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To War With The Bays: The Bombing Of Leipzig

Heidi Kirsch, in a letter to her brother Hans, recalls the night bombs fell on Leipzing.

For more stories of civillian suffering in wartime please visit timewitnesses.org/

Dear Hans,
Do you remember your 12th birthday? Birthdays in our family were an important occasion, even in the middle of war in the winter of 1943. Our mother had baked your birthday cake and managed to find some presents for you. We children, your three sisters and your little three-year-old brother and you, especially, were looking forward to the celebrations, a special afternoon tea, and games afterwards.

Yet before we could celebrate something happened, something we had not experienced before. The war with all its terrors came frighteningly close. We had been used to frequent bombing alarms in the middle of the night, - been used to getting out of bed, dressing hastily and racing down to the cellar under the house, - been used to sitting in the cold dark cellar for hours, until the siren called off the alarm. We were used to planes flying overhead in search of their destination. Our main concern had been to cover the bed again after leaving it, so that the warm air was trapped and a warm bed awaited us in the ice-cold bedrooms, for we had no coal to heat the rooms. Sitting in the cellar at night had become routine.

But the night before your birthday was different. This time, Leipzig, our city, was the target of the air raid. We heard bombs crashing down, though we covered our ears, and saw the light of fires through the cellar window. Again and again the bombs detonated and we were afraid, that the next bomb would hit our house. Do you remember how long the attack lasted? I can't, for me it seemed to last forever, but finally it did end.

When the siren gave the all clear, we went back upstairs. Our house had not been hit, but the roller blinds had been pushed out by the bomb blasts and the windows were shattered. So we had to pick up and sweep up all the broken window glass and cover the blown out windows with old blankets or cardboard before we could go back to bed.

The next morning we unhooked the window frames and loaded them onto our hand pulled cart. We had to take them to the glazier, who was very busy fixing all the broken windows of the neighbourhood. We had double windows, but we were only allowed glass for single windows and the second window had to remain bare. "Here come Herrmanns with their barn-doors", said the neighbours when we pulled our cart into the yard of the glazier. Our windows were larger than those of most people.

You had to do most of the heavy work in our fatherless household, with the help of your mother and older sister. I was left amusing the two little ones, who at the age of five and three did not know, what peace meant. Remember, when your little sister, wanted to go to the cellar, because it thundered? Now they were busy packing their little Hessian bags, which were lined with oilcloth, with their most treasured possessions. They spent a lot of time sorting out, what was most important and what had to be saved. Would they take the post cards with the glittering print on them, or the old Teddy with the mended nose? Then they propped up the little bags in a corner near the cellar door, ready to be taken to the cellar, when the next alarm would come.

Eventually we did celebrate your 12th birthday. You opened your presents and we shared your cake. This was your one special day in the year and you would remember it all your life. Not only you remembered the 4th of December 1943. The people in our neighbourhood, Wiederitzsch, and in our city, Leipzig, remembered it too. This was the day on which bombs destroyed houses in our midst and a young schoolgirl was killed on the cellar staircase, when her house was hit. She had forgotten her favourite doll and was running up the steps to get it, when the bomb struck.

Peace be with you and the whole world today and always,

Your sister Heidi.


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