The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


The pickle nun

When the Nazis took over my hometown in Luxembourg, the men were forced into the army and young women, like me, were sent to labor camps. The work could be torture. By early 1945 I was lying in a labor camp in Germany, seriously ill with rheumatic fever. My heart was weak; my legs and hands swollen. My body was covered with a rash and bug bites from sleeping on a straw mattress.

One January night the Germans were in retreat and most people left the camp. A girl named Jaqueline walked down the hill and stopped a truck of German soldiers. She asked them to help me. They wrapped me in a blanket and carried me (I couldn't walk) to their truck.

There was a lot of snow. I think we changed vehicles several times before we came to a town with a hospital. I remember being carried 30 or 40 steps up a hill and into the hospital. The soldiers left; Jaqueline and I remained. I was so sick I don't remember if I thanked them. But I do remember that a doctor looked at me and a nun put me to bed.

My next memory is of a lot of shooting. I was carried to a large basement where many were sick and many died. There was no toilet, food or water. One soldier had his leg amputated, without anesthesia.

I can still hear the whistle of the shells flying over us before they exploded. But the sister stayed by me. She bent over to protect me and prayed over me for three days and nights. I wish I could remember her name.

One day the sister stood at the end of my bed, looking concerned. I wasn't doing well. "You need to eat," she urged. "Is there anything you think you could eat?" I suddenly thought of pickles. "I would like to have a pickle," I said. "My grandmother put up pickles and always saved a jar or two for me."

The sister found someone in the village who'd been hiding pickles in a basement. That started me eating again. Months later I walked out of the hospital a well person.

The Lord loved me through many people who have touched my life, and I thank him. "Lord, how could I have ever doubted your love for me? Forgive me, my Lord."


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February issue


Embracing diversity