I met a Nazi sympathizer this week. Actually, she is a former Nazi sympathizer. She sat next to me on the plane to Asheville, is 88 years old and was reading a book on the history and politics of the Middle East.
The greatest joy of traveling as much as I do is to meet people and hear their stories. I couldn’t wait to hear this lady.
While her English was perfect, her thick German accent added a depth of realism to her story. As a teenager, growing up in Germany during the reign of the National Socialists was exhilarating, she told me. Life was good and getting better under Adolf Hitler and his promises for a utopian society.
Like most people of that time, she would go to the movies several times a week. The feature film was always preceded by 30 minutes of news, “usually Hitler speaking. People would cheer. It seemed that everyone was so happy and hopeful,” she said. “We were excited about the future.”
Then the time came when she and other young people her age were taught to shoot a gun and prepare to fight. The anticipation of future bliss darkened, though no one would say this out loud.
Then foreign armies marched into her city. The war was over.
Over the next few months, the veneer of Nazi propaganda was stripped away by the Allied forces. She remembers Russian trucks coming into her city every day and rounding up men to take them to the concentration camps. Not as prisoners but to show them the true terror of Hitler. She said the Russian soldiers would accost every man they could find: businessmen on their way to work, professors going to lecture. Everyone. They made them spend the whole day in the camps. Cleaning the debris, caring for survivors, burying bodies.
None of the men were ever the same afterwards, she said. Some of the men lost their minds from what they saw.
From the heights of expected utopia to the depths of despair – life became unbearable and oppressive. “I didn’t want to get married. I didn’t want to have children. I didn’t even want to live,” she said.
Her parents sent her to England for schooling; to get her away from her war-ravaged country. But the betrayal that was Nazi Germany was never far from her.
She went through the motions at the school until she was made to read the Bible to answer some questions for a literature paper.
Lights came on in her mind and heart.
“I kept reading and reading,” she said. “God gave me hope. Out of all the horror and death under the Nazis, I saw that God had himself suffered at the hands of evil.”
And now, over 70 years later, after a wonderful marriage, and two children, she tells me about her growing love for Christ.
She lives with her husband in the western U.S., in the desert (“I don’t like cities,” she told me).
“There is so many terrible things happening in the world today,” she said sadly. “But there is always hope with Him.” She smiled and pointed to the sky just as we started to land.