For more than 20 years Anita Dittman found it hard to talk about the demons she left behind in Nazi Germany.
But eventually she realized something. Sharing her story was not only therapy for her own scarred soul, but she could provide the jolt of inspiration needed by thousands of her fellow Americans who stand guard against the kind of totalitarian regime that Hitler brought to Europe.
Now 88 years old, Dittman has shared her story with tens of thousands of Americans. She’s shared it through her book, “Trapped In Hitler’s Hell,” co-authored with Jan Markell, a 75-minute documentary film produced by WND Films and her still-active speaking ministry.
Now, on Holocaust Memorial Day, she told WND of a new project taking shape that will bring the story of Anita Dittman alive in dramatic form.
A feature-length movie is in the works that will tell the story of a brave teenage girl’s escape from the Nazi regime that tried to kill her.
WND is currently in the fundraising stage of this film project with a projected initial budget of $10 million, said George Escobar, vice president of WND Films.
He said a private placement offering is about to hit the market with the goal of completing fundraising by summer.
“Then production in the fall 2016 or spring 2017 and then release of the movie in fall 2017,” Escobar said.
Dittman was born in 1927, the daughter of a German father and Jewish mother. She was just 6 years old when Hitler assumed power in 1933. The persecution of Jews, even children of mixed marriages like herself, got progressively worse until she was sent to a work camp in the summer of 1944.
Dittman and four other girls managed to escape the Barthold labor camp, where children of mixed marriages were sent to work digging ditches. When their strength was used up, they were sent to Auschwitz.
Not long after she had entered the Barthold camp Dittman contracted blood poisoning from an infection in her foot. Less than a week after having surgery, she could hardly walk, yet she managed to escape in the middle of a harsh German winter with the help of her friends and, later, some German soldiers.
“Even as I speak, I relive it,” she told WND. “That’s what makes it more interesting for people. It comes back to me.”
“People are so amazed at my energy and how I remember all the different dates, but you know I have a hard time remembering names,” she said in a phone interview from her home in the Minneapolis area. “But I have been very blessed. I can remember all the way back to age 2.”
Those who hear her speak have noticed a pattern.
When she talks about the horrors of Nazi oppression, she is calm. But when she talks about the greatness of God and the miracles that helped her escape the camps, her voice starts to crack with emotion.
“It was so enormous how God watched over us and watched over my mother and sister, too,” she said.
Watch the official trailer for the documentary “Trapped In Hitler’s Hell”
While some Jews lost their faith and emerged from the Holocaust as atheists, Dittman experienced the opposite. Her faith was strengthened.
“I always say if I didn’t have faith that would be unusual. It started by hearing the word of God and afterward it grew by being tested,” she said.
Even before she was hauled off to a labor camp, she dealt with a teacher who gave her poor grades regardless of how well she performed, slapped her hands with a stick and treated her as second class.
Her fellow students mocked her.
“After school, they threw horse manure at me, and they called me ‘Jew brat,'” she said. “Mother said don’t hit back, just stand firm and pray that the Lord will be with you.'”
The verbal abuse gradually devolved into physical beatings. Then came the knock on the door. She had to say goodbye to her mother, who was dropped off at a synagogue while she, as a healthy teenager, ended up in a life of hard labor.
“The Jews have a saying concerning the Holocaust: ‘Never again!’ Christians may not have this much passion but they need to be aware that Satan will forever try to get rid of the Jews to thwart God’s end-time plan,” said Markell, a Christian radio broadcaster and writer in Minnesota who met Dittman in 1977 and co-authored “Trapped in Hitler’s Hell.”
Markell, like Dittman, is half Jewish but came to faith in Christ at a young age.
The younger generation in America considers the Holocaust ancient history, Markell said.
“They have little interest even though today’s Islamo-Nazis are repeating history,” she said.
Attacks on Jewish people and synagogues in Europe have reached their highest level since the end of World War II.
“The church today is of little help and not very interested,” Markell said. “Many of them have slipped into replacement theology believing that the Church is the new Israel.”
“As we see Jews being persecuted in many parts of the world, it is my hope and prayer that believers will rise to the occasion and be the ‘righteous Gentiles’ that the Bible exhorts them to be,” Markell added. “The Jewish people have few friends left and no major nation stands with them any longer.”
A different America from 1946
Dittman said Christians worldwide should expect persecution to increase as the radical left teams up with Islam and radical Muslims to offer a “final solution” for their number one enemy – Bible-believing Christians.
“Anti-Semitism is rising in this country, and in any country where the Jews are being persecuted the Christians come right along next,” Dittman said. “We had that under Hitler. America is not the same for me as the America I came to in 1946.”
In fact it’s already happening. It was no coincidence that the 14 people killed by the husband-and-wife jihadists in San Bernardino last month were celebrating Christmas.
“Obama was talking about ISIS and saying if we just were nice to them and gave them jobs they would stop being terrorists, because poverty breeds violence. That is not true,” Dittman said. “There are lots of poor people who never get violent. I grew up poor and I am not a violent person.”
She said Obama had “tears running down his cheek” during his State of the Union address while talking about the children of Islamic refugees, “but how come he wasn’t’ crying when we had those people killed in San Bernardino?”
When Dittman began speaking publicly in 1978 about her experience in Nazi Germany, the doors of the public schools were thrown wide open to her.
That has changed over the years, as political correctness has tightened its grip on America. She rarely gets invitations now from public schools and, when she does, she is usually asked to keep her talks free of any mention of her faith in Jesus Christ. She never agrees to this.
At one point she was speaking two to three times a week in schools.
“I can no longer speak in a public school. However, I will be speaking in a public school on Feb. 19 west of Minneapolis. I love my ministry. It’s been a blessing. It’s sporadic now, but I have Christian schools and churches, women’s groups and book clubs who still want to hear me speak.”
At her age, she said she doesn’t think much about the risks of speaking out about Jewish and Christian persecution by Muslims. But she knows they exist.
“I would say it’s worse today. And of course we’ve had more terrorist attacks,” she said. “In the Twin Cities we have quite a few in the population who come from that part of the world, and when I go out and speak I never know who could be sitting in the audience with a gun in his pocket.”
“Right now, it’s absolutely unbelievable what this president is doing,” she continued. “And we still have to wait till next January to be rid of him. The Bible gives us a warning so we know what we are up against. One minister I know said if Obama gets the nomination in 2008 then our country gets what it deserves. He was right. Many years ago when I was speaking it was brought to my attention that the Russians were letting God into the schools and we were kicking God out.”
After Sept. 11, 2001, there was a brief reprieve.
“The schools were crying, begging for me to come and speak all over this area, and as soon as we felt a little more safe, the same thing happen. We feel safe again and we forget God.”
Growing spiritually through suffering
One of her favorite scriptures is Psalm 119, “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your statutes.”
“I agree with that,” she said. “I had to go through 12 and a half years of the Holocaust, but what I gained was a closer walk with God and more respect for the Bible. That’s our textbook for life.”
But Americans seem to drift farther away from that textbook with each passing year.
“People are not going back to the Bible. I don’t know what has to happen,” she said.
“You know, the Lord says in Genesis 12:3 ‘I will love those that love thee, I will curse those that curse thee.’ So America better watch out. The walls of a church building are no longer a safe area because that’s where they like to attack. You’re only safe in the arms of God.”
Preserving the story on big screen
Escobar, who wrote the screenplay for the movie based on the book “Trapped in Hitler’s Hell,” said he made it a priority to keep the spiritual message intact.
“We’re hoping to target those investors that believe in the story we have to tell. If the story were given to a major Hollywood producer they would make it into an action movie and almost certainly the strong faith elements would be scrubbed,” he said. “We’re trying to protect the integrity of the story.
“That’s one thing we definitely will be doing with this film is not compromising on the faith elements.”
Escobar believes Americans will turn out for a good faith-based film, as proven by the recent success of movies, such as “War Room” in 2015, with strong Christian themes.
“If you have a strong story with a Christian character but you say ‘we’re not going to touch his faith,’ you automatically tell the Christian community you don’t respect them,” he said.
“With this film, we are definitely going to go after the Christian audience very strongly, but we think the story, like “The Hiding Place” in 1975 and “Chariots of Fire” afterward, will appeal to a wider audience.
Dittman said she isn’t losing sleep over the movie.
“I pray about it,” she said. “I say ‘Lord if it’s your will that you should approve of this, then it will be.’ It’s all up to the Lord.”