When Dresden burned

 

 

The story of her life came to me as instalments over many years. Once a year, every year I would stop in Aberdeen and drive her down to Glentana for a 10 day holiday. Annelize Ihnken had few friends and no living family, except for a son that she last heard of in 1986.

 

She was a girl of 15 when Dresden was fire bombed. Unable to breathe, she ran through a smoking hell until two random soldiers grabbed her and hauled her into a basement shelter. One soldier got a premonition – and much against her will – hauled her back into the burning street. At that very moment a bomb fell through the building and exploded in the basement, killing every person inside. Suffocating, they ran through Dresden, and finally slept in the only house that was still standing. Early morning they awake with shouts of “Alle raus!” A bomb had fallen through their house and failed to explode.

 

They ran until a bomb fell behind them and blew the one soldier’s leg off. When they reached the station the coach was full and they were told to wait for the last train out of Dresden. It pulled away – only to be blown to pieces. She suffered much beneath the Russians in that war. And when it was over she was left to die of hunger. Eventually she prayed to God and said that if she did not get a job or food the next day, she was going to kill herself. That day – the third one – she walked into a building and was offered an au pair job in Windhoek. “It was then,” she said to me, “I knew that God has a purpose for my life…” She was 80 when at last she finished telling me her story.