I went to a funeral this week for Hildegard Geissler – she was a member of our congregation. She was 93 years old when she died. Most Sundays she was at church; if she felt well enough she would stay for all of the meetings. She always had a smile on her face. She was a most interesting person.
During the funeral several people read passages from her journal. Those passages are listed in bold italics below.
In 1933, shortly after I graduated, Hitler seized power by a narrow election and became the Reichskanzler of Germany. Among many, many other people, this also did disturb my family and me very much. ‘What was this going to be?’ we were asking ourselves and - feared. I just did not like this man’s looks in the first place - his little mustache, his hair style, his cold eyes , his whole mannerism. I disliked his speech. That salute ‘Heil Hitler’ was ridiculous and crazy.‘Who did this man think he was?’
Hilde lived in Dresden. That city was chosen for allied terror bombing, February 13-15, 1945. Over 800 planes and 3500 ions of incendiary explosives burned the city to the ground leaving behind 21,000 dead. Hilde described what it was like on the receiving end of the allied wrath. At the time her son, Volker, was 8 months old.
FEBRUARY 14, 1945
Up to that time and until almost to the end of the year 1944 Dresden had been spared from air-raids. Only on a few occasions when alarms sounded at night we had to hurry to the basement, but were always relieved to be able to return to an intact home after a short while. We did count our blessings then, because we knew of what had happened to most ofthe other big cities in Germany.
Then came the night - no one will ever forget - February 13th - 14th. The sirens howled and screamed ominously, long and lasting. This time it was different. In moments I had dressed and had Volker packed into the baby-carriage. In the bottom of it were placed the first-aid survival kits and other urgent necessities. Neighbors readily helped to get me downstairs.
Hardly were we there when the first blasts were heard. But they were way off in the distance. The deep, booming, roar of planes drew closer and closer. One shocking detonation occured after another. Sizzling, hissing noises from above and then those expected explosions - it seemed like hell had opened its doors. The muffled roar of those airplanes sounded as they were right over us - they did not seem to depart. One wave clearly followed the other one. Everyone thought we were probably being buried alive. Then there was silence - we hoped the sirens would sound again as the signal that it was over and we could try to get out. Not so - another attack drew near. People cried loudly and silently, or just whined and whimpered. I kept my little darling close to me, lovingly bending over him. He was quiet. My treasure... There were silent prayers in my heart. Despite the destructive and alarming sounds all around, a certain unexplainable peace and strength embraced me. I observed this attitude later on so often - little things could throw me off, but when it came to serious situations I was able to keep my calm.
The tenants of the apartment house were huddled together. A few candles had been lightened. Volker was covered with soot, smudged all over his face and head. He looked like a little chimney-sweeper. I just had to laugh. Loosened bricks from the chimney had given way to the stuff.
After a third such attack it was still - absolute silence, no sirens, nothing. Carefully, a few people investigated - climbing up the steps of the basement. The door could be pushed open. We were not buried! The house was a mess. Debris, glass everywhere; broken doors, stairways - not a single window intact. No way to live there anymore.
Sister Geissler was an inspiration to everyone who had the great honor to have known her. I remember years ago when she got a computer and was so excited about how easy it would be to do her genealogy work on a computer. She was always so grateful to visit with people. One of her visiting teachers spoke of her love for music. Although it was hard for her to see over the past several years, she loved to hear beautiful music. On their monthly visits to her, they would play music for her – how she loved those visits and the music. Two hymms she loved were played at the funeral – Be Still My Soul and A Child’s Prayer.
Church won't be the same without dear Sister Geissler - she will be greatly missed. But we know she's having a wonderful reunion with her beloved Rudy, who left this earthly life five years ago.
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