Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Alfred Lessing - January 26, 1993

War Comes Closer

Tell me the story about the chicken, your father cooking the chicken.

Well, that is a liberation story, uh, I jumped ahead earlier when this duck house chicken house farmer brought us the chicken, that took place during the liberation. The war in the air got more and more intense, there were huge groups of allied bombers that would come over almost every night in the late afternoon and then you could hear them coming back from Germany later at night. V1's and V2's, the Germans were sending these up from Holland and we saw those. Very frightening!! The V2, I believe, is the one that had an engine and you could hear it over head, but the word was that if the engine once stopped, it never started again and the god damn thing would come down and there was a huge bomb. So, when those things went over at night, we held our breath. Um, also, towards the very end of the war we heard what was called the German secret weapon. It was very frightening. It made a sound like no other airplane and turned out to be later the first functional jet plane. The Germans were the first with jet fighters. And actually got some in the air, but they never got to use them, because they couldn't produce them anymore. The factories kept getting bombed. But they had some in the air, and it was very frightening. The war in the air got more and more intense and one day in April it got so bad, grenades were zooming over head, you would hear this whistling, you know. The sound [he whistles]. Then somewhere you would hear, boom. Miles away. Those things went a long, long way. But we knew that the front was coming closer and closer. It seemed unbelievable, because it looked like it was never gonna happen. You know, a whole year earlier the allies had landed at Arnhem that famous, um operation, what the devil was it called... I can't even remember names... but that terrible disaster where the allies landed, the Americans landed and our enemy were totally surrounded and they didn't cross the Rhine for another whole year. But, they did eventually come. So the front came closer and closer, there was more and more stuff happening and we had to go into a shelter, which we had previously helped build. It was a long rectangular hole dug in the ground about, oh probably about five, six feet deep, um with some kind of heavy covering over it, probably beams with earth, very thick to catch shrapnel, and inside there was just seating carved out of the clay. Holland is all clay so it was like this very damp, rectangular place, with a 90 degree turn at the entrance, so again, shrapnel coming in the front door wouldn't go down where we were sitting. And we were in there with the Hamburg family. Mr.Hamburg, you know the anti-Semite, Mr. Hambug, Mrs.Hamburg, and their daughters, I think at least three daughters. Um, the first girl I ever saw without clothes was one of the Hamburg girls. This was a wonderful thing engineered by my brother. Excuse me this little digression, um, we were kids after all... and one of these girls was just about my age, about eight or nine, and we decided I'll show you mine if you show me yours, you know. But we didn't quite know how to do that so my brother Attie, always helpful, said, oh well I'll help I'll stand here and I'll count to three and on three you both drop your pants. So we did, and he got to see her for free, you know. And I'll never forget that. I'll always remember that. He arranged all this and we looked at each other... anyway we were in the shelter, we could never get involved with other kids, certainly not romantically or sexually, I would have been too young anyway, but that was a part of my older brother's story, the fact that getting involved with a girl, or going to bed with a girl meant almost certain death... because of the betrayal factor. And that happened a lot. Ed actually fell in love with a farm girl, she fell in love with him. She took him up into the hay loft and said hey, let's do it. And he was 18, 17, 18, 19 years old and he wanted nothing more than to be with this incredibly beautiful girl who wanted him... and he couldn't. That's a very sad story, I think. But I was too young for that, so we're in the shelter in the Hamburgs, the four of us, and we were in there at least two nights, it's something like three nights and two days, or two nights and three days, I can't remember exactly when, and it got wild outside.

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