Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Life in the Cellar

This is the story as my sister told me!

After we got all the extra supplies my mother wanted us to buy; she wanted to arrange the cellar: just in case. The cellar was rather small but we could all fit in!

Under the wooden staircase I, made my bed, brought down my "escape" bag too (we all had one!). My mother and her sister-in-law had their bed in front of the wine rack. There was also a small window that looked out over the backyard and where we could escape through.

She let several people stay in the cellar who did not have one. That meant changing into nightclothes in shifts. They took turns going upstairs. Also when there was enough water they washed themselves before going to sleep (one never knew whether the water mains would be bombed that night).

My mother prepared a light evening meal for everyone; the 'guests' contributed too. When it got dark the air raid alarms went off. We knew that the British flew low and often got caught in the bright searchlights and more often than not were shot down. The Americans flew very high and missed their objectives!

One night it looked like Düsseldorf was their target: just about "next door". My mother opened a bottle of wine and everyone got some to make them feel better! We heard bombs fall: the electric light went out. So... the flash lights were used. All of a sudden they heard a terrible noise, the cellar shook, they heard glass in the windows break: my aunt said: 'that was meant for us'.

After things quietened down my mother went upstairs to survey the damage. The front door was warped and could not be opened, the glass in the front windows was broken but worst of all, there was an unexploded bomb in a huge crater in front of the house. When the Grüne came by they refused to call the bomb squad. Teenage boys living across from us said that they could take care of it. They were involved in the underground and my mother thought they were taught there how to defuse BOMBS. She had to make a decision: if there was a timer on that bomb it was vital to defuse it and even if not, nobody knew if and when it would explode. They held a conference....... They decided to" take care of it!!" and everybody in our neighbourhood agreed.

We sat in the cellar holding our breath...... if that thing exploded we all would be dead and so would be our neighbours. My mother talked to them and they could make choice: they all decided to stay!!!

To us it looked like it took a long time..... at last one boy poked his head over the crater rim and said:""ALL clear"; they all hoisted the bomb out of the crater and .....pushed it across the street to an empty lot, (we still have picture of that monster!). Only then did we find out that neighbours of ours had a cookie factory when they decided to treat the whole neighbourhood ..........

P.S. later we found out that two boys of that family were picked up by the Gestapo and landed in a concentration camp, never to be heard or seen again.

Written by, and posted on behalf of, Josephine Hoogstede


Blogger Tomcann said...

I always had the impression that the Dutch suffered more than most as they were occupied for longer - had to put up with constant air raids next door in Germany - Gestapo "disappearances" particularly of the Jewish people Anne Frank et al....and Josephine living so close to Dusseldorf....where my brother-in-law was returning from raiding was shot down - and finally found floating in the North Sea, after D day.
It says a great deal for people such as Josephine who managed to work as a nurse in those later days of the war, then travel to the Far East to comfort ex prisoners of war.
Well done Odydessey

Wednesday, 01 August, 2007  
Blogger Frank mee said...

I think I would have said, wait until I am a mile away then defuse the bomb.
It was always obvious to us here in England that when our bombers raided the low countries or France some of our allies would be killed or injured. It was sad as we had a lot of Dutch sailors in the area so knew they were allies.
I was amazed on my first run through Holland how friendly and forthcoming the Dutch people were to us, I had thought they would be some who hated us for what we had done to them. Put it this way I never found any like that.
Good story Josephine.

Wednesday, 08 August, 2007  

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