Fritz Hundhausen

Title

Fritz Hundhausen

Description

Fritz Hundhausen's account of the events at Essiggasse 6 (Inn ‘Stadt Frankfurt’), air raid shelter at the Karl Hospital.

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

1944-06-21

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 99
BKasselVdObmv10099

Coverage

Conforms To

Spatial Coverage

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

Translated from the original in German: Present is Mr Fritz Hundhausen of Essiggasse 6, born 10 March 1917 in Kassel, commercial employee, and makes the following statement:
I was on special leave from 20 to 26 October and stayed with my wife at the time. I am the son-in-law of the innkeeper Paul Nube. For days before [the attack], alarm had been given, always around the same time and therefore we paid of course attention to the radio stopping that evening too. At that time, we had mainly elderly regulars as guests who now, after the terror, stay away, more or less all of them. So because there was an alarm very night, we got ourselves ready when the radio stopped. No one had an inkling on that evening that it was going to be a special attack.
About eight, the red alarm came. The first thing was to get all our relatives into the shelter and the necessary luggage. People were already fairly agitated and there was a much bigger throng in front of the shelter than on previous evenings. The regulars left our inn immediately and went home or to the shelter. I stayed back, as the last one, to observe the sky. All the others went to the shelter carrying their heavy luggage and handbags. People took the most important things with them. I had no idea that that there really would be an attack because it took a while before I could hear the first bombers. After a while I saw from the street that individual searchlights were illuminating the sky. Then they suddenly caught one in their lights. And the ack-ack was firing as if in a frenzy and shortly after the bombs were dropping. But not in our neighbourhood. I can’t say where. You could hear the whooshing and the explosions.
I then ran quickly to the shelter. The door was free but I had to knock in order to get in. In the shelter, people were already a bit flustered. At first, they were all silent. Everyone followed their own thoughts. They were all composed. But the whooshing of the bombs and the shooting of the ack-ack made them flinch eventually and cower under the benches. Many of them wanted to get out come what may, they did not want to stay in the shelter, even if they would die. I went out every now and again to see what the old town looked like. The first time we looked, we saw lights in the sky, probably from the so-called Christmas trees. Individual buildings were already on fire; the building opposite the inn, in Packhofstraße, was one of the first to go up in flames. Then others started burning on Fliegengasse.
The air in the shelter was getting worse and stuffier because it was overcrowded (there were 1,800 people in there instead of 800). I asked people to be quiet so that they would not use what little oxygen there was too quickly through their talking. The majority saw the sense in this. But some of them kept interrupting. I was still wearing my Lance Corporal’s uniform. Some absolutely wanted to leave to save their possessions. They would only let men out, however, and they would not be let back in; they had to stay outside for deployment. My brother-in-law, Hans Kistner – he has died since of smoke poisoning as a result of that terror attack – had originally been deployed in the Schminke building (on the corner of Altmarkt and Fischgasse). He had run down Essig-gasse, through the fire, to the inn, to see how far that was already on fire. He was already fairly exhausted when he came to our shelter and shouted: “All the men – out! We can still save a lot!” Some men with courage followed his call. This was shortly before the attack stopped. The women, on the other hand, all wanted to leave because they are more attached to their belongings. But they did not let the women out. The raid was over by now and the first view of the outside was terrible. There was fire everywhere. ‘Stadt Frankfurt’ was still dark, compared to other buildings.
I got the people from our building together and we went in and looked in the attic to see whether there were any signs of fire. Fires had started in all corners of the house, through flying sparks and incendiaries which my brother-in-law had already chucked out of the window. The most important thing in all the flats was to pull down the nets and to get all the flammable things away from the windows. Some window frames were already on fire but we put them out with water which we had already put there. But it wasn’t enough and when we had put out the fire on one window, another started burning again. I ran back to the shelter to see what had become of the people there. I was assailed with questions: “Is our building on fire? What is happening to our building?”
The air in the shelter had become bad because of the fierce fires so that people were ordered by the police to leave the shelter. The way to ‘freedom’ was very difficult for the women and children. Most of them were scared by the sight of the fire so that they did not want to leave. They had to hold wet cloths to their faces. Some of them even jumped fully clothed into the water vats. The police led them to the Fulda River past burning buildings and falling roofs. They could not walk along the Schlagd, however, because the dredgers and cranes of the firm Freudenstein were ablaze. The only path remaining was the one through the riverbed to the Rondell. We were lucky that the roller weir had been destroyed as the bed of the Fulda River was empty because of this. People waded through the mud to the Rondell.
When I knew my relatives were in safety on the Rondell, where all the other people from the shelter came together, I went back to the house.
Most of those fighting the fire had been blinded by the smoke which got in their eyes. I went looking for the soldiers who had meanwhile been brought in. Some of them were prepared to help us and that was very important. Because we would not have been able to withstand the smoke and the fumes much longer and then our building would have burnt down after all. For the soldiers, the pub was welcome. They were able quietly to quench their thirst and smoke cigarettes. That kept them with us for a while. They took it in turns to put out the flames which kept coming back on the top floor and the staircases. By seven in the morning we therefore thought that the house had been saved. We could not sleep in the house. The walls had burst. We also had to see a doctor because of our eyes. The following night, those people from the house who had stayed, my wife, her sister and my brother-in-law, slept in the shelter. The men had mainly stayed back but the women had been evacuated. One man stayed in the house as fire watch. At half ten that night he came running to the shelter and shouted: “The house is on fire again!”
You could say that we ran back to the house as we were and were horrified to realise that the fire on the second floor was already quite big. We didn’t have any water except for two buckets which were standing under our taps and had been filled by dripping water. The women ran down to the Fulda and fetched water in buckets and fought the fire constantly. We no longer believed that we would be able to save the house. Nevertheless, we didn’t lose heart and after a few hours we had extinguished the fire far enough to be able to approach the source of the fire. There were beams in the walls and the floor which were smouldering and spraying sparks. There was nothing else to do, we had to rip out the beams to have peace at last. We were all really exhausted after this struggle with the fire. I patrolled all the sources of fire with my brother-in-law, Fritz Emde, and touched them with our finger tips to be sure that all the fire had been extinguished. We could finally go and sleep in the shelter. A watch stayed, however, in the house.
We met our brother-in-law, Hans Kistner, and his wife on Saturday morning at the Rondell. He had been blinded by smoke. We dragged ourselves to a place where we could have our eyes treated. On Friedrichsplatz was a doctor who put drops in our eyes. That gave us some relief. But only sleeping in the dark and in good air would restore our sight. My brother-in-law went with his wife and his in-laws to relatives in Gudensberg. He started working again at Fieseler but was always dizzy and died on 18 February 1944 from smoke and blood poisoning. He was buried in Kassel on the cemetery near Holländische Platz. We stayed in the shelter for another eight days and then also moved to Gudensberg. As we were approaching Easter we could move back into our house on Essigstraße and re-open the pub.

Citation

Vermisstensuchstelle des Oberbürgermeisters der Stadt Kassel, “Fritz Hundhausen,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed November 13, 2019, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/8957.

Item Relations

This item has no relations.

Can you help improve this description?