Freedom … To Die

Trapped-In-Hitler-s-HellThe following is from Holocaust survivor Anita Dittman’s book Trapped in Hitler’s Hell. Anita was a young Christian Jew in Germany when World War II began. It was her faith in Christ, and the Lord’s mercy, that sustained her during the war years, but she (along with all other Jews in Germany at that time) was stripped of something that most North Americans have always had … freedom.

From Trapped in Hitler’s Hell

“They’re here!” I gasped as I burst through the door. “The passports and visas are here.”

“Oh, thank You, Jesus,” Mother exclaimed softly. Even my sister, Hella, showed unusual emotion. Mother tore open the envelope and looked at the enclosed official forms, but her wonderful anticipation diminished as she read them. Her joy turned to a painful realization that only one of us had received a visa and a passport.

“Only Hella’s papers are here,” Mother sighed. “But they insist that your’s and mine will be here by the end of August. At least Hella can go free, Anita. We must rejoice for her and trust God some more for you and me. We can meet Hella in London.”

“Mother, Jesus won’t let us down,” I replied. “Pastor Hornig says we please Him the most when we have faith in Him. See what an opportunity we have to have faith in Jesus, Mother?”

The corners of her mouth smiled weakly as she set Hella’s paper aside. “I’m learning to trust Him, Anita.”

Since Hella would leave on August 31st, we frantically made preparations for her departure. Pastor Hornig gave her some money, surely taking food away from his family’s table. We wondered if God was delivering Hella first because her faith was so small that she could not endure any more waiting.

A faint signal on our radio from an underground station told us Hitler was on the move and might invade Poland any day. During the week, we’d been having mock blackouts in Breslau, which according to Mother spelled war. Without a doubt there would be a countdown from freedom for us before the war began. Only our trust in Jesus kept us calm.

August was slipping away so quickly, with no word yet. Each day’s mail brought only disappointment. Thus, the day of Hella’s departure produced a mixture of emotions: We were happy for her, but also conscious that our own papers had not arrived. As we bid her farewell, our tears of joy for Hella were mingled with tears of fear and confusion.

“Hella, you must thank Jesus for your freedom,” I insisted. “He has worked a miracle for you.” Hella nodded, but her heart had not mellowed toward Christ.

“We will meet you in London soon,” Mother said as she embraced Hella, “and our prayers will be with you every day. Pastor Hornig’s contact in London can be trusted. You do whatever they say, but don’t send any mail to us here in Germany. We’ll probably meet you within a month.”

The antiquated train gave a sharp whistle. Our goodbyes were short, for we were sure we would soon be reunited. Pushing forward to board the train were hundreds of frightened, fleeing people–people thankful for a new lease on life, but riddled with fear for loved ones being left behind–sometimes their whereabouts being unknown.

We all embraced one more time, and Hella turned and boarded, waving an enthusiastic goodbye to us. I took Mother’s hand as we watched the rest of the crowd board. A few minutes later the train jerked forward, then it chugged away until it was out of sight, but we could see its thick, black smoke dotting the horizon.

The next day Germany invaded Poland. Also on that day the German borders were closed, and Germany thereafter refused all mail from England. Our visas and passports were to come from England; they were in the mail but never made it to us. Two days later, on September 3, 1939, England and France declared war on Germany.

Mother and I were trapped in Hitler’s hell. But the trap had begun to close for us six years earlier, when I was a small child. . . .

The dance was beautifully performed by six-year-old Anita Dittman. Her skill and grace at ballet far exceed her years. Nevertheless, we Germans no longer wish to be entertained by a Jew.

Mother read the review to me from a morning paper she had found lying on the street. Her words, though spoken in hushed tones, reverberated throughout the house. They fell on my unbelieving ears and caused an instant flood of tears–tears of a child too young to grasp the meaning of such a word as anti-Semitism. All I knew was that my dream of growing up to become the world’s best ballet dancer had just been shattered. It didn’t matter that we didn’t understand why we were being persecuted. Jews, along with communists and other anti-Nazis, were not allowed to question it. Soon we would have only one freedom: to die. (taken from chapter one, Trapped in Hitler’s Hell)

Today, Anita (83 year old) lives in Minnesota and still speaks to groups about her experience during WWII.

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