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Rescued By God in the Midst of Hitler's Hell

A story of hope, survival, and miracles unfolds as a young Jewish girl encounters her Messiah in a Nazi work camp. Read Transcript


ANITA DITTMAN: I was overwhelmed by the size of the audience.

But once the music started, I became completely oblivious

to my environment.

[PIANO PLAYING]

And I danced, and I danced.

And it was just wonderful.

[PIANO PLAYING]

When the music stopped, I couldn't believe my ears.

NARRATOR: Six-year-old Anita Dittman's first ballet recital

was better than she could have imagined, especially

for a Jewish girl in 1933 Germany.

ANITA DITTMAN: I had an overwhelming applause.

And I thought, this can't happen.

All these are Aryans.

NARRATOR: It had only been a few months since Adolf Hitler was

appointed chancellor.

And already his nationalist, anti-Semitic propaganda

was taking hold.

A newspaper review the next day said it all.

He said the dance was superbly performed by Anita Dittman far

above her age, but the German people no longer

want to be entertained by a Jew.

Right there and then, it was just like my whole world

was falling apart.

NEWS REPORTER 1: Hitler becomes the leading spokesman

for the Nazis.

Their slogan, "Germany awake."

NARRATOR: Anita was born to a Jewish mother

and a German father.

And even though she was raised an atheist, that hardly

mattered to the Nazi regime.

You had to register either Jew or Aryan.

And I said to my mother, where do I go?

I'm a little of both.

And she said, you're going to be under the undesirables.

NARRATOR: Persecution soon followed, especially in school.

ANITA DITTMAN: The little Aryan boys, they

would throw dog manure and horse manure at me.

And girls would come and beat me up and call me Jew brat.

NARRATOR: All the while, Anita had to declare allegiance

to Hitler.

We had to sing the German anthem.

And I vowed I will never let that word "Heil Hitler" come

over my lips.

[HITLER SPEAKING IN GERMAN]

NARRATOR: Fearing repercussions from the Nazis,

Anita's father divorced her mother

and abandoned the family.

Soon after, the Gestapo came to their home

and took Anita, her mother, and older sister to the ghettos.

It was there Anita met a working class German family

who didn't prescribe to Hitler's hatred of the Jewish people.

ANITA DITTMAN: They said one day,

would you like to come to church with us?

I said, yeah, I've never been in a church.

It had beautiful, big stained glass windows.

They depicted Christ's birth, life, death, and resurrection.

And I kept looking at him.

And I was so overwhelmed.

Something happened to me.

Christ came into my life, into my heart, my soul.

I had a piece inside of me that I had not known before.

and I felt a security.

No matter how things got bad in school and everything,

it doesn't matter.

And ballet was no longer important.

I had traded it into something much better.

NARRATOR: To Anita's mother and sister,

it was nothing more than a fantasy.

But Anita knew Jesus was real.

And the next day, she told her friends what had happened.

ANITA DITTMAN: I started to cry.

And I said, what can I do to make them believe me?

And they said, you do nothing.

Turn it over to the Lord.

He is going to do the doing.

You just love your mom, love your sister.

When they see your happiness, even

in the midst of all the horrible things that are happening,

the Lord Jesus we'll do his thing.

NARRATOR: Three years later in 1937, Anita

began attending school at a Lutheran church

that was still open to Jewish children.

One day, the minister visited their home.

He brought each one of us a Bible.

And he said, we would be very happy to have you

in our church.

And my mother said, aren't you taking chances?

You could get locked up.

But he said, how can I possibly not be interested

in helping God's people?

NARRATOR: Anita's mother started attending church

and eventually gave her life to Christ.

Meanwhile, the pastor tried to secure visas

so that the three of them could flee the country.

But only her sister's arrived.

And she escaped to England.

The next day, September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland.

NEWS REPORTER 2: Adolf Hitler plunges mankind

into a second world war.

NARRATOR: With the borders now closed and heavily guarded,

Anita and her mother were trapped.

NEWS REPORTER 2: Next, the Nazis launched a systematic campaign

of harassment, persecution, and even murder.

ANITA DITTMAN: They burned all the synagogues.

They demolished all the storefronts

of Jewish businesses.

They dragged old men by their beards out of their homes

and put them into police wagons and shipped them

off who knows where.

NARRATOR: At 15, Anita was banned from school

and forced into heavy labor alongside her mother.

For years, they lived in constant fear

as the Gestapo took away their family and friends one by one.

Then on January 7, 1944, they came for her mother.

I didn't know at first where they had taken her.

And then I found out that it was Camp Theresienstadt

in Czechoslovakia, a very bad camp.

NARRATOR: Seven months later, Anita

was sent to the Barthold concentration camp, where

for hours a day she dug ditches deep enough to trap

Russian tanks and eventually developed

blood poisoning due to the untreated

blisters on her right foot.

ANITA DITTMAN: I couldn't dare to let them know I was limping.

Because they had the attitude, if you

think you're not going to be fit to work, we're going to--

we shoot you on the spot or I'll club you to death.

And I said, Lord, keep me strong.

NARRATOR: There, Anita met others who also loved Jesus.

We were housed in a filthy, old [INAUDIBLE].

We weren't allowed to speak to each other.

But when the guards went looking,

those of us that loved the Lord, we

couldn't help but talk about it.

And we'd say and rehearse verses, especially Romans 8:28.

And you know that all things work together for good.

And we asked the Lord that if he wants to live,

would he please help us to escape?

And I tell you, leave it up to the Lord.

He devised a fantastic plan.

NARRATOR: In January 1945, Hitler's forces

went into full retreat as the Soviet Union closed in

on Germany.

Anita and four other girls were put on a wagon for transfer

to another camp.

Using cigarettes and some change Anita had kept hidden,

they bribed their driver, a Polish POW,

to take them to the nearest train station.

A train surrounded by German soldiers was about to leave.

In a daring move, Anita approached one of the men,

claiming the girls were local villagers fleeing the Russians.

And I said, could we ride with you?

We are separated from our family because of the war.

Is there room?

And he said, we will make room.

NARRATOR: They got off at Bautzen, Germany,

where Anita sought medical treatment

for her now badly infected leg.

She was still recovering in the hospital

when Russian soldiers overtook the city on April 21, 1945.

A few days later, the war in Germany ended.

[EXPLODING SOUND]

NARRATOR: Once released from the hospital,

Anita spent the next five weeks hitchhiking

through war-torn Czechoslovakia.

Then on the morning of June 7, she reached the camp

where her mother had been held and finally reunited

with her mother.

First, we didn't say anything.

We're just so stunned.

Then finally, we hugged each other

and praised the Lord and cried.

And in other words, God's miracles.

I mean, it was so amazing what God did.

NARRATOR: One year later, Anita and her mother

immigrated to the United States and made a new life

in Minnesota.

Now as a grandmother, she shares her story

of how she survived the Holocaust, a miracle she

credits to Jesus, who she met when

she was just seven years old.

He said let the little children come under me,

because there is a kingdom of heaven

and less ye become like little children,

can you not enter the kingdom of heaven.

It takes that kind of a faith.

I have an awesome God.

I'm not awesome, He is.

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