My experience of the 2nd World War, at age 3:
The Big Boom
Denmark was occupied by Germany for 5 years during the Second World War.
March 21st, 1945, 11:16 a.m., Copenhagen. (For Denmark, the occupation will end 1½ months later.)
British bombers – 18 of them – were to destroy Gestapo Headquarters in Copenhagen.
35 Danish prisoners were held on the top floor of the building, probably as an “insurance policy” against bombing attacks.
En-route to Gestapo Headquarters, one of the first bombers falls into an air pocket, hits a radio tower and goes down.
The pilot in the following plane sees the smoke, thinks this is his target – and drops his bombs — ON MY SCHOOL !
I am 3 years old, very young for my class and very small for my age.
My Story (Monologue):
I sit at the stone table in the basement of my school, my new red lunch box in front of me. White cursive letters scrawled diagonally across the top. A word. My small fingers gently outline the strange, raised letters.
Shyly I look to my left. A little girl, scarcely a year older than me, looks back. She has long blond curls. My friend. She nods approval at my lunch box. My heart leaps! Neither of us knows the art of reading – let alone that of reading cursive. However, we both know the message the letters reveal: “Bon Appetite”.
My hands start to open the hinged lid to the treats my mother undoubtedly has hidden in the box.
!!! BOOM !!!
Loud noises. Voices screaming. Souls screaming. —
Blinded, I walk towards the light. Stumbling over crumbled bricks. Searching. My hands outstretched before me.
Caring hands. Big, caring hands – reaching for mine.
My feet – walking in very cold water. It rises as I walk, now reaching the bottom of my skirt.
Strong hands pick me up — up, up, away from the icy water.
Sitting on someone’s arm – safe – I burst into immediate, bubbling laughter. I lay my arms around his neck. Sigh.
A mother – frantically searching in a pile of bricks. – I look away. She doesn’t fit my image of a mother.
Fathers – standing in a row, passing a child from hand to hand, like you would a bucket of water at a fire.
Then – passing the next.
Some children lay listlessly – some scream. Some are but a pair of very big eyes. Eyes which saw what no eyes should see … their friend, pulled under by the sewage water – or lying under a rafter – still.
Gently, I’m being set down by the curb of the street.
Different faces. Unknown faces. – All children. All much bigger than I.
As ambulances and taxis drive up to the curb, big hands – belonging to unknown, oddly clad men, are – it seems to me – “stuffing” the children into the cars.
For the first time in all this strangeness, do I feel scared! Real Scared!
An image pops into my head: What if these yellow men stuff ME into a car FIRST, then pile all of these BIG children on top of me?
My heart starts beating fast; my feet only want to run … my windpipe feels very restricted. – I SCREAM !
A girl – is she safe? – picks me up. Her eyes as scared as mine, she holds me tight; carries me with her into the next cab. Sits me on her lap.
I collapse. My head and back throb with pain. I didn’t notice it before. Now I cry – in the arms of a sweet young girl – who saved her own sanity by caring for me.
In the basement of a hospital someone tends to my head and back – gives me food, milk – shows me a toy box. I play with the toys, look at the other children. It seems as all the faces are but eyes.
I’m given a cot and asked to sleep. I can’t.
I wait. Then – wait some more. My waiting seems an eternity.
I get up, look at the toys again. There is a little blue wagon; its horses are brown. I pretend it is taking me home.
Someone walks up behind me. Gently touches my shoulder.
I turn around – quickly.
My Dad – tears streaming down his face – picks me up. Rocks me, loves me.
I’m safe. – And for the first time I speak:
“Dad, did you hear the big boom?”
“Yes”, he says, “Yes, I heard it”.
Due to this fatal mistake, 109 people lost their lives. 93 of these were children – nearly ¼ of the children in the entire school.
Zitta Stubstad – written on October 31st, 2004