A bomb in the garden

by Jurgen Lett

When I was two years old my mother’s mother was living with us.
She was a loving generous lady and we called her Grossmutter (grandmother). Before our home town of Wuppertal was bombed, she moved to Hohensolms Castle near Frankfurt, in 1942.

My mother Martha, sister Iris and I remained in the family home in Wuppertal-Beyenburg. When the air raid siren sounded, we retreated to the cellar, which had been prepared for extended stays, with food and bedding. Another siren rang several hours later indicating that it was safe to leave the cellar. One day we heard the second siren and came out to inspect the damage. We found an incendiary bomb against the wall of the house, which fortunately had not been ignited. However the window of Iris’s bedroom had been smashed and glass was found under the covers of her neatly-made bed. Official documents from the town hall ten kilometres away were found in our garden.

Beyenburg is a village on the outskirts of Wuppertal and the village suffered only minor damage. In contrast, other districts of this industrial city were extensively bombed with incendiaries. In February 1943 the British bombed the Goldschmidt adhesives factory, which made wood adhesive used in wooden air frame components. The pharmacology firm Bayer was targeted, as were other factories. Over 6,500 people died as a result of the bombing of Wuppertal, and 38% of the built up area was destroyed.

Wuppertal town hall, where my father Ernst worked as the city architect

My mother (we called her Mutti) decided it was time to move somewhere safer. After the first bombing in 1943, Mutti packed up the house and we moved to Hohensolms Castle.