This excerpt biography of Kitty Russner Green Russner teenage years in ‘Nazi occupied Holland during WWII’, is contributed and written by Wendy Rainey


Meet Katharina…            


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 Anaheim, California.

She has just had her hair done at the salon and wearing a stylish blouse with slacks. Katharina Russner Green is a woman in possession of her past and present!  Quick-witted and unsentimental, at 87 years, Kitty plays it with a full deck. She recalls running along the cobblestone road with her mother in Brunssum. A bomb had just hit a neighbor’s yard near a pear tree, “I told my mother we were going to have steamed pears that night for dessert. I thought she was going to kill me!” We both laughed. Kitty put her cigarette out.                    


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 burned.

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 the camp.”

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.

There 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.”

Kitty 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.