LTRP Note: Many of you may be aware of Lighthouse Trails author, Anita Dittman, who survived WW II in Germany as a young Jewish girl and a Christian believer. Her story is told in the book Trapped in Hitler’s Hell (written by Jan Markell and Anita). Today, Anita is nearing 92, and until about a year ago, she regularly spoke to groups throughout the U.S. about her experience as a Holocaust survivor. For decades, she has sacrificially traveled to various places to share the story of God’s amazing grace in her life during one of the most dreadful periods in human history. Because of health issues, Anita had to stop her speaking engagements and interviews. She now spends her days quietly and peacefully, visiting with nearby friends and family. If you have read Anita’s story and would like to send her a card or letter, we believe this would be a wonderful way to bless this dear sister in the Lord during this chapter of her life her on earth. Your letters and cards will send a message to her that she is loved and that her contribution in keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive is appreciated. You can send your letters to: Anita Dittman, c/o Lighthouse Trails, P.O. Box 908, Eureka, MT 59917. We will forward them expediently to her.
The following is an excerpt from Trapped in Hitler’s Hell. This particular episode takes place just as WW II was coming to an end and Anita was about 18; Germany was in havoc and destruction. Anita had suffered a serious leg infection and while in a hospital receiving treatment, a Nazi nurse tried to kill her. But God had other plans for both Anita and the nurse:
By Anita Dittman with Jan Markell
(From chapter 14 of Trapped in Hitler’s Hell)
We had hoped and prayed that the war would end without an invasion of Bautzen, for we continued to be afraid of the Russians, not knowing how they would treat us. Would they pillage, burn, and rape, or would they liberate and restore? We had been fed horrible propaganda about the Reds. According to Hitler, they were as despicable as the Jews. How would the Russians know that my friends Hella, Uschi, and I were victims of the war and not perpetrators? These questions jumbled my thoughts as I lay recuperating [in the hospital].
Hella also told me that President Roosevelt had died that week. I felt so bad that the man who had stepped in and speeded up my freedom hadn’t lived to see our victory celebration.
When I pulled back the covers to show Hella my ugly leg wounds, which would leave lifelong scars, she gasped.
“Don’t worry, Hella,” I said calmly. “Those wounds and scars will be my salvation. God has impressed that on me as I’ve been lying here all these weeks. He says all things work together for our good, and so will these wounds.”
That week Hella came to the hospital every day and helped me learn to walk again. I worked frantically to get back the strength in my leg so that I could make the long journey into Czechoslovakia to find Mother [who was in a concentration camp called Theresienstadt].
More than six weeks after I’d been admitted to the hospital, I was told I could leave. That morning I awakened with renewed enthusiasm for life; the ordeal was over. But before I could even begin to collect myself or my things, I heard [the Nazi nurse] Miss Grete’s frantic voice in the hall.
“Out of bed, all who are able!” she screamed. “Get dressed immediately and go to the air-raid shelter. The Russians are in Bautzen! Hurry up!”
I struggled to get dressed as the frightened hospital staff and patients scurried about, but I was still weak and had very little strength in my leg. Even so, that unexplainable peace from God overcame me again.
As I reached for the cane I’d been given, I heard gunfire in the streets. Intermittently I also heard the sound of cannon fire; we all knew that one blast from a Russian cannon could level a building.
Slowly I moved down the hall, leaning on the wall and balancing on my cane. When Miss Grete saw me with the cane, she yanked it from me; I nearly crashed to the floor.
“That old lady over there needs this!” she insisted. “Go and help her into the shelter.”
“Oh dear God, give me double strength,” I pleaded softly. Only God could strengthen and steady me as I balanced both the elderly patient and myself going down the shelter stairs.
Nearly a hundred patients and staff walked, ran, or were pushed in wheelchairs to the air-raid shelter deep beneath the hospital. Again I heard the pitiful cries of desperate people whose ailing bodies protested the move to the cold, damp shelter.
God had pity on us, for just as the air-raid shelter door closed we heard a blast of mortar tear through the hospital’s first floor. We thought that surely it was an accident, that the Russians wouldn’t knowingly shell a hospital caring for civilians. But then another round of mortar hit the hospital. All day long gunfire sounded in the streets as German soldiers tried to save the city, but there was no stopping the Allies any more.
For eight days we huddled in the candlelit shelter while the Germans tried in vain to save the town. Four of us patients shared one tiny bed. We could hardly move; otherwise, we would push someone on the floor. Some patients cursed while others wept or pleaded for help, but the hospital staff had been able to carry in only a few medical supplies. We had little food, and it seemed that the shelter was pitifully prepared for a long ordeal.
Evidently no one had wanted to admit that a day might come when so many would be crammed into the shelter.
I tried to comfort the three elderly women who shared my bed.
“Do you know Jesus?” I asked them one by one. “Because He has promised us eternal life after death, we needn’t be so afraid. He says that even if we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we need fear nothing, for He is with us.”
They listened as I comforted them and quoted a few Bible passages I had memorized. I had lost my Bible in the confusion of our earlier prison escape. I reached into my pocket to feel my only possessions: a toothbrush, a small bar of soap, a broken comb, and the last of the money Mother had given me.
“Hitler became my god,” one of the women admitted. “We thought he was the savior of the country. He promised us so much…”
“It was only in the last few months that I realized he was a demagogue,” another confessed. “Such a dream. Such a nightmare. Can God ever forgive us?”
“Yes, He can!” I replied enthusiastically. “That is what He specializes in.
“I believed in God once,” an old lady said, “but it is difficult to believe in Him now. I’ve seen such ugliness. I lived in Berlin but fled to Bautzen to be with my daughter. Berlin is just a shell, you know. Most of my friends died.”
“And what about your daughter?” I asked. “Is she all right?”
“How can I know when I’m trapped down here? I hear the cannon fire and the gunfire outside. How do I know it isn’t meant for my daughter and her family?”
“The gunfire has to be for the German soldiers and not innocent civilians,” I said, trying to comfort the old lady. “I am going to pray for your daughter now. Would you like to pray with me?”
“Yes, I would,” she said.
About the fourth day of the battle, it grew very quiet outside. Obviously the battle had gone one way or another, and we soon received our answer as a dozen or more Russian soldiers stormed into the air-raid shelter. Everyone stood or sat frozen with fear as the Russians surveyed our pitiful lot.
Carrying huge rifles with bayonets on them, they talked among themselves and began to eye the women staff and patients. Then, one by one, they grabbed some of the women and threw them to the floor. While the rest of us looked on in horror, they raped a dozen or more women.
Two of the huge soldiers came right for me. “Oh God, help me,” I pleaded out loud. Pulling me from the bed, they threw me to the floor and started to rip off my clothes. It was a scene right out of hell, as man’s depraved nature was personified before my eyes.
The two soldiers gazed at my unbandaged leg, with its horrible red wounds that were only partially healed. They grimaced as they saw the leg and muttered to each other. Then they shook their heads and walked away from me in search of a more appealing victim. So this was the salvation promised by my wounds!
When the horror ended an hour later, we all sat in a state of semi-shock, wondering what to do and where to go. Found, conquered, abandoned. Was that it? Despair wore many faces that day: fear, confusion, agony, loneliness. Were all Germans suffering like this as they came under the guns of the Allies?
I saw a woman weeping as she sat on the floor in a corner. In the darkness of the shelter I couldn’t make out who it was. I limped over to see if I could help, or at least listen to her problem. It was Miss Grete. I prayed that God might give me humility and compassion to reach out and comfort her.
I timidly knelt beside her and put my arm around her shoulder. She didn’t pull away, even though she knew who I was. Instead, she leaned her head against my shoulder and wept. In broken sentences she told me that she had been raped four times by the Russian soldiers.
“God have mercy on them,” I said.
She looked up at me with red, swollen eyes. “How can you comfort me?” she asked. “I really wanted to kill you after you talked on the operating table and we found out that you are Jewish.”
“Jesus tells us to love our enemies and to do good to those who persecute us,” I answered. “He loved even those who drove Him to the Cross, and He begged His Father’s forgiveness for them.”
Miss Grete’s grief was not just from the physical assault she had suffered; it came from the broken vision of the glorious Fatherland—the realization that Hitler, the pied piper she had followed, was a fraud. The Third Reich had finally caused her pain—in its fall.