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Rescued By God in the Midst of Hitler's Hell

Anita shared, “I was overwhelmed by the size of the audience. But once the music started, I became completely oblivious to my environment. And I danced and I danced and it was just wonderful. And when the music stopped, I couldn't believe my ears.”

Six-year-old Anita Dittman’s first ballet recital was better than she could have imagined – especially for a Jewish girl in 1933 Germany.

“I had an overwhelming applause,” she said, “and I thought, ‘This can't happen. All these are Aryans.’”

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.

She remembered, “They 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.’ It was just like my whole world was falling apart.”

Hitler becomes the leading spokesman for the Nazis. Their slogan, ‘Germany Awake.’

Anita was born to a Jewish mother and 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,” she described. “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.’”

Persecution soon followed, especially in school.

Anita said, “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.’” All the while, Anita had to declare allegiance to Hitler.

She shared, “We had to sing the German anthem and Heil Hitler. And I vowed I will never let that word Heil Hitler come over my lips.”

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.
She said, “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 window, and 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 and my soul. I had a peace 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.”

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. She explained, “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, and when they see your happiness, even in the midst of all the horrible things that are happening, the Lord Jesus will do his thing.’"

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,” she shared. “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?’”

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. With the borders now closed and heavily guarded, Anita and her mother were trapped.

“Next, the Nazis launch a systematic campaign of harassment, persecution, and even murder. They burned all the synagogues,” she described. “They demolished all 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.”

At fifteen, 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 7th, 1944, they came for her mother.

She said, “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.”

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 untreated blisters on her right foot.

“I couldn't dare to let them know I was limping,” she said, “because they had the attitude, ‘If you think you're not going to be fit to work, we're going to shoot you on the spot or else club you to death.’ And I said, ‘Lord, keep me strong.’"

There, Anita met others who also loved Jesus.

“When we were digging ditches,” she shared, “we weren't allowed to speak to each other but when the guards weren't looking, those of us that loved the Lord, we couldn't help and talk about it. We’d sit and rehearse verses, especially Romans 8:28, ‘That all things work together for good.’ And we asked the Lord that if he wants us to live, would he please help us to escape. And I tell you, leave it up to the Lord, he devised a fantastic plan.”

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 P.O.W., 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.

Anita remembered, “I said, ‘Could we ride with you? We're separated from our family because of the war. Is there room?’ And he said, ‘We will make room.’”

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.

Once released from the hospital, Anita spent the next five weeks hitchhiking through war-torn Czechoslovakia. Then, on the morning of June 7th, she reached the camp where her mother had been held, and finally reunited with her mother.

“First,” she said, “we didn't say anything, we were just so stunned. Then finally we hugged each other and praised the Lord and I cried – another one of God’s miracles. It was so amazing what God did!”

One year later, Anita and her mother immigrated to United States and made a new life in Minnesota. Now as a great-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 unto me,” she shared, “because theirs is the kingdom of heaven, and lest ye become like little children you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.' It takes that kind of a faith. I have an awesome God. I am not awesome, He is.”

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