Oskar Spieß


Oskar Spieß


Oskar Spieß's account of the events at Jägerstraße 1.



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Record 93


Translated from the original in German: Present is Oskar Spieß, master hairdresser, born on 2 April 1891 in Ascherode, formerly of Jägerstraße 1 (the salon was in Bahnhofstraße 15), now lodging with Liebehenz, Wilhelms-taler Straße 71 in Calden near Kassel, and makes the following statement:
I lost seven relatives in that night of terror, my wife and daughter…
At first I had no idea that Kassel would be the target of a massive attack. And as the attack started, the building in lower Königstraße which borders on ours, was immediately on fire. And the flames came into our coal bunker in the cellar. So I informed the other people in the building that I would stay in the coal bunker so as to prevent the coals from catching fire. We were the first in the cellar, my son’s father-in-law (my son was a British prisoner of war) and I. (The father-in-law is Mr Heinrich Wiegand.) People came down carrying heavy suitcases, my family too. We had already carried down a laundry basket. We had thrown our coats and jackets in it. Exactly thirty people from our building were in the cellar.
I tried to loosen the bricks of the breakthrough to the building which was on fire. Because I thought the people there could come over and take refuge with us. The people over there were already shouting through the first gaps: “We’re dying in this cellar! We can’t breathe for smoke!” So those people fled into our cellar. They came with their hand luggage but the lights had already gone out and it was difficult to see what was happening. We worked by torch light. Children had also come over into our cellar. Our air raid shelter was situated awkwardly because it was on the street corner. That’s why we mainly stayed in the corridors. They were solid and vaulted. Then the building next door, Jägerstraße 3, also caught fire. When we opened the breakthrough the people there shouted already: “We can’t stay here.” So we let those people also into our cellar. At the end, I estimated there were seventy people in our cellar.
Our house too was already on fire. So my son-in-law and I went back up and to get the bedding from our flat on the first floor. And then an incendiary dropped into the chimney and got stuck there. So I asked that the hole from which the chimney got cleaned be opened and filled with sand so that fumes would not get into our cellar. Then I said from the bunker where I was, because the fire had abated a bit: “Someone go out and have a look what’s happening outside.” Unfortunately, no one followed that request. I tried again a couple of times and finally said: “Well, if no one wants to go, I’ll go.”
I was not happy about this because I wanted to stay where the fire was. And when I reached the door to the cellar, my son-in-law (Christian Mantel): “Dad, do you want me to go?” So I said: “No. You take the boy from the pram (his son, Günter Mantel, 13 months old), wrap him in a blanket and as soon as I come back, you’ll have to follow me immediately.” So I ran to Bremer Straße and looked for a black spot in the sea of fire and I saw one at Holländische Platz and my eyes went to the left to the arsenal which was on fire but the entrance was still black. So I went back to the cellar and shouted to the people there: “Everyone out! Follow me!” And I went back to the middle of Jägerstraße and waited for them to come but no one did – so I went back to the cellar again and shouted again that they should come out and opened both wings of the door so that there would not be any holdups. But no one wanted to leave. I was alone on the street. It was still during the attack, about three quarters of an hour after the alarm. When I tried for the third time to get into the cellar in order make people leave, the flames already barred my way and I could not get to the cellar anymore.
So I went down Königstraße. There I met people from the house where Bär has his shop. They wanted to go up König-straße and I shouted out to them: “Are you mad? Walk away from the fire instead of into it!” Later, I met by accident someone from that building, a Mr Michel who worked for the municipal office for war damages, and he confirmed that all those who had run up Königstraße perished in the fire and that he and his family were saved because he ran towards the black with me.
When I reached Holländische Platz, it was impossible to get through because everything was on fire. But I wanted to get back to Jägerstraße, to our cellar. So I tried to reach it on indirect routes, via Möncheberg, Eisenschmiede, Quellhöfe, Holländische Straße, Mombachstraße, Unterstadtbahnhof, Wolfhager Straße and Sedanstraße – I could not go any further than that – a big military lorry stood there. It was bound for the main train station. So I said to the driver: “Me too.” And I stood on the running board and he drove up Sedanstraße into the sea of fire, up to Grüner Weg. And when he wanted to turn into Grüner Weg, the overhead wires was hanging across and he had to abandon the lorry and I ran from there through Grüner Weg to Lutherplatz. And just before I reached Lutherplatz, the gable of the house on the corner of Grüner Weg and Bahnhofstraße (Lutherkeller) came down and people on the Lutherplatz were shouting: “Run, the gable is falling down.” And the air pressure threw me the last twenty metres into Lutherplatz. And from there, I wanted to try again to get to Jägerstraße through Gießbergstraße but the army forbade this, unfortunately. So I lay down on the square next to the gravestones under the trees. The central nave was on fire and the fire brigade tried to protect the tower, which they managed to do. Because otherwise the people there would have had to flee again. But where to?
The following morning, when day broke, I made my way to Jägerstraße 1 through the debris in Gießbergstraße despite my swollen eyes. So I found someone else from our building (Hofmann) who had been working the night shift at Henschel, trying to open the exit of the cellar. And as we entered the cellar, we saw to our greatest sorrow, that everyone in the cellar was stiff and dead. We carried three bodies out first. They were completely stiff. Our landlord was among the first we carried out. The people had all been sitting one next to other, some on each other’s laps and had slowly gone to sleep and they were lying there as if they were asleep. And as we came close to the cellar doors, we saw that neither the doors nor the stairs were buried.
I had to travel to Frielingen near Hersfeld and informed the relatives as to what had happened to their father. Because my son’s father-in-law had been sent from that village to do war service in Kassel. On the Monday I returned and the remaining bodies had been carried out. So I went to the cemetery to identify my relatives. My grandson did not have the smallest mark on him, also no cadaveric poison as the policeman confirmed. I would be able to take the boy on my arm without risk and put him in his mother’s arms.


Vermisstensuchstelle des Oberbürgermeisters der Stadt Kassel, “Oskar Spieß,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 21, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/8951.

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