Trapped in Hitler’s Hell

Chapter 5

by Anita Dittman

Lighthouse Trails Research - April 20, 2010





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LTRP Note: This month is Holocaust Remembrance 2010. The following is an excerpt from Lighthouse Trails author, Anita Dittman’s war memoir, Trapped in Hitler’s Hell. Anita was a young Christian Jewish girl in Germany when Hitler’s terror against the Jews began. Today, at 83 years old, Anita still shares her story with others in her home state of Minnesota.

It was hard to get my strength back even though I was living at home again. Food rations decreased almost weekly, until we ate only one meal a day. Everyone had to tighten his belt because so much food was being sent to the German soldiers on the front lines.

Brown-shirted storm troopers were marching through the towns, terrorizing everyone and delighting in making life miserable for the Jews, whether by teasing and taunting or by acts of brutality. They ridiculed and beat Jews everywhere and randomly hauled off individuals or families to prison. Cattle cars were filled daily as trainloads of frightened Jews were shipped to secret destinations throughout the tranquil German countryside.

Pastor Hornig said that some anonymous church member had paid for all my classes and books at the Konig Wilhelm Gymnasium* in Breslau. However, Mother and I were sure that it was the Hornigs themselves who had made the financial sacrifice. The tension was thick both at school and at home, for my three aunts bickered endlessly with one another.

As I walked to the gymnasium, I saw bold signs proclaiming “No Jews Allowed” on nearly every store. Other signs warned Germans to stay away from Jews, who had been banned from theaters, parks, and all recreational areas. Everywhere I looked, I saw anti-Jewish slogans and posters. Many of the posters had the photograph of a Jew who had just been arrested for some concocted crime. In sharp contrast, flashing neon signs illuminated Hitler’s picture.

The Nazi flag was hung proudly outside of most homes in Breslau. Inside, Germans were required to have a picture of the Führer somewhere in the house. Hitler was pressing the Christian pastors to have his picture placed at the front of church altars.
With so many German men on the battlefield, the women had taken over their jobs. The streets were strangely empty of most automobiles, for they all were being used for military purposes. As a result, streetcars were as packed as the railroad cars to concentration camps.

Hitler’s contorted and strained voice blasted hate propaganda from the radio almost daily; he frantically blamed “international financial Jewry“ for the war and warned Germans that every living Jew was an archenemy of the Reich. Jews had absolutely no rights and weren’t entitled to own property.

More and more Jews trembled behind locked doors. We learned that a brother and a sister of Mother’s had been picked up and taken to a camp. Another brother and his wife took their own lives rather than face a concentration camp ordeal. It was inevitable that the random confiscation of Jews should hit our house that winter.

Mother tried to be a peacemaker for her three quarreling sisters. However, when she attempted to help them, they would gang up on her because of her growing love for Jesus, who Pastor Hornig had told her was the Jewish Messiah. Mother could no longer deny the power of Christ in our lives. She had to talk about Him; it was a natural overflow of love. But her sisters insisted that it was Jesus’ followers who had hounded the Jews since the first century. They claimed the Nazis were all Christians on the basis of them being Gentiles and having attended Catholic or Lutheran churches. Many of those very churches had now sold out to the Führer, allowing his picture to be on their church altars. It made no sense to my aunts to worship Jesus, a phony dead man in whose name millions of Jews had been persecuted, tortured, and killed.

“But those people aren’t really Christians!” I insisted, not fully grasping the accuracy of my statement. “They just give real Christians a bad name.”

“Nonsense!” insisted Aunt Elsbeth. “All Gentiles are Christians.”

They either couldn’t or wouldn’t understand. Nor would they believe Pastor Hornig when he told us that numerous Christians all over Europe were actually helping the Jews at the risk of their own lives. Ultimately, many of the believers went into concentration camps themselves just because they had aided a Jew somewhere in the Nazi world.

“You and your mother are traitors to our people!” Aunt Friede said at least once a day. “You should be ashamed of yourselves.” Finally Mother would be quiet, but every night her sisters saw her open her New Testament and read some more. They paced and muttered to themselves about the tragedy of their sister’s “blindness.”

Since we shared the kitchen with so many others, we usually ate at about 9:00 P.M. As we sat down to our meal one night early that spring, we heard an abrupt knock on our door. Then came the familiar “Open up!” that we had heard several times in our building. Two more forceful knocks followed.

Mother went to the door, resigned to opening it and facing the Nazis. She looked into the cold eyes of two Gestapo agents, who greeted her with the familiar “Heil Hitler!”

Mother didn’t respond, but she opened the door to let them in. My aunts and I sat frozen in our chairs as the two Gestapo men marched in, proudly wearing their Nazi uniforms and swastikas.

“We are here to arrest Käte Suessman. Which one of you is she?”

“It is I,” Aunt Käte replied. “What have I done?” Relief and horror were written on Mother’s face. At least they didn’t want me or her other two sisters, who were in poor health.

“Does it matter what the reason is for a Jew’s arrest?” the self-appointed Gestapo spokesman answered. “Jews need only exist; that is reason enough for their arrest. You have five minutes to fill one bag with things and that is all. Hurry now.”

To read this entire chapter, click here.

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