Recollections of World War II veterans and civilians .
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Features the personal accounts and recollections of they who witnessed the horrors of
World War II. Included are chronological accounts of war events corresponding with
people's memories of their experiences, as well as rare photographs.
The stories tell the diversities between the nationalities on the European continent.
Hildegard Elisabeth Emmerich ( *1925), remembers the night of the most devastating bombing
of Hanau, Hessia, in the early morning hours of March 19, 1945. Her hometown, a bustling
city which was founded in 1303, would never be the same. The ferocious bombing destroyed
90% of this beautiful city..
"I remember coming home late from a get-together at the home for
children where I was working at the time. I was very tired and fell asleep
instantly. All of a sudden, I recall my mom trying to wake me up. She said
she felt something was going on, but tired as I was I remember brushing
her off by saying, 'Ah, you’re just imagining things!!!' My mom, however ,
didn’t relent. She grabbed me and told me to go down to the basement. By
this time even I was able to hear the purring engines of the planes and in no
time little flares were falling from the sky illuminating the dark night. Mom
and I, with one suitcase, rushed to the basement to seek shelter. With our
neighbours, we huddled together while we could hear the deafening noise of the falling
bombs... A minute seemed an hour long and I can’t quite remember how long we actually
stayed down there... I do, however, recall my brother ( who at this time was working in an
ammunition factory in Kassel) saying to us that we should get out to an open space as soon
as the rubble comes down… He had also warned us not to go to the air raid shelter of the
Goldschmiedehaus, as he feared we could suffocate there... Well, we followed his advice as
soon as the rubble fell. Mom and I ran out and the picture that presented itself to us was one
of the most horrible things I have ever seen: Everything was in flames, some of our
neighbours bodies were strewn around. Due to the phosphor bombs they looked like
burned tree stumps, very small. My mom , who was only wearing her housecoat was so
shocked that she didn’t move. Although our house was already engulfed in flames, I ran up
to get another suitcase... I then told Mama to get to an open space. Mama, though, was still
sitting down and staring aimlessly at our burning town. She was in shock. In order to get her
into safety I had to slap her twice to get her moving.We both rushed to an open space where
more people had gathered... Most of them had lost their homes like we did…. But- we were
alive. When most of the flames were extinguished, I went back to the remains of the house I
was born in and posted a note for my brother as to where he could find us. While posting the
note to my brother, Hans, I also found out that the people who had taken shelter in the air
raid bunker had suffocated as well as the people who had stayed behind in our basement…
Yes, Hans saved out lives although he wasn’t with us… After posting the note, Mama and I
left for a little town a few kilometers away where my Tante ( Auntie) Gretchen was nice
enough to take us in. After all, we had nothing but two suitcases left... Two days later
though, we had the most wonderful reunion possible: My brother Hans of course had heard
about the destruction of Hanau and had hurried back as fast as he could, worried to death
about Mama and I. Hans read my note and I still remember when the door opened at Tante
Gretchen’s. We all fell into each other’s arms and cried. We still had each other…"