Part 19: Tenants On Demand

Out of ten houses in the settlement, three were destroyed: No. 1, No. 8, and No. 10. 21 people dead, all women and children.

The men from the rescue service, old gentlemen of retirement age, had piled up the corpses next to the sandboxes and covered them makeshift with scraps of cloth pulled from the rubble. The rags weighted down with pieces of debris over the bodies made the sight of the mutilated bodies seem even more gruesome and brutal. The search was still on for a six-year-old girl.

But the child was nowhere to be found. At some point, the search operation was called off because the men believed that the girl may have been at the center of the explosion and therefore had disintegrated into atoms. It was not until days later that the body was discovered. The child’s body lay under the cellar stairs, which had broken off in one piece and buried the girl.

Life had to go on, but the experiences of the last days had buried my childhood finally and forever. The parents were assigned a care certificate for victims of aerial bombing and a furnished room with use of a kitchen in a mansion-like building. The apartment belonged to a scrawny, very spry, single gentleman who former was a government councilor. His retirement was interrupted by a lack of experienced people to regulate and manage the ever-increasing chaos. To his new lodgers, the gentleman councilor acted very reserved at first, but was not unfriendly.

On Sundays he went to a restaurant for lunch, where he took his meager subscription meal in exchange for a food stamp. My mother, in turn, felt sorry for him. Despite the general shortage, we still had plenty to eat, because father was a good organizer. Anyway, the old man was invited to Sunday lunch. Our guest enjoyed it very much. Now he ate with us every Sunday, and since then we had access to the whole apartment.

Fortunately, this living condition did not last exceptionally long. In late summer, we moved into the same type of apartment on the outskirts of the city as our bombed-out apartment, only this time on the first floor, with a view of the open field. From the apartment, a piece of the nearby airfield, an anti-aircraft battery and, in the distance, the tall buildings and chimneys of the chemical plant could be seen. However, the new apartment was still quite empty.

The care certificate for victims of aerial bombing did entitle the holder to preferential purchase of furniture, household items and clothing. But what was the use of the certificate if there was practically nothing left to buy? After all, we were not the only ones in Germany in the fifth year of the war who were in possession of a care certificate for victims of aerial bombing.

In the new surroundings, Mother for the time being set the laundry for our French friends from the municipal transport company. First, the political situation in the house and in the neighborhood had to be explored. On the upper floor lived a simple Nazi imitator, but dangerous because of his narrow-mindedness. On the second floor lived a full-blooded Nazi with his wife. He was small, with straight black hair and crooked legs, so anything but the tall blond idol of the Germanic, all-superior, Aryan race. He often showed up in his SA uniform and passionately believed in the final victory.

I know the following sad and ridiculous episode about his wife: When I went to school on Saturday morning, Ms. Nazi was doing the housekeeping. Backwards, in a deeply stooped posture, she wiped the stairs from top to bottom, the scouring bucket beside her. At my polite good morning greeting, I looked deep under her skirt. Without changing her posture, she replied with a tight ‘Heil Hitler!’. The situation was so grotesque that I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. All the other inhabitants of the house could be trusted, but caution was still required. 𝓣𝓸 𝓑𝓮 𝓒𝓸𝓷𝓽𝓲𝓷𝓾𝓮𝓭

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