LONDON (Sep. 6)
I watched residents of London’s largest Jewish district rush to cover today when, for the 44th time since Aug. 15, sirens wailed a warning at noon hour that Nazi bombers were approaching.
Bustling crowds in the streets instantly vanished, although there was no panic and no excitement, merely evidence that they have learned their lesson well during the past fortnight, when the Jewish districts have received more than their proper share of attention from the Nazi attackers.
Today’s warning came while the people were still busy clearing up the shattered glass and debris from last night’s seven-hour raid. Demolition squads were shoring up buildings weakened by explosions. Shopkeepers were sorting out wares jumbled into a hopeless mess by the force of the blasts.
The residents were still exchanging experiences, recounting miraculous escapes of last night. One heavy high-explosive bomb scored a direct hit on a shelter holding 1,000 persons, but casualties were fewer than a handful. A second bomb shattered a large shop on the main street of the district and dug a terrific crater just alongside a basement shelter in which there were 800 people who were untouched.
A third fell in the soft earth of a park 50 yards from a large Jewish hospital. Oddly, though not a single window was undamaged in all the buildings within a hundred-yard range, the hospital itself was untouched. None of the persons sheltered in the hospital was injured, the only casualties being passers-by who failed to take cover.
Everyone agrees that these people are standing up to the danger magnificently. Air-Raid Precautions officials and police of the district complain that their chief difficulty is in keeping the people in the shelters during a raid if nothing can be seen and heard in the immediate vicinity.
Their adaptation to new and abnormal conditions of life is remarkable. In some streets, residents, particularly the oldsters, go to the shelters at dusk with mattresses. and bedclothes to spend the entire night. Neighbors have organized to take turns in keeping the shelters clean and habitable.
Even oldsters who do not know a word of English have caught onto the tricks. They do not wait for the sirens. As soon as they see the police instructing bus drivers to put out bus lights they trot home and warn their families to take their bedclothes and proceed to the shelter. A current joke describes the “well-furnished bedrooms for rent” in the public shelter.
One oldster in a shelter I visited during today’s raid was busy reassuring his Jewish and non-Jewish neighbors in Yiddish that they really were in little danger, pointing out that Madrid had been bombed for two years but few persons were killed. The general attitude of the older Jews is that this bombing is just another method of Hitler’s to afflict the persecuted Jews further.
I had to leave the shelter before the “all clear” sounded. One bearded old man tried to dissuade me. “If you have to die, you have to die, but why go looking for a bomb?” he asked.
I found all the workshops and factories of the district hard at work despite the raid warning.
I am not permitted to reveal the total casualties in the East End but they are comparatively insignificant as indeed the casualties throughout the country have been, although relatively heavier in other districts than in London.