Last week Anita Dittman left her traumatic past and entered Eternity. She died October 13 at age 93.
I was early in my writing career when my phone rang, and it was Pastor Alan Talley from Hope Presbyterian Church in a Minneapolis suburb. This was one Presbyterian church that was pro-Israel and that loved the Jews.
“I’ve met someone, Jan, and she needs a book written about her life during World War II. She survived the Holocaust. I noted her accent and asked about her story. It is incredible. Her name is Anita Dittman.”
When I connected with Anita I had her recount her harrowing story. She captivated me. The Holocaust has always been a passion of mine. My paternal grandparents fled Lithuania in the early 1900s and came straight to Ellis Island, then to northern Minnesota, so to my knowledge, my family escaped this sordid time in history.
It is likely that Anita Dittman would be the closest I would ever come to Hitler’s “Final Solution” since to my knowledge, I lost no family members in the Holocaust.
Anita and I spent weeks together as she relayed a story of deprivation, marginalization, starvation, separation, loneliness, isolation, fear and faith. How could this woman even stand up straight? She had lifted 100-pound items as a teenager as the Nazis perpetrated forced labor on her and her mother. They had been abandoned by her Aryan father.
She had made two escapes from concentration camps. She didn’t have sufficient food for 12 years. At one point, she sent all of her meager rations to her mother who entered a camp before Anita was taken. Once in a camp, Anita chopped down trees in a forest in the bitter winter with barely enough clothing on. At the end of the war, she walked across part of Europe on a wounded leg to see if her mother had survived Camp Theresianstadt.
Was I just looking at a living miracle? Perhaps so.
Before the worst of her ordeal, she became a strong Bible-believing Christian as did her mother. And in everything she gave thanks! Her older sister would cling to atheism and die an unbeliever although she escaped Germany in 1939. Anita and her mother’s faith would help them endure an unbelievable tale of endurance.
As I laid out the book, I told Anita that we had to focus on the miracles – the literal acts of God as He alone allowed her to survive a 12-year nightmare of unbelievable proportion. She agreed. All glory had to be given to God for keeping her and her mother alive so that she could spend her years of freedom telling this story.
A fertile imagination could not make up the scenes and scenarios that were a part of her life from ages 5 to 17. God’s constant intervention was nothing less than breathtaking.
Tyndale House published the first version of the book in 1980. Trapped in Hitler’s Hell would have almost a 40-year lifespan, with other publishers including Lighthouse Trails. Books have short shelf lives. Only a few classic stories survive the test of time.
But Anita Dittman’s ministry and story have survived four decades. In 2015, World Net Daily and George Escobar produced a powerful documentary to complement her story. View a two-minute trailer at that link below.
She has affected millions of people around the world, of all ages. Grade school children and teens sat motionless as she related her ordeal. They have no concept of war and concentration camps and deprivation and starvation. They don’t know the meaning of the word separation.
She wrote to hundreds of followers to encourage them. She let a stranger call her if they had questions or just wanted to talk to a Holocaust survivor, because along the way she could lift them up if they were low.
Every fall Anita Dittman stood behind a book table at my annual conference and signed thousands of our book. One year, a German lady came up to her and wept. She apologized for the insanity of the Third Reich. What were they thinking? Anita talked to every person and made them feel special.
Thanks to Anita and her story, millions more have learned that letting government become god, as the Germans did, is not a good idea.
Her life verse was Romans 8:28 – that all things do work together for good for those who love God. Anita reminds every audience of that. That we really are under the shadow of His protective wings (Psalm 91:4).
Anita was a ballerina as a child, until Nazi Germany said they didn’t want “her kind” dancing in Germany. She is dancing the most perfect dance of her 93 years now in Eternity. And, she’s had a wonderful reunion with her mother who survived the Holocaust and came to America with Anita in 1948–thanks to President Harry Truman.