Account of Luise and Sofie Laderer's Two Prison Experiences During World War II

This message tells about the German Worker, Fritz Schwille, who was tortured and put to death during WWII.  These accounts have been around for some time - very sad and such a loss to the Truth.  But what a great resigned spirit that man had.  Fritz's sister,Freida, the Laderer sisters, and the writer here, also suffered much for the stand they stood for Truth.  (Octive Ott note)



Since we were asked to give a report of our experiences in 1944, we will try to give an outline of some of the many things we went through at that time.  First of all, the reason of our imprisonment: one of our German workers, Fritz Schwille, refused to take up arms.  Therefore, [he] was put into prison for about one year, where he had to suffer much.  He was condemned to death but then was given the choice to be a stretcher-bearer and so was sent to the Russian front lines.  Various reports were then circulated about him.  And from that time, we were sharply watched. 


All our brethren throughout the whole land and our connections with other lands were all well known to the "Secret Service." One night, a policeman came and told us he had been sent to arrest us.  We told him we had done nothing and refused to go with him.  After two weeks, he came again and promised us it would only be for two or three days for questioning.  So we went with him and were kept a day and a night in the Urach Prison.  Luise went to the same cell where Frieda Schwille (Fritz's sister) was already imprisoned with those who had to do the hardest work from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.  Sofie was kept in a small room with many other prisoners - most doubtful creatures.


We were continually observed by SS officials through a small hole in the door for that purpose.  Only one small window high up in the wall made it possible to look out or see anything.  Very little food was served and very bad [food] at that.  There was a continual coming and going, as new people were brought in and others taken away.  So we waited from day to day to be called to a trial, or at least learn the reason of our imprisonment, but nothing happened.  Finally, on the tenth day, we were called by an official of the Secret Service to go with him. 


The first question put to us was, "Do you know Fritz Schwille? Where did you get acquainted with him? At a public feast or at some other pleasure occasion?"


Telling him, "He is our preacher," etc., that fellow began to abuse our faith and fellowship in a way that made our flesh creep.  He then tried to force Sofie to speak falsehoods, and she refused. 


He took us down to a small dark cellar and locked Sofie in, saying, "I [will] give you time to consider." 


Luise was then cross-questioned for over an hour, and in turn, [she was] put in a cellar, while Sofie was brought up for questioning.  And he said to her, "I grant you five minutes to say 'Yes' to what I say." As Sofie refused, he became furious and cried, "You'll go to the Concentration Camp for ten years.  You will never see the green woods of your homeland again."  But Sofie thought to herself, "There is still a mightier One over the mighty." So they both were brought back to the prison in a prison car.  


Nearly every night, we had air raids alarms and severe air attacks.  The prisoners were taken to a large cellar and often had to stand there six hours in silence without moving at all.  We were not allowed to even look at each other.  Luise was put behind a big barrel and Sofie at the other end of the cellar.  There, Luise lived to see the greatest and most dreadful raid over Stuttgart.  While in the cellar that night, one direct hit after another destroyed that big seven-story building to the ground, so that Luise thought the end had come.  First, all lights went out and people began to scream with fear - about 250 were crowded together.  Most of the officials and guards had fled, leaving the prisoners to their fate.  Most of the exits were closed.  And towards morning, the prisoners were ordered to leave by only one open passage.  And near the top, they had to run through fire and flames on every side.  While crawling over the stones and rubble, Luise lost one shoe and then had to jump down the prison wall.  


Surely the protecting hand of God had saved Luise and Frieda's lives that night.  On every hand, buildings were on fire and the huge city was like a sea of flames.  The prisoners were like lost sheep with only a few guards to bring them through the burning streets.  One was tempted to think of their own safety and liberty, but the thought of our aged Mother and home helped us to bear all things.  We were taken to an open Square in the city and a rope put around the whole group so that none could escape.  After standing nearly all day in the smoke and sparks from the burning buildings, we were taken in prison vans to a camp some miles outside of the city where Sofie had already spent about four weeks.  She only had about three weeks in Stuttgart, when she was taken to "a house of correction" with hard labour and very little to eat and worms crawling in the food.  In spite of being sick, she had to go down with the prisoners every morning to a big courtyard where all, one after the other, had to walk around the square about 40 to 50 times without speaking a single word.  With the high walls and iron gate, we could see only the blue sky and some birds flying about, enjoying their liberty.  No one knew what pain and how many tears were shed within those walls.  Sofie was in that house of correction for two weeks.


Then she was taken to that camp mentioned already.  Frieda characterized this camp, in whispering to Sofie, only a few hours after arriving, "Am I in a madhouse?" 


We were given men's clothing many sizes too big for us.  Hard work began at 4:00 a.m.  Every little mistake was severely punished by giving less food (very little food was served without that), or beatings or being shut into a small room without [a] window.  Each convict had a number and was called by this - not even worthy a name.  It is impossible to describe the conditions in such a camp.  Also, concerning hygiene, inhabitants in clothing and upon the head were the order of the day.  Those women who guarded the prisoners were more like hyenas, going about with a whip and shouting all the time and barking at everyone.  Speaking to each other, or anyone, was prohibited.  And many girls were beaten for this day after day.  Most of the girls were Russian and French and all had to work hard and got very little to eat.


The many questions in the hearts and on the lips of each every morning was, "When will it come to an end?"


At last, on twentieth of November, the glad message came of Luise and Sofie's discharge.  Sofie was sick at home for a long time afterwards.  Luise and Frieda were in this camp for one week.  Then they were moved to another prison, which was very fortunate for Luise. 


One of the prison officials was a righteous man.  He said to Luise, "I know you have done nothing wrong and are innocent." And daily, he tried to intercede with the high officials for her sake.  And so after nine weeks, Luise was told to go home.  While being there, it was in the home of that official that Luise, Frieda, and another girl had to cook with his wife for 150 people, look after their dwelling, care for their clothes, etc.  Many traps were set and they often tried to get us to speak words of discontent, whereby they could have occasion against us.  But we were able to keep clear of all accusations. 


During our 19 weeks of imprisonment, Frieda was always with Luise and always took the heavy end of the hard work as she was much stronger and this was a wonderful help to Luise.  When Luise had to carry heavy bags of potatoes, Frieda was there always to carry the biggest one.  Poor Frieda always had the feeling she would not come home.  And ten days after our release, she was taken to "Dachau" and had to give her life. 


Only seven weeks after we came home, our old Mother passed on to her reward, after living for God for 23 years.  Otto Kimmich, (a brother worker who was born in our town) was to be with us and stand at Mother's grave, utter a short prayer, and a few words of comfort to us.  This was prohibited and even endangered Otto's life at that time.  We have often been reminded of the words of David in Psalm 68:6, "He bringeth out those which are bound at the right time" (as we say in German).  And we learned the true meaning of the Hymn, "We thank thee Lord for weary days, dark nights, in desert experiences, in deepest need, how great God's love is" (as it says in German).  Soon the terrible war came to an end and the Americans came through.  And we were free to have meetings again in our home and fellowship with God's people all over the world.  How delighted we were when letters came to us again from our brethren near and far.  We are thrilled to see so many of God's servants come to us again from everywhere and to see His Kingdom being built up anew in our midst.