As a teenage girl, she was imprisoned and forced to labor in a Nazi concentration camp, but God protected her and eventually allowed her to escape. She has told her inspiring story through a book and a documentary, and now WND Films is planning to tell the story of Anita Dittman through a feature film as well.
The “Trapped in Hitler’s Hell” movie is still in the early stages of development. Director George Escobar, vice president of WND Films, said last year was dedicated toward writing the screenplay and beginning to raise funds.
“Hopefully we can get all the financing in by this spring or summer, and then we can go into pre-production immediately and be filming by next spring and having the movie out by fall of 2017 is really what we’re praying for,” Escobar recently told Jan Markell’s radio audience on “Understanding the Times.”
Escobar said he has already secured some investors for the project (although he is seeking more), but more importantly, he has found a “wonderful young actress” to portray the 17-year-old Anita. Rose Reid, 17, impressed Escobar when he met her earlier this year at the National Religious Broadcasters convention.
“I knew that I needed to find a young actress, but I needed somebody that had the maturity that I know Anita had going through the Holocaust,” Escobar told Markell. “She may have been 17, but she had to be a lot more mature, and it’s rare to find that in young people, so I needed to find somebody who had the maturity that Anita would have exhibited at that age, at 17, going through the Holocaust.
“So many young people nowadays have a sense of just the immediacy of their lives, and they don’t really see the past and certainly very few see the future, and I got the sense that Rose already had that maturity and that perspective.”
Reid, who appeared on Markell’s program alongside Escobar and the real Anita Dittman, described herself as “fairly new to the world of acting.”
However, she said she has appeared as an extra in various productions and a supporting character in others. She said after spending time with Dittman she was touched by the older woman’s strong faith and lack of bitterness.
“I knew just from reading Anita’s story … that she experienced so many miracles,” Reid explained. “I sort of knew that going in, but it was another thing to hear her joy when she spoke of the tragedy that could have turned her so bitter, and it makes me look at my life and think there are so many miracles that I don’t realize and that I don’t recognize as miracles, and it’s incredible to see the kind of faith that Anita has. And it’s not blind faith because she knows He’s there and she’s seen His presence and she’s felt His presence. It’s just an incredible faith.”
Dittman, for her part, said she was “just amazed” that a feature film about her experience is finally coming together decades after she and Markell, who co-authored the “Trapped in Hitler’s Hell” book, discussed the possibility of such a film. Dittman agreed with Markell this film can be the next step in reaching people with the truth and the gospel of salvation, which is what Dittman tries to spread when she speaks publicly about her ordeal.
“When I speak, [it’s] to give God the glory, and also let people know not to be discouraged when trouble strikes sometimes,” Dittman said.
Young Anita was not discouraged even when a leg infection hobbled her after she escaped from the forced labor camp. She was in a hospital in Bautzen when the Russian army rolled into town, forcing all patients and staff into a crowded air-raid shelter. After four days, a crowd of Russian soldiers burst into the shelter, seized some of the women, and began raping them in front of the horrified onlookers.
Two enormous Russians threw Anita to the floor and began to rip off her clothes – but then they saw her unbandaged leg, with its partly healed wounds, and walked away to look for a more appealing rape victim.
It was moments like that when Anita realized God had a plan for her life.
“God sometimes permits certain struggles in our lives only to keep us from something worse, like in my case rape would have been a lot worse, and also it brings home that God has a plan for our life and that starts long before we’re born sometimes,” Dittman told Markell’s audience.
Escobar acknowledged “Trapped in Hitler’s Hell” will be a faith-based movie, as God’s miracles are at the center of Dittman’s story. He hopes Hollywood will be receptive to the narrative.
“This is something that Hollywood has not made in a long, long time,” Escobar pointed out. “The last movie similar to this was probably ‘Chariots of Fire,’ so this is an opportunity for Christians to rally around this project, but also for Hollywood to pay attention, that this movie is something that needs to be told and it will be told according to God’s will and timing.”
The movie arrives during an age when anti-Semitism, the driving force behind the Holocaust, is once again rearing its ugly head both in the United States and around the world. Maybe people are just ignorant of the Scriptures, Dittman reasoned, because the Bible foretells the rise of anti-Semitism.
Reid, despite her youth, is also wary of the rising tide of Jew hatred.
“It’s really shocking to me that some people don’t realize that it’s going on,” she said. “We’re so preoccupied with small, other, nothing issues that everyone seems to be so concerned about that we don’t realize that history is about to repeat itself.”
She chastised her peers for their lack of knowledge of the Holocaust.
“Really it’s just the younger generation that has completely forgotten the tragedy of the Holocaust and it’s disheartening because I know those are the people that are going to grow up and are going to be the next world leaders and they don’t realize what happened,” she admonished.
Escobar believes it is God’s timing that is moving the movie forward. He hopes viewers will watch his film with a mind toward discerning God’s message for humanity today.
“What I want people to come away with is that this is not a historical movie,” Escobar asserted. “God is timeless. This is a movie for now and always, because He is a God of eternity and the truths that come into play in this movie are ones that we need to hang onto because we don’t know how difficult the times are to come, and I think He is preparing us.
“And this is one of those movies that I think He’s going to be using as a tool, so I would encourage your readers, your audience on radio, anybody that hears about this message to really seek God and how they can participate.”