This excerpt biography of Kitty Russner Green Russner teenage years in ‘Nazi occupied Holland during WWII’, is contributed and written by Wendy Rainey
Kitty Russner was fourteen years old in 1943, when the head of an American fighter pilot fell from the sky into the yard of the family home in Brunssum, Holland. The small town of Brunssum, was beneath the flight path of Allied Bombers headed toward Aachen; with continual dog fights playing out high overhead. Brunssum, Holland’s mayor, lived across the street from Kitty’s family, stepped out of his front door and onto the ...body parts of a pilot. Kitty’s father didn’t allow her to see the head that had landed in their garden. Her mother and father called the local Dutch authorities to have it removed.
Kitty recalls on May 9th, 1940 at 5:00 P.M., Hitler spoke on the radio, announcing that he had no intention of invading the little countries such as Holland, Belgium, and Denmark. But the next morning on May 10th at 4:00 A.M. (just nine days before her thirteenth birthday) Hitler’s troops parachuted down on Germany. Kitty’s town of Brunssum was just a few miles from the German border. German troops marched across the border and into Brunssum. They expected little resistance, but the Dutch put up a fight, slowing their advance.
“That Dutch resistance is what saved England,” Kitty says. “Without the Dutch resistance, the Germans would have gotten through to England. England would have been dust.” Kitty lights up a cigarette, “I don’t trust big unions. That’s how Hitler got his start, you know. In fact, I never trusted anyone again after I heard Hitler on the radio, assuring us that we wouldn’t be invaded. And then the next day all hell broke loose.”
Wendy Rainey writes, ‘I was sitting
across the table from Kitty, at the assisted living home where she resides in
A few moments pass when Kitty starts
to talk about her childhood friend, Bea. “Bea was in Auschwitz for 2 ½ years.
You’d have a triangle and a number tattooed on your forearm. When your number
came up you died.
Bea knew what went on in the gas
chamber because the smell was so bad. She was actually in the gas chamber when
a captured Russian Jewish doctor smuggled her out. The doctor told her, ‘Every
day they don’t catch you is another day won.’
The gas chamber was a room with
shower heads where the gas would come out. There were shelves on the side where
the prisoners would put their things. The floor was wooden and slated. After
the prisoners were gassed, the floor would open up and their bodies were
My friend escaped being gassed and no
one in the camp ever found out, because according to their records she was
already dead. Bea didn’t know what happened to the Russian doctor who saved her
until she saw him in a documentary after the war.
Bea saw that the doctor had died
while being tortured by being strung up and alternately beaten with hot and
cold chains. The doctor had been blamed for having helped prisoners escape from
I ask Kitty how her family went about hiding Jews in her home during the war.
“My dad and I belonged to the underground. I was too young to have a large role
in it, but I was able to go get the rations and hide them in my book bag. We
hid four Jewish couples. They were all husband and wife. The kids had been
taken by organizations and smuggled to England. We only had the couples for six
months each because the idea was that they shouldn’t get too comfortable and
start taking chances. Often the couples would sit in the kitchen and drink tea
and so forth. But when I would come home from school or work, I would walk
around to the back door. When they heard me unlock the door that signaled to
them to go upstairs.”
Kitty begins to recount the Christmas Eve when her neighbor, Fritz, saved her
entire family from the concentration camp. “It was 2:00 A.M. when
the Gestapo showed up at our house.
were two men soldiers at the front door and two at the back door. They started
pounding on both doors but we didn’t answer. Fritz came out of his house and
said, ‘Heil Hitler.’ They said to Fritz, ‘We hear these people are hiding
Jews.’ Fritz had just come home on leave from Stalingrad. He was still dressed
in his uniform and boots. He said to them, ‘Are you crazy? We went out drinking
all night. He’s home in his bed drunk as a skunk.’ Fritz chatted a little while
longer with the Gestapo and then we heard them leave.”
continued to tell me more stories of atrocity and liberation. This is a piece
from a larger work I’m writing. Stay tuned.
Thank you, Katharina Russner Green.