“So I took the keys and went. It was some two hundred metres away from the main building. People were already gathering there. The sirens were screaming at us from all sides, it was dreadful. It was completely different from usual. It felt like I was surrounded on all sides by howling hounds. Terrible. The cellar was already unlocked. People gathered in the shelter from all around, but some of them underestimated the situation, stayed inside and didn’t search for any shelter. Well, so I went inside the shelter. Someone commented on the flare, that New Town would be hit - that it was that part of Dresden’s turn. Suddenly a bomb struck. It pulled us down. We were closing the door, and the air, the pressure, even at that distance, was so strong that it knocked us down the stairs.”
“So we sat there and listened in horror to what would happen next. Each thump was terrifying - even when it was from further away, it seemed to us as if it was just over our heads. Everything shook like it would fall down on us at any moment. So we waited anxiously if we would get through it or not. Well, and then everything went calm, quiet. Everyone strained their ears to hear what was going on. Someone started to pray. Then the children burst into tears. Dreadful. I went from one to the other to comfort them. I don’t know, I had this feeling of safety. I reckoned that the bunker was built to withstand everything. But people were afraid. It stopped after half an hour. We wanted to go have a look outside. But someone said we shouldn’t, that we don’t know what might be lying around. So we returned to the bunker. And the planes came again. And the whole thing started all over again. The bombing, the horror.”
“So we started clearing up. Those who had died and were identified, we carried into cellars so their relatives could bury them afterwards. The others, the burnt bodies, were loaded on to cars and taken to be burned. They threw them on piles in the squares and burned them there. What else to do with so many people? They had these flame throwers, which burnt the bones too. You couldn’t even tell what it was any more. That was a dreadful section. I couldn’t recover from that for a long time. And then, they said we’d go to Eisleben. When we finally got out of the city, it was March, springtime, everything was in bloom. The trees were full of blossoms. A completely different world opened up before our eyes. And so we decided that we had to push away the thoughts of what had happened. That we have to live. That life goes on. So we tried not to think of the horrors. But unfortunately it always comes back in the later years.”
People would sell their gold jewellery for a bag of flour
Gertruda Jurečková, née Kocurová, was born on 21 August 1924 in Ludgeřovice near Hlučín. Her parents died shortly after her birth, and so she was brought up by her grandparents. At the age of fourteen she began working at a chocolate factory in Ostrava. When Hlučín District fell to Germany in 1938, she was assigned to forced labour near Lüben. When she returned home she enrolled in a medical course. Then she found employment at a military hospital in a region controlled by Germany that is now part of Poland. She also worked at a hospital in Dresden, where she witnessed a bombing run in February 1945. She then helped save the wounded and clear up the ruined city. After the war she continued to work in Germany because she had no news of what was going on in her home town. She was worried that the inhabitants of Ludgeřovice had been deported together with other Sudeten Germans. However, her aunt found out where she lived in Germany and wrote her a letter, asking her to come home. She returned in 1947. Her late return caused trouble, as she often met with the opinion that she must have been a collaborator. Her brother also survived the war, although he had been drafted to serve in the German army in Norway. She married a man from Hlučín District who had to serve in the Wehrmacht during the war. She found a job at the hospital in Petřkovice and later cared for her children and her ill aunt.