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
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.
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
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
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
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
“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.”
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