of the flats were on fire on all floors and the stairs also started to catch fire. I returned to the cellar and tried to calm people down.
I had hardly got down there when we were shaken by a big explosion. There had been a hit in the immediate neighbourhood. No. 9, right next to us, had taken a direct hit. Bang, the lights went out. I ran with my torch towards the breakthrough to no. 9 and people from that house came towards me. Some of them had been buried under the debris. Some were injured. It may have been twenty people who escaped from their cellar and took refuge in ours. I also saw six to eight children and women. I just wanted to get back into the shelter when I heard the air raid warden tell people to get ready to leave the cellar through the breakthrough to no 9. Everyone ran towards the breakthrough. I had great difficulty stopping people because the escape was cut off through the collapse of the cellar. But the outcome had been that all the water in the cellar had been used up. Because people had soaked their coats and blankets. The number of people in the cellar had increased from seventy to about 180.
You could barely squeeze through. It also became uncomfortably warm. More and more smoke and fumes entered the cellar. I had the feeling that we would not save ourselves by staying in the cellar. I left the room again and went through the burning hall. A man came from the other direction. He shouted: “Don’t turn to the left, bomb craters in the street!” I gained the impression that the best way to go was towards Königstraße. The firestorm had already started. Sparks were raining down on the street. Flames were shooting out of all the windows. Burning debris was lying on the ground. I decided to leave the shelter and make my way towards Königstraße.
When I got back to the cellar, I explained to the people there that it was high time to leave the cellar. The situation was serious and staying was out of the question. I said: “Those who have the courage to follow me can walk behind me.” I would go first and lead but could not take responsibility for individuals. As there was no water left, I wrapped my mother-in-law in my air force greatcoat. About seven people followed me, among them Mrs Hammacher and her son, Fritz, and also Mrs Siebrecht. I walked ahead, supporting my wife and my mother-in-law. As soon as we stepped into the street, the firestorm burnt our hands so that we had to drop the blankets. Mrs Hammacher and my mother-in-law fell to the ground. I lifted them up. Then my wife fell and I had to lift her up. Fire was already on the ground and lay there in burning ash but sometimes the street was still free from this. But the sparks were flying everywhere in the burning wind.
We were separated a bit. Alternately, I supported my wife and my mother-in-law against the storm and rain of fire. I could no longer see Mrs Hammacher and her 13-year old. The following day they were found dead in the cellar and must therefore have gone back. Then I saw that my wife’s hat and coat were on fire. I tore them off her. My cap was on fire too. I threw it away. Then I saw 10 metres behind me my mother-in-law on fire. I wanted to run back when burning debris, a gable end or something like it fell on her and she disappeared behind a curtain of fire. I could no longer see her. I had to look after my wife. She was lying helplessly on the ground and begged me not to leave her. I laid myself on top of her to protect her from the flying fire so that she would not burn. Her knees, hands and face were already burnt. It was a moment – you can’t explain to anyone what we suffered and felt.
We wanted to live or die together. The will to live pulled up young blood once more. I took my burning wife on my burnt hands and carried her through the firestorm in the direction where I thought Königsstraße was. I couldn’t see anything and my eyes were swollen from the fire and the dust. I walked down Königsstraße in direction of the Henschel plant. I heard voices and turned towards them and got to the dugout in the garden of the synagogue. It was about half nine. I must have passed out for a short while but then came to again. My face and hands had third degree burns. My wife was a terrible mess. We lay there until five in the morning without medical help. Round about five we were taken to the shelter in the Henschel plant. A Frenchman fetched a doctor. Mrs Riedel and Hannelore Riedel had reached the dugout after us. But the ten-year old Hannelore died later anyway.
We were then taken to the Red Cross [hospital] and from there to hospital in Wildungen of which a part is operated by the army, and we are now in the hospital in Ansbach, where I come from, also a facility shared by civilians and armed forces. My wife is still being treated. Her hands won’t be able to work again. They are burnt and crooked. That’s our story.

Citation

Vermisstensuchstelle des Oberbürgermeisters der Stadt Kassel, “Staff Sergeant Otto St,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed November 17, 2019, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/8950.

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