CALL TO OBEDIENCE #360
Reimar A.C. Schultze
And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me.Acts 22:6. Today I shall share with you
"My Damascus Road Experience (Part 1)"
by Pastor Reimar A. C. Schultze
My story begins in Nazi Germany. Let me start with my mother.
It was 1929 in
Then she met Alfred, tall, blonde and blue-eyed. Before the relationship could go anywhere she decided she would slowly and methodically inform Alfred of her Jewish background. When she finished, Alfred put his arms around her and said, "I always wanted to marry a Jewish woman." Ilse needed Alfred. The day after Alfred died at a young age, my mother found two loaded revolvers in his desk. Had the Nazis come to our door to get his Jewish family, it would have been over his dead body
Born in 1936, I was the third child. In that year, all Germans were racially classified: first there were the Arians: the pure Germans such as my father. Then there were the pure Jews, such as my grandfather on my mother's side. And then there were the people of mixed “race”, the Mischlinge (mongrels) such as my mother and us children. I was the first one in our family that had a racial designation stamped on his birth card. My mother was told by a government official that she no longer qualified for the monthly child-support stipend that all other families received. I never heard the word Jesus come from my mother’s lips. Yet, after this first encounter with persecution, she came home, opened her Bible and wrote my name behind Psalm 91:11 - For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. That was August 16, 1936, shortly after my birth. Unbeknownst to her at the time that verse became a prophetic force over my entire life.
Soon Alfred was called to the Nazi party office. He was told, "If you divorce your Jewish family, you will have a great future in the party." But my father chose to be loyal to his family, and the next day he was without a job.
Our family experienced harassment from a growing avalanche of anti-Semitic laws. On top of that we began to be bombed by the British. Every night our family of six went from the fifth floor to the air raid shelter in the basement in total darkness, sometimes three times a night, until we were too worn out to go down anymore. All in all we survived one thousand bombing raids. Although we left the bombings of
When the Nazis pressured my father a third time for a divorce, he knew that the next time they would not ask, but simply come with a van, possibly with the exhaust turned inward. We made a quick move to
Soon the Germans retreated from
Now three dreadful situations faced us: the Russians were coming, the Jews were being killed in our neighborhood; and Alfred, our father and protector, died of a combination of malnutrition and tuberculosis. The condition in our town was dismal, with hundreds of refugees starving or freezing to death in their open horse-drawn sleighs. A thousand frozen uniformed German soldiers were stacked like wood in our school yard. There was no place or time to bury them. We were twenty-four hours from invasion. But the Germans kept a rail track open to evacuate a train of wounded soldiers. The Mayor said on the radio, "We understand that everybody wants to get out. But we can take only a few refugees to stand between the rows of bunk beds on the train. All families where there are at least three children, who are orphans or half orphans, and where there is at least one infant can get on the train." He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. My young widowed mother still unaccustomed to making decisions, asked us children as we gathered around her, "Shall we stay or shall we go?" With a single voice we said, "Let's get out of here." Later she wrote in her memoirs, "I took the voice of my children as the voice of God."
The two-hour train ride to the Baltic Sea harbor Danzig, now
We reached Danzig and joined two million refugees in an ever-shrinking pocket with our backs to the Baltic Sea, while the Soviets were all around us, moving toward
The West German harbors were mined shut, so all ships were diverted to
There were 17 people assigned to our room. Some boys carved chess figures out of tree branches and we played chess 6 to 7 days a week. The second year we started a full-fledged school system including elementary school, high school and university; although we had no textbooks, no notebooks, no pencils. The first thing we had to learn, still until Hitler's school system, was the great German hymn, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God." This was my first religious education. As I lay on my top bunk on a little bit of straw, I asked, "Who is God, where is he, and what is this all about?" I was like the little boy Samuel who heard a voice speaking, but could not discern that it was God calling him.
At 13 years of age, we were back in the rubble of