Emil E

Title

Emil E

Description

Emil E's account of the events at Schäfergasse 21, Müllergasse, Pferdemarkt.

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

1944-05-26

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 94
BKasselVdObmv10094

Coverage

Conforms To

Spatial Coverage

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

Translated from the original in German: Present is Emil E., warehouse supervisor, born 24 March 1902 in Kassel, formerly of Pferdemarkt 27, now of Bahnhofstraße 228, Zierenberg, and makes the following statement:
I am the leader of several blocks and I belonged to local group Altstadt. My command post was in Schäfergasse at the back of the food wholesaler Weber. On the evening of terror, I was at home and was doing my paperwork. I had a dairy shop at Pferdemarkt. Then the alarm came. My wife ran the business, I had been working for Strippel and Heller for eight years. I took my family down to the cellar immediately. But I had no idea that it would be such a massive attack. I also brought the other people living in the building down to the cellar quickly, out of caution.
I then made my way as fast as possible to my command post in Schäfergasse. The attack took me by surprise in lower Schäfergasse. It was very dark, not a single person on the street. All the searchlights were directed at an airplane which was caught in their lights. And our ack-ack shot as much as the barrels could fire. Then the sky was immediately illuminated by flares and markers and then the first bombs started dropping. I could barely get myself to safety. But then, in the yard of the wholesaler’s, I received such a blow that I landed on the ground. I got back on my feet and got into my bunker in a flash. You can jump that far, I learnt that. Here, in the command post, were about 80 people, mainly women and children, and my party squad, about ten men, and the squad of the air raid warden George.
People were still fairly quiet; the uniforms above all had a calming effect on them. About twenty minutes after the attack had started, acrid smoke started to get into the cellar vault. I ran out immediately into the yard towards Schäfergasse and discovered that all the attics around the yard were already on fire. Incendiaries and phosphorous canisters were lying in the yard and burning pieces dropping from the roofs started to block our way into Schäfergasse. The blockbusters had probably been dropped already. I only informed my deputy Seligmann so as not to cause a panic. I made my way discreetly to the second exit in Königsstraße and informed the self-protection squad leader George. We discovered that that exit too was completely buried. We could only see smoke and burning ruins. We were caught as in a mousetrap.
I went back into the cellar and calmed people down and said: “Keep calm, we’ll get out of here, I’ll make sure of that. As far as the smoke is concerned, it comes from the burning buildings around us. But that is not so dangerous!” I knew exactly, however, what was happening. I therefore gave my orders and discussed with that George chap how we could get out again. Bombs were still dropping, we could hear that. Listen, at any rate we made our way through the rooms in the cellar towards the wall where the plywood depot was on the other side, on Schäfergasse. Here I had a manhole opened big enough for a single person to get through. The wall was at least a foot of concrete. Because I was thinking of my family, the work did not go fast enough for me. I took the pickaxe and made the hole myself. I can name Mr Käseweber and party comrades Peorge, Barte and Terjung and Seligmann as witnesses for that. We really managed to break through the wall. I went through first to see whether the way was free. And we were lucky because the depot was not on fire yet.
I went out first through the exit to Bremer Straße and discovered that it was a sea of flames around us. Every now and again individual people ran down Bremer Straße towards the Wall. They only had blankets around them, dripping with water. I thought briefly and decided not to lead people down Bremer Straße but through the breakthroughs of lower Schäfergasse as far as Köhler’s bakery. I was certain that none of the people would have followed me outside into Bremer Straße because they would have been too scared. I immediately made my way to the people waiting for me. They were all waiting for me; no one had gone outside. And then I discovered that people started to feel faint and fall because of the smoke. So I gave the order to lead women and children through the hole into the plywood depot in Schäfergasse. I managed to get every single one out of there. But this was only because of the effort of my squad. I had to be brutal and violent because people did not want to leave. I discovered later that we had been really lucky because twenty minutes later the plywood depot had collapsed and was ablaze.
In all the buildings on the left side of lower Schäfergasse, towards Müllergasse, all the communities of building residents were still in their cellars by eleven o’clock and they were all alive. Everywhere was acrid smoke and not enough air to breathe. Men, women and children were sitting on chairs and benches, wet cloths in front of their mouths, the eyes bandaged, even the children, and all were acting in the belief: We are safe here in our cellars. Here too we had to use brute force and my squad made great efforts to clear the cellars and to make people get out towards Müllergasse (through the Marienfeld pharmacy and Köhler’s bakery, the corner-house on Bremer Straße). In that house I met many people who had saved themselves there from the street. All powers of persuasion were not enough to add weight to my orders. People were afraid of the firestorm. On the spur of the moment I went out into the street. I saw that the whole of Müllergasse was on fire, Schäfergasse too and that the upper part of Müllergasse, which leads to the Pferdemarkt, had already collapsed. I went back into the house and told the people there that I was sure that the girls’ school at the Wall was not on fire yet and that would be our salvation. Because the corner houses were also on fire, everything was ablaze. I consulted my squad and then we took action and drove the people on the street, again with the use of brute force. That’s how they saved their lives.
During that time I ran to Müllergasse where my family was. There was quite a bit of debris on the ground. When I came to the junction with Kruggasse, the whole of the wall of the building on the corner fell across it so that I was unable to climb across the burning heap of rubble. I went immediately back to the Golden Lion [a pub] and tried to get to Kruggasse through the breakthroughs in the cellars so as to get to Müllergasse. This route was also blocked because the cellar had caved in when the corner house collapsed. I noticed here too that the people living in the houses were still assembled in their cellars (on the left side seen from the Wall). I managed also to get most them out of their hiding places by directing my people. Some of the cellars were dark, others still had electric light. The whole kerfuffle happened between half twelve and midnight. As the main witnesses of my actions I can name Mrs Brehm from the furniture shop. I continued my actions and brought people to the Wall regardless.
Müllergasse and Schäfergasse were impassable and the all the throughways to Pferdemarkt were blocked and it was impossible to get through. I therefore had to fall back together with the others to the school at the Wall and towards morning it became clear that I had lost my family.
The following morning I reported in Renthof to the local group leader, party comrade Werner. He was very pleased that I was still alive. I immediately reported for duty and directed the rescue operations at Pferdemarkt, Müllergasse and Schäfergasse together with party comrade Flohr. And then came the saddest part. We found mainly many children in those cellars. Many were unrecognisable; the horse butcher Herrmann in Schäfergasse was completely incinerated and had shrunk to about half a meter. They were like dolls. Other bodies were terribly bloated and defaced. Others were easy to recognise, as if they were still alive, but all were dirty and blackened. Several days later, I got an SS squad to break open the cellar of Eisen-Ketsch in Müllergasse and here we discovered that more than a hundred people had met their deaths. When we broke the cellar window, we felt a great heat and blue-ish fumes started to escape. We had to wait until eight the following morning until we could bring the bodies out.
Unfortunately, everything was still smouldering. In the afternoon, we were in there, the bodies were lying in rows in the cellar. I had myself roped up because I had the greatest interest in finding my wife and child. But it was impossible to find anything. You could only count up to fifteen and then had to get out again. I’d guess that that when the oxygen came in when we opened the cellar, the heat ignited everything. We found remnants of bones and rings but we could not recognise anyone.
That’s pretty much it. I did ten days rescue service but then gave up as I had a nervous breakdown.

Citation

Vermisstensuchstelle des Oberbürgermeisters der Stadt Kassel, “Emil E,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed November 18, 2019, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/8952.

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