Saturday, 21. April 1945


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.

Building of the Printer's Union

Building of the Printer’s Union today

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.

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6 thoughts on “Saturday, 21. April 1945

  1. This is a very impressive document. Reading all this I get a feel for what conditions were like for Berliners towards the end of the war.
    I suppose your mum wrote into her diary in German and you translated it? You were of course this 9 year old Peter who turned 10 on the 16th of May when the Russians were already in Berlin.

  2. What a treasure trove of personal memories that your mother wrote in her diary. How amazing that she even kept a diary in such terrible times.
    Very impressive indeed.

  3. So lucky to have your mum’s diary! I am sent to the struggle of my Palestinian relatives when they were in Al Yarmouk Damascus….babies mortars rations death … awful. But the resilience is incredible- the will to survive and protect offspring so primal. Great post!

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