Seventy years ago, on the 21. of April, we knew the end for the “Third Reich” was near.
On the day before it had been Hitler’s birthday. Who was celebrating? We don’t know. My mother did not go to work anymore. Public transport was sporadic or non-existing. Every night we had air raids. Nobody knew by whom. The rumor mills were working overtime. The government released extra rations, and we were queuing for hours for very little. The Russians were coming and the people were afraid as they feared the revenge of wronged people.
Our apartment building had its own air raid shelter, but my mum was still not allowed in with me. We were banned by the other tenants because years earlier we children had been too noisy. So every time the siren went, we had to walk along the street to a public shelter at the printer’s union building.
My mother started to write a diary. And this is what she wrote:
Day 1, Saturday 21. April 1945
“Since 2.0 pm today, Berlin is under siege! (Martial law has been declared. berlioz)
A peculiar, faint feeling overcomes us all when we realise that our Reich’s Capital – our beloved Berlin – is about to face a great and all deciding ordeal. Victory or destruction! Life or death! For better or worse! What will the end bring?
As from 6.0 pm, we are supposed to behave as if in an air raid, i.e. we have to gather in the air raid shelter or bunker (a curfew has been declared. berlioz). Often the dull drone, fading in the distance, of the artillery firing on Berlin. Soon, from hour to hour, the detonations become more audible. But it really doesn’t frighten us, because we are used to much larger shakes and hits during the air raids.
All public services, as well as the privately employed population, have closed their offices and workshops. A great mass of people is on the move. All people hurry to their homes, as each one still has to make some important and final preparations in their households. At all grocery stores, long queues have formed. Some last shopping has to be done before we can disappear into the nether world.
We too, my son Peter (9 years old) and I are at the ready with our luggage. My Aunt Mietze (Marie) too, 72 years old, belongs to our little group. We are taking our places, in the Printer’s Union building, a few houses up the street from our block of flats, in Immelmannstrasse (now Dudenstrasse). The air raid shelter is still without lights. Power has been cut deliberately.
Solemn and calm greetings are exchanged. In time, one by one, here and there candles or kerosene lamps are being lit. Warm and cosy sleeping places are being prepared. We are having our evening meal in the manner of nomadic people at about 20.00 hours. Soups and other warm drinks are being poured into cups from Thermos flasks Our ready made sandwiches taste, despite our troubles and distress, really excellent. For a while, softly spoken conversations follow. Even those cease soon. Peter, wrapped up in warm blankets, is already asleep.
At about 22.00 hours, we are being woken by the sirens! AN AIR RAID !!
(It is the first air raid by Russian planes. The last Western air raid was on the 18 April. berlioz)
Our neighbourhood remains untouched this time! And as it remains calm, we decide, at 1 o’clock in the morning, to go back to our own flat.”(Apparently ignoring the curfew. berlioz)
Because of our closeness to the Tempelhof Airport we always felt safe. The Allied bombers seemed not see it as a target.