Part 16: My Hometown Is Being Destroyed

Although our town was located between two large chemical plants, it had not yet been bombed. On an early-winter December day, there was an all-night air raid alert.

Heavy anti-aircraft fire and distant bomb impacts accompanied the steady roar of hundreds of aircraft engines that vibrated the air. Father was at work as usual, we lay in our beds anxious and awake, but did not go into the air raid shelter. The other morning, it was grave silence, I thought I saw a beautiful winter sunrise in the eastern sky, because the whole horizon had turned fiery red and yellowish.

But then I saw that it was raining black snow from the bright sky. The meadow in front of the house and the windowsill were black. Only now I realized that the black snow was burnt paper, and still it was raining charred book pages. The printing and book town, about 25 kilometers away, had experienced its heaviest bombing raid since its existence. The blazing heat of the burning city had carried the sooty paper to great heights, and now the scorched scraps were tumbling back to earth. By now at the latest we should have understood the signs of the times. But we didn’t.

The war was already in its fifth year and had brought death and destruction on an unprecedented scale to the people. Destruction and death from the Atlantic to the Pacific. But there was no end in sight. In the West, the Allies were preparing, in the utmost secrecy, to storm the French Atlantic coast, which was heavily fortified militarily with bunkers, guns and minefields. In a logistical masterstroke lasting several months, they had transported war material on an unprecedented scale from the USA and Canada to the British Isles: Landing craft, tanks, aircraft, guns, vehicles, ammunition, and thousands of soldiers.

The assault on the French Atlantic coast, the D-Day, was imminent. That day would turn the waters of the English Channel red with the blood of dying soldiers. In the East, the Red Army drove the fascist Wehrmacht before it after the cauldron battle of Stalingrad, suffering inhumanly high losses on both sides. That the front war would reach Germany was only a question of time. Resistance was also stirring inside Germany. Responsible senior German officers, led by Count Stauffenberg, prepared an assassination attempt on Hitler. Hitler’s death was supposed to end the war, at least in Europe, through Germany’s surrender. Unfortunately, the assassination failed, Hitler survived, and the organizers were captured and executed. The dying continued to the bitter end. 𝓣𝓸 𝓑𝓮 𝓒𝓸𝓷𝓽𝓲𝓷𝓾𝓮𝓭

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