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Terror from the Sky
The air raid sirens sounded. It was dark in the streets of Stuttgart -Mitte. I heard bombs whistle through the air, falling towards the ground. There were explosions all around me. I could not make it to a shelter in time. I ran through the streets alongside another girl, trying to escape. I tripped on a loose paving stone and fell to the ground, face down. There was a deafening explosion, and a nearby building was shattered to pieces. Bricks rained down on me, and blood gushed down my face.
I jolted awake. It was only a bad dream. I raised up in my bed and rubbed my eyes, realizing that my life was now only a bad dream. My father had been killed in a bombing attack on Cologne last week, and my family had been devastated by the news.
I got up and entered the linen hall, grabbed a towel from one of the many shelves, and then walked into the adjoining wash room. I removed my night clothes and stepped into the shower. I turned the faucet handles and let the soothing water flow over my hair and face.
The drain backed up. Soon I was standing in several inches of water. Grandfather was having trouble with the drainage in the old house. A trench had been dug from the house to a free-flowing channel below the back yard. But the problem persisted.
I shut the water off. If it overflowed the low tiled shower basin, the entire second floor could get flooded. It was a quick shower but at least I had time to wash my hair and cleanse myself.
I dressed, putting on my white BDM blouse and standard dark blue skirt. I was ready for a new day.
Grandmother had breakfast ready in the kitchen. Sausage and eggs, our usual fare in the morning. I ate quickly and swallowed the powdered milk fast. I did not like artificial milk.
I went outside to wait for my mother. This was her shopping day, and she was going to Marktplatz to buy meat and vegetables.
It was a beautiful morning, as golden rays of sunlight filtered through breaks in the clouds. A slight breeze moved our porch chimes making a pleasant soothing sound. Apples were ripening on the stem, and I knew that it was nearing the time to pick them.
I went up the brick walk to the white gazebo, admiring Grandfather’s flower gardens that he planted on each side of the walk and around the gazebo. The sweet smell of flowers entered my nostrils.
Mother came out of the house in a long floral print dress with a white bonnet. I shook my head.
“Mother, not a bonnet! You dress so old fashioned,” I complained.
She looked at me and smiled. “Are these short skirts the girls are now wearing considered good fashion, Katherina?”
I grimaced. “We have to wear our skirts short in the BDM so that we can compete in the exercises. Your long dresses would only hinder movement in the types of daily activities we must complete.”
“These are certainly different times,” Mother sighed. “The youth of today are certainly misguided by all these new attitudes.”
I choked back my exasperation once again. “You must be careful in what you say, mother. Those words could get you into trouble.”
Mother gave me her sour look. “Let’s go, Kathe.”
We continued up the flower lined brick walkway to the front gate. A black wrought iron fence paralleled the street. The fence was high and kept my Grandfathers’ German Shepards from escaping from the spacious front yard. We opened the creaky gate and exited to the street. The gate clanged shut. We headed down the residential street and waited for the tram.
There were several people at the tram stop, including Franz, a man with peculiar mental impediments. He was sitting on a bench, rocking back and forth, humming. I would see him at the tram stop every morning at this time. He would call out my name and repeat it over and over. I gave him some coins from my pocket book and smiled at him.
“Hello, Frantz. How are you today?”
He put the coins in his pocket and continued to rock. “I am good, Kathe. I am good.”
Mother always glared at me when I gave him money. She did not believe in giving handouts.
We rode the tram to the central district. Mother went shopping on Marktplatz while I went to my BDM meeting at the new modern administration building a few blocks away. The building was five stories high. I walked up several flights of stairs to the fifth floor. The elevators were too slow for me, and I enjoyed the exercise.
I walked into the meeting room. I was the first one there, perhaps a little early. I waited at a large conference table for the other leaders to arrive.
My BDM leaders arrived at 8:30 am. The meeting was under way immediately. We discussed memberships, promotions, and future camp activities at length. I listened carefully; being only a junior leader, I was still learning. I was put in charge of purchasing supplies needed for our upcoming sports competitions at Schlossgarten park. I was able to buy items at my Grandfather’s store for a discount.
I left the services building and immediately headed to the store. The street was crowded with shoppers.
I walked up Marktstrasse, a wide brick avenue, and made a right at Kirchstrasse. Where the streets forked stood the historic Stiftskirche, with its high clock tower. I glanced at the clock. It showed 10:20 am.
There were several shops and restaurants along the street, and it was busy with shoppers milling about in a carefree mood. Suddenly, air raid sirens sounded all around, and everyone panicked and ran for the underground shelters that were located in basements. Then there were loud explosions that rattled the windows of nearby buildings. As I ran towards a shelter, I saw a little girl who had fallen down on the red brick pavement, and she was crying and calling out for her mother. I reached down and picked her up and continued to run towards the stairs of the shelter.
We were not accustomed to bombing raids during the day, this was very unexpected, and terror gripped the central district. I continued to move forwards with the mass of people, down the steps into the bomb shelter, holding the girl.
Most of the loud explosions were from our own artillery fire, shooting up smoke bombs and flak to thwart the enemy bombers. Those big guns were just as frightening as the bombs that were about to drop on us.
The basement was dimly lit so it was difficult to see. Steel beams supported the ground floor above, which qualified this as a bomb shelter.
The little girl clung to my side. I was the only security she had. I picked her up and held her close, and she wrapped her arms around my neck.
We could still hear the ground guns firing at the enemy planes. However, there were no bombs exploding above us. We knew that it was the Americans, because only they were brazen or foolish enough to conduct daytime bombing.
I felt around in my handbag for some mint candy. The envelope with the money to purchase supplies for my BDM group was still there. Deeper down in my bag I found a piece of candy. I gave it to the girl.
“Danke,” she said, giving me an adorable smile.
“What is your name?” I asked, returning the smile.
“That is a beautiful name.”
The ground suddenly shook as several bombs hit somewhere near the heart of the city. Then we heard an airplane that was hit, the sound of its rapid descent, and the explosion as it crashed.
“I am afraid,” Annelise said, clinging to me tightly.
“It’s alright. It will be over soon,” I reassured her. “We are safe here.”
“Where is Mamma?”
“We will look for her,” I said. “She must be here.”
“I have Annelise here!” I shouted. “Where is Annelise’s Mamma?”
I repeated this several times but there was no answer. I tried as best I could to explain to Annelise the situation.
“The crowd was pushing and shoving to get to the shelter when the sirens sounded. When you lost Mamma, she must have been very frightened. The crowd probably caused her to become separated from you. I think she must be in another shelter nearby. Don’t worry, I promise that I’ll find her when the danger has passed.”
More bombs exploded; closer this time, shaking the building. Several children began to cry. Annelise snuggled even closer. Mothers were trying to comfort their frightened children.
Some men looked up at the concrete ceiling with concern. They talked amongst themselves, wondering if the ceiling would be able to remain intact with a direct bomb strike. We had never gone to these shelters before. Stuttgart had been a safe haven for most of the war. While places like Hamburg, Cologne, and Frankfurt were being pounded by air raids, Stuttgart had been untouched. The city’s location in rugged terrain made it a difficult target to bomb. But now it seemed like our luck had ended, as more enemy bombers were getting through our defenses.
The big guns fell silent. We waited for the all clear signal. It was almost 11 o’clock when it sounded, and everyone began to exit the shelter. I felt a sense of relief to be outside and away from the dark shelter.
Then I saw a woman wearing a scarf running towards us, screaming and tears streaming down her face. She called out to her child, and the little girl cried, Mamma! Mamma! I gave the child to the woman, and she thanked me over and over again for helping her little girl.
There was black smoke south of Marktplatz where most of the bombs had hit. I could hear the sirens of emergency vehicles in that area of the city.
I walked past the Stiftskirche and headed towards Konigstrauss. There was Grandfather’s store, in a brick and mortar building that was century’s old. I pushed open the glass door; it swung shut behind me.
“Grandfather! Grandfather?” I shouted.
“Yes, I am here, Grandfather.”
He came out from the storage room in the back of the store and walked up the aisle. We embraced, and I kissed his cheek.
Grandfather was a heavy-set man with a well-rounded belly, bald head, and he wore wire rimmed glasses. He had on grey trousers with suspenders over a white shirt.
I could hear the radio from the store room. It was turned up loud.
Grandfather coughed. “Where is your mother, Kathe?”
“She was shopping at Marktplatz when the air raid started. I’m sure she’s alright, she probably went to the shelter at the Rathaus.”
“Yes, I am sure she is fine.”
“What have you learned on the radio, Grandfather?”
“A few apartment buildings south of the central district have been hit. Many people are feared dead…”
“This is terrible news, Grandfather. Now we are being bombed during the day and at night!”
“Yes. Day and night non-stop. The war has come to us, Katherina.”
I reached into my bag and pulled out the envelope with the list of items needed for my BDM unit. I handed it to Grandfather. He looked it over.
“I am not busy now. I will fill your order, Kathe. I have all of these items in stock.”
I gave him the money, and he counted it. “That should cover it,” he said. “I will pack it in boxes. Go upstairs and get me some medium sized ones from the receiving area.”
I immediately walked up the old, creaky wooden stairs located to one side of the store at the back. The boxes that Grandfather wanted were on the second floor, but I continued up the dirty dimly lit stairs to the top floor. I entered a narrow room. I spent many hours up here when I was younger, and had many pleasant memories hiding behind the arched brick walls that supported the high ceiling.
I went back down to the second floor receiving area. There was a large open door there where trucks unloaded freight. This was raised up via a conveyor belt, which continued into the storage area.
I heard some men yelling outside down below. I was in a panic when I heard them, but I wanted to see what was happening. I walked closer towards the open freight door, hiding behind some boxes. I could see the men below, and they were shouting out commands. They were SS men, their uniforms confirmed this. I was very frightened. They were angry at some of the regular soldiers, and one SS officer hit one of them with his fist on the side of his head.
Stuttgart had its share of these elite troops. The SS would come to the city market place with their pompous loud rambling, telling us what to do, prying their noses into our business, taking people away into the night. I was terrified of SS men. Everyone would heave a sigh of relief when they left, because nobody wanted them snooping around, digging into our business. There always seemed to be some covert operation going on, and you did not want to get in their way when they arrived in their fancy-shiny black cars, jumping out and marching towards a shop where they might interrogate the owner, patrons or both. Yes, when the SS were around this always seemed to fuel discontent and suspicion, and I hated it with a passion.
I found the medium boxes and took them to Grandfather. He had already gathered several items, but he didn’t have enough tape to seal the boxes. I went back up to the receiving area to find some. It was very messy up there. Grandfather was usually more organized. There were several boxes sitting on the conveyor belt, and the sliding freight doors were not usually left wide open. I could see the stores across the street, and the sounds of the busy street below. The tape was in a desk drawer over by the freight door. I made my way to the bulky wood desk and opened the sticky drawer and grabbed a roll of tape.
I heard more shouting from the street. Looking out of the open door I saw four SS officers and some soldiers. They were directing a long line of prisoners. The forlorn men and women marched by quickly. There were also several children. I was shocked to see Franz near the end of the line of prisoners.
I felt revulsion and anger at the soldiers and SS men. This was a part of the Third Reich that I was beginning to detest; the forced removal of ethnic populations and undesirables from their homes. This policy of cleansing had been going on now for several years. Many people said that they were put into labor camps or sent out of the country. I could not express my feelings openly, to do so would jeopardize my family and status.
Why Franz? He never harmed anyone. He was a gentle, peaceful soul and he had lived in our community for many years. Now they take the sick and weak to the labor camps? How absolutely terrible.
One of the SS officers looked up and saw me through the wide-open freight door. He nudged his partner and pointed towards me. They seemed amused.
“Fraulein, come here. We have something for you!” The first SS officer shouted. They both laughed again. I darted behind some boxes and hid from them.
“Fraulein, come here now! We have a surprise for you!”
I peered through a gap between the boxes. They were staring up at the freight room, directly where I was hiding. They knew where I was. I felt panic sweep over me.
The first SS officer laughed again and hit his comrade on his arm and winked.
“We will come back for her later. I’m going to be watching her. She looks like a prime candidate for the Lebensborn program.”
They both heaved long boisterous laughter as they walked away. I was relieved that they were gone. I had heard reports of many BDM girls going to the Lebensborn clinics and getting impregnated by SS men. They all had blonde hair and blue or green eyes. I fit that category well. Most of the leaders in my BDM unit frowned on such practices. I was warned that some girls were now being coerced into the program; and bred to bear perfect Aryan babies to create a master race of blond haired, fair skinned people. I thought that these girls were from France or elsewhere. End of Preview. to purchase the book, click on cover at top
The public hall in Frankfurt is immense in size
Copyright © 2018 by R. David Anderson
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