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Classroom questions: Anna Denz

How did you and your family keep your faith? When your friends and loved ones were dying, was it hard at times to keep your faith and stay strong and brave?

Every morning my mom brought in a Bible and before Dad left for work, our family would read and discuss the Bible. It really helped me because we not only read the Scriptures, but I had the chance to ask questions that bothered me as a kid.

My mother would always stress the need to pray for help. Prayer was important to our family and we always prayed together.

The kids would holler at me: “We want the Hitler party, not the Bibelforscher party.” This was very hard on me, but I kept remembering my mother’s advice: “You are never alone.” I would say some very short prayers.

At school our enthusiastic teacher taught us to say the greeting “Heil Hitler!” My Father, after explaining the meaning “Heil”, said he didn’t think it was right, but I could decide for myself what I should do. I decided not to give the Hitler salute and some boys even beat me when the teachers weren’t looking. Even my friends told me their fathers had forbidden them to play with me. I was too dangerous.

The Nazis always tried to influence young people against their parents. They would tell us if we went into the Hitler Youth, we’d spend our days in outings and parades. The Nazis would tell us we didn’t need our parents.

I didn’t belong to the Hitler Youth. This left me more time with my parents. My parents and I did a lot of hiking in the beautiful Black Forest. My parents would explain to me that Jehovah God created all the beauty – the deer, the fawns, the flowers.

Every Saturday the Hitler Youth went on an outing in the Black Forest instead of coming to Saturday school. School was only for those who were not in the Hitler Youth. One day the teacher took the class for an outing in the woods because she wanted us to know what we were missing by not being in the Hitler Youth. Afterward I told the teacher it was so much more interesting when I could go with my mother and father hiking in the woods!

My parents were sent to prison for smuggling Bible literature across the Swiss border. Because they refused to sign the Declaration, they were sent to concentration camps. My mother died in Ravensbrueck after a savage beating and my father died in Mauthausen after being used as a human guinea pig for medical experiments performed by SS doctors. I was an orphan. I later married, moved to Kentucky with my husband, and we had a daughter.

In the year 2000, more than 60 years after losing my parents, 42 letters written on concentration camp stationery were given to me by a woman who found them in a sewing box in Germany in the 1980’s. There in my parents’ handwriting were their constant inquiries to my aunt about me while they were in the camps. Their loving concern for me never ceased.

In 2004 a street in my parents’ hometown was named Denz Street in honor of my parents. The local newspaper stated that my parents “were murdered in a concentration camp during the third Reich because of their faith.”  For me, that action by the city council was an unexpected but most heartwarming turn of events.

As a girl, I bombarded my parents with questions. But Mother and Father never chided me for my childish curiosity. Rather, they taught me to reason – to think things through in my mind – and to make my own decisions based on a Bible-trained conscience.