My parents came to the United States at the age of 18 having been invited by my great aunt, and they worked hard to adapt to the culture and language. Seven years later I came along, adding to the struggles of their lives. My mother, not being very motherly, decided to pack me up and ship me to Germany at age two.
When we arrived in Germany, she had asked several people if they wanted a little girl, including her mother. Her mother got angry and told her to leave the house and never come back. Eventually, her sister, Lisbeth, and her husband, Walter took me in and my mother returned to the United States. I grew up never knowing my parents and my aunt never explained it to me.
Going to school under the Nazi Regime was very much a daily frightening military experience. At the age of six, when a Nazi teacher entered the room, we had to stand at attention, raise our right hand with “Heil Hitler.” If you did it incorrectly, the teacher would crack the whip across your fingertips. No one dared cry. If you did, you were hit harder.
The first bomb attack came on September 9, l944 at 1:00 pm. I was nine years old. We all ran into the basement in panic and when I reach the bottom of the steps, I felt I had aged about 50 years. My first thought was…why did the bomb fall in another part of the city and not where I was? There must be somebody watching me. Never having heard anything about God. (Hitler considered God to be competition), I started talking to this Invisible Presence: “Who are you; how can I know you?” If you let me grow up and be a woman, I will find You and we will be good friends!” That thought got me through the whole war!
My aunt and I lived near a cave in the center of the city. With every bomb attack we ran into it and felt safe. There were two entrances, but we always went to the one closest to our house, Der Mauer Keller. On Christmas Eve of 1944, an event happened that strengthened my trust in this Mr. Wonderful, my Invisible Friend. At 2:00am as we ran in panic down the icy hill, I said to my aunt, “we can’t go in there tonight, let’s run to the other one around the block.” She said “are you ready to die?” I said “no, let’s run.” We got there in time and as he shut the door, the ground started moving, as if an earthquake had happened. Obviously, bombs were falling all around us.
He opened the door, the city was in flames. We began climbing over all the debris and when we reached the entrance of the Mauer Keller, it was bombed sideways and close to 300 people were smothered to death.
My aunt said, “Well Eleanor, God didn’t want us to die tonight!” “Oh, so that is Your Name…God…Der Liebe Gott” I said. “Who are you; why are you keeping me alive through all this?” I was now 10 but going on 65. When a child goes through a war, there is no such thing as a childhood.
I never heard of God in any way, but at the first bomb attack I connected with Him, never having heard of the Lord Jesus Christ, seen a Bible or been in church. I had such a beautiful secret friendship with Him, knowing that He must have a very special life for me to go through all that trouble to keep me alive.
“I will find You if You let me grow up…I will be your special woman…promise!”
Bombs continued falling until April 10, 1945 when the American invasion took place. A great starvation period followed. I remember eating grass and leaves off trees. We all had goiters, swollen abdomens and worms crawling out of us, but no one cared. We all had them. Most people lost their homes. We were all living in whatever buildings happened to be open. The only thing that really mattered was staying alive.
In October of that year, it was decided that part of Germany should be occupied by the Russians. So late October the American troops pulled out and the Russian tanks came in. We were again under a dictator—Stalin. All dictators are the same. We were all victims. Before Hitler did anything, he pushed “gun control.” No one had any weapons to defend themselves.
My aunt remarried a border guard policeman and we moved to Bad Elster because her husband died in Russia. We lived right on the Czech border. German people tried to escape but not too many people made it. They were shot. One day my uncle said “Eleanor, we’re hungry and I will send you across the border to get food.” I quickly talked to my Heavenly Invisible Friend, “Now let’s talk, God. You kept the heavy bombs from falling on me, You can certainly keep a little bullet away from me. That is nothing to You.”
So at 2:15am one morning, I ran across the open field. Uncle Hans said, “Tomorrow at 2:30am I will send up a match and you run back. If there is no match, don’t run back.” I was proud of myself, doing this at age 11. He had an 18-year old daughter, but he sent me. Had I been shot—no great loss. I was a foster child anyway.
Later, I came to America alone at age 13 and began thinking of writing my memoirs. My promise and search for God became a quest in my teens. I tried many religions trying to find God, but nothing worked. I remember going to Atlantic City one Saturday to find God by watching the ebb and flow of the ocean…that’s not where God was! Walking back to the bus on the boardwalk, I saw a statue of Jesus in one of the junk shops, I bought it and thought, this will get me close to God. I brought it home put it on my dresser and bowed down to it. When I turned it over, it said “made in Japan.” God, this can’t be You!
Okay God, the war is over. You are smart, You have to find me! Someone in school said, “Do you know God loves you? He sent Jesus Christ to die for you. John 3:16 has been in the Bible over 2,000 years, but it doesn’t do anybody any good unless you put your name in the ‘whosoever’.”
Thursday February 25, 1954 at 8:45am, I opened my heart to the Lord Jesus. I gave Him the baton to my difficult past, and He made it all a glorious symphony. To date, the music is still playing!
My book “Dancing from Darkness,” won a national award in 2018 and to date has sold 4,200 copies and is available on Amazon. I now serve the Lord by speaking to women’s groups, clubs and schools. I teach Bible studies, mentor lots of young people and enjoy the Lord.