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Focus on the Family Broadcast

Lord, Keep Us Free (Part 2 of 2)

Lord, Keep Us Free (Part 2 of 2)

Imagine being raised to ‘worship’ a political leader, only to find he’s committed suicide and his Master Plan has failed. Where do you turn? As a Nazi Youth leader during WWII, Hansi Hirschmann believed in Hitler’s Third Reich, and was devasted by his death. After escaping from a communist labor camp, Hansi sought freedom in the West, and started to consider the true meaning of life. She ultimately discovered the ultimate leader, Jesus Christ, and a new home in America. (Part 2 of 2)
Original Air Date: April 24, 2008

Preview:

Hansi Hirschmann: He led us straight into a Russian death trap, and we had the guns on us suddenly. And I was laying behind a bush, and all I could think of was, “If I die right now, why was I born? Why was I alive, and where am I going?” And it suddenly hit me, I had no answers.

End of Preview

John Fuller: Well, that’s the voice of Hansi Hirschmann, and we have part two of her amazing story today on Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly. And I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: Hansi was a Nazi youth leader in World War II and absolutely committed to the German cause. But when the war suddenly ended and Hitler committed suicide, her own life came crashing down around her. This is a story of courage under fire and a search for truth and meaning. And if you missed part one of Hansi’s presentation yesterday, please get in touch with us. We can send you the entire message on CD or audio download, or you can get the Focus on the Family app for your smartphone.

John: Yeah. Find us at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast or call, and we can tell you more, 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459.

Jim: Here’s a brief recap for those who weren’t able to tune in last time. After the war ended, Hansi escaped from a Russian prison camp and fled to East Germany with a friend and a child they had rescued from a fire fight. They finally made it to an American army base, but they were terrified of the soldiers because the Nazis said Americans were absolute barbarians, but these kind men gave the girls a safe place to sleep, and more food than they had seen in years.

John: And that’s where we’re going to pick up the story today. Here’s Hansi Hirschmann speaking to a group of military wives back in 1990 just before Operation Desert Storm, on Focus on the Family.

Hansi: And he looks down at us and he says, “Do you want to eat?” And we didn’t need any interpretation. I said, “Yeah.” So he put that tray down between us. And my girlfriend and I just looked at the tray, and, and so did the cook, the American cook. And it never dawned on me that we could eat all the food on their tray. This is hard for you to understand. But after World War II, the food value in East Germany, where I just had come from, was one golden wedding ring for one loaf of bread. And then, there’s a whole load of food. What do they want for it? Do they eat first? Do I get the crumbs? So we all just look at it.

Audience: (laughing)

Hansi: So finally, the, the army guy just looks at us, and he says, “Why don’t you eat?” And I look up and I say, “Alles, all?” And he nods. Now, I can’t believe I ate the whole thing-

Audience: (laughing)

Hansi: … but I did. We just ate it up. And folks, that was all food. We didn’t know, we didn’t know anymore how food tasted. And I’d never tasted American food. I didn’t know what white bread was or any of that stuff, you know. It just tasted fantastic. You know, sometimes when I tell American GIs that American breakfast food is one of the best things I ever tasted, you should hear them howl with laughter.

Audience: (laughing)

Hansi: They think it isn’t so good. But for us, it was just the best stuff I had ever eaten. And after that, when we had eaten, the guy comes in, and he, he takes the tray out. And he says, “Go back to sleep.” And by then, I nod. And the guy closes the door and leaves again. And so, he said, “Go back to sleep.” And we tried, but we had… with all the food they had given us, they had us… had given us a big cup of American army coffee.

Audience: (laughing)

Hansi: I had never in my life had coffee ever.

Audience: (laughing)

Hansi: Honey, I was so… Why I don’t want… I said to my girlfriend, “We can’t sleep. Let’s move out before they… before anything happens.” It’s too good to be true. And so, we took some dry clothes out of our knapsack and brushed our hair and got out and tried to sneak out. And, of course, they called us back. And we got to the officer who was in charge of that barrack. And by now, you probably guess it was the soldiers who patrolled the borderline there.

And, um, he, he said, “I’ll, I’ll call the Russians across.” Uh, remember at that time, they were allies. I called the Russians aclo- across the lines. I said, “Oh.” He said, “Just be at ease. We don’t mean…” That was also interpreter. “We don’t mean any harm to you.” He said, “I just wanted to find the mother and the baby brother.” And he said, “The Russians have both. They’re in prison.” And he said, “We tried to offer to give the child back to the mother.” But the Russians refused to take the child back in order to punish the mother.

And I will never forget when I thought, “My god, that child will never get back to her mother.” Don’t ask me after the meeting. I don’t know what happened to the child. I handed her over to the International Red Cross, but this girl has never forgotten it.

And so, I, I was just there as they told me what to do with the child, and they were very friendly to me, and then they let me go. And see, the great tragedy of brainwashing is that when they set your head in cement because they have taught you to hate, they give you only one side of a story, that you cannot just switch your thinking. And after all the friendly treatment, I walked out of that American barrack expected to-, uh, expecting to be heard.

I thought, “There’s a trick to it.” They were good to me, so I relaxed, so I wouldn’t fight, but they get me. And I walked out, muscles tight, and I thought, “I still fight,” even so they fought… fit me. And I walked away, and I walked quite a ways. And then, I turned around because they didn’t seem to come to hurt me, (laughs) and there were the American GIs in the middle of the woods in that barrack waving after us.

You know, that’s what American GIs do when they are bored. And a young girl, 19 years of age, (laughing) walks past their window. And I see some older, uh, people here wel- who probably had their husband in World War II. And I’m pretty sure that your husband came home, and he said, “Honey, I never looked at another girl.”

Audience: (laughing)

Hansi: Don’t you believe it.

Audience: (laughing)

Hansi: Americans love to look.

Audience: (laughing)

Hansi: And they waved, and they shouted, and they said a lot of things, and I have no idea what they said.

Audience: (laughing)

Hansi: Not then. I have a pretty good idea today what they said.

Audience: (laughing)

Hansi: And folks, I know what I said. I stood there, and I look into those smiling faces and those waving arms, and I said, “Danke. Danke. Thank you. Thank you.” And they will never know unless I find them someday what they did. They changed my life. You couldn’t have argued with me. I was too brainwashed. You couldn’t have done it with words, but you had something and I had no word for it. But it was so powerful that I thought, “Wait a minute. The Nazis lied to me, and there is something the Americans have that I don’t know.” And I thought, “I’m gonna find out what’s true, and I’m going to go to America someday.”

And folks, I stood there confused, Nazi youth leader, almost 19 years of age, bedraggled, not knowing which end was up. And I thought, “Someday, I’m going to do something nice for American soldiers.” They have been good to me, and I want to be good to them. And you know what I know today, that God stood beside me and he said, “Child, someday, I’m going to give you the desires of your heart.” And you say, “Hansi, how would you know that God said that?”

You know, I was still a Nazi. But let me tell you something, God already knew I would be his child, because God loved me while I was yet his enemy. And he loves all of us while we are yet his enemies. And he knows who is going to respond to the call. And I went out into West Germany, a very confused young woman, thinking, “Where do I go? Where do I begin? Where are the answers? What is truth?” And I wish I had the time to tell you in detail.

Let me just give it to you in a nutshell. I thought that truth had to be somewhere in philosophy. It had to be a way of life. It had to be something, you know, something very idealistic and, and special. But I knew one thing, that it had to be something that nobody could punch a hole into because they just had destroyed everything I had believed in.

And so I thought, “Whatever it is, it- just nobody can punch a hole into this.” And after I checked it all out, every philosophy I read and I searched, I found out that truth is something that I didn’t expect. You know, CS Lewis has a book, and he wrote that book, Surprised by Joy. If I ever write that book, I call it Surprised by Truth, because I didn’t know what I was looking for, but I know something today.

If you sincerely look, you will find the same thing because the Bible says that all those who seek me sincerely with all their heart shall find me because truth is not a doctrine or a philosophy, not even a religion. Truth is a person. That person is alive today, and his name is Jesus Christ. And mo- most of you know that. But folks, for the former Nazi, that was quite a revelation.

And you know what was the greater revelation? When that Jew, Jesus Christ, opened his arms and said, “Come home, my child. I’ve been waiting for you all your life,” and you know what I thought? If I come into the family of God, I will be a foster child. I’ll be a step-kid like I always have been. You know what I found out? God has no step-kids, but young people. God also has no grandchildren. He has only children. You’ve got to decide yourself. Mama can’t do it for you. Daddy can’t do it for you. Teacher can’t do it for you. Preacher can’t do it for you. You’ve got to decide.

And I decided that I wanted Jesus Christ into my heart. And you know, for me, that’s terribly important because when Jesus is in here, and he’s truth, then nobody can ever brainwash you again. And now, I’m not afraid. Whoever would get hold of me, they couldn’t do to me what they did before. And I found truth. And then I found out that when you have the Lord Jesus in here and He’s your friend and you belong to the family of God, then God gives you the desires of your heart. And the Lord did let me come to America.

And when I came to America, folks, I had so much to learn, and I also need to tell you that took me a long time to come. (laughs) You know, I became a Christian in, in West Germany, and I didn’t know much about Christianity until I came to America. But they said, “If, if you want to do… if you want something, then you have to pray very hard.”

So I thought, “If I prayed hard enough, then I could go to America faster, and I wanted to go.” And so I would se- Every day, I would pray hundreds of times, “Dear God, I want to go to America. Hurry up, and send me yesterday.”

Audience: (laughing)

Hansi: You know what I found out? God’s timing is perfect, and it’s always later than yours. I waited nearly 10 years to come to America. And you know what I found out later? God’s time is perfect. If I would have come to America before that, I couldn’t have handled it. You have no idea what America does to (laughs) you when you come from a dictatorship, when you come from a background that makes America so different. It’s almost like you come to a different planet.

And you heard me say before, English ena-, uh, alone was an incredible hardship. I didn’t speak English. It’s the hardest language that anybody has to learn. You learn it three times. Learn to speak it. Learn to read it, learn to spell it, then, you find out that one has nothing to do with the other.

Audience: (laughing)

Hansi: You learn it three times. But the first thing I learned about the Americans, they did have something. They were like the American GIs. They would rather help than hurt. And I thought, “Why? What makes Americans different? Why, why are they so good to me?”

And then, the Americans were very helpful. You have been so good to me from the first day on. But then, uh, after I learned English, I found out you had, uh, so many things that I couldn’t understand. Folks, it is hard enough to adjust to a different lifestyle. Realize I had never seen a refrigerator, or a wash machine, or, or, or, or, or, uh, a rush-hour traffic on a freeway. All that was new to me. You get used to that.

But one of the things I really had a hard time with was that the Americans think differently. And so, I couldn’t get into your head, because I would ask you a question. Even so I knew what the American words were, I didn’t know what you meant. I’ll give you one example. I go to my neighbor and I say… We were in Michigan. She was so good to me. And I say, um, “We want to move.” Now that was before we moved. “Uh, you tell me what to do.” I thought that would be a long, uh, uh, um, process, you know, would take months. I said, “You show me which police station to go to, and then we fill out the application, and then we will get permission to move.”

And she said, “Where do you want to go?” I said, “To California. We find out it’s easier in California. It’s no snow, then we don’t pay so much for coal.” And so, she said to me, she said, “If you want to move to California, you just load up your Volkswagen and you go.” And I said, “You mean nobody cares where I go?”

Audience: (laughing)

Hansi: And I said, “Wait a minute. Not even police cares where I go?” Would you like to know what she said? “They better not. It’s none of their business.”

Audience: (laughing)

John: You’re listening to Hansi Hirschmann tell her incredible story on today’s episode of Focus on the Family. And we have a CD of her entire presentation with extra content. It’s perfect to listen to again, to listen to as a family or to pass along to someone who might need encouragement and hope. And, uh, that CD is available for a gift of any amount to the Ministry of Focus on the Family. Call today. Our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, 800-232-6459, or you can donate and request that CD at our website, focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Let’s go ahead and return now to more from Hansi Hirschmann.

Hansi: I want you to know my neighbor did just about anything to incorporate me in the American way of life. See, I still remember when I came to her, and she gave me those yellow sticks she grew in the garden. And she said, “This is your lunch.” She said, “We call it corn on the cob.”

Audience: (laughing)

Hansi: I’d never seen corn on the cob in my life. I said, “Yeah.” She said, “You don’t know what to do with it.” I said, “No.”

Audience: (laughing)

Hansi: She said you put it into a pot with water and salt, and you boil it. I said, “Okay.”

Audience: (laughing)

Hansi: So I march with my stick. She had already taken the outer stuff off. So I just throw it in the water. So I go into my kitchen, and I boil my corn. And I boil it, and I boil it.

Audience: (laughing)

Hansi: And after one hour, I march into the kitchen of my friend and I say, very agitated, “We cannot eat lunch today.” She says, “Why not?” I says, “I poke, it’s still hard.” She said to me, “You don’t boil it until the corn is soft in the middle.” I said, “How do you eat it?”

Audience: (laughing)

Hansi: You know European eating? You never eat anything, even your bread. You eat with knife and fork. You never move your arms. Remember this, European way of culture. So how do you eat your corn on the cob with, uh, knife and fork?

Audience: (laughing)

Hansi: So how do you eat it? She said, “Oh, you, crazy Europeans.” She said, “I’ll show you.” Now, they had finished. You know, they had corn on the cob too. She had some in the, in the refrigerator. And she brings it out, and she takes a stick of margarine, takes the paper off, then she wraps it into that corn, puts salt on it. And then she looks at me and she says, “Now, you grab it.” And then you go, “Nga, nga, nga, nga.”

Audience: (laughing)

Hansi: I said, “Okay.” I march into my kitchen. I show my kids. I say, “Teach you how Americans eat corn. Nga, nga, nga, nga.” We love it. We have eaten it like that ever since. Isn’t that neat when the butter’s drop- dripping?

Audience: (laughing)

Hansi: Woo. Now, they taught me a lot. Listen, honey, I go to the same neighbor, and I say, “Uh, you American people talk about being free. What is free?” You know what she said? “When you’re free, you’re free. There’s nothing to explain.”

Audience: (laughing)

Hansi: I said, “Uh, please, wa- wa- what do you do when you are free?” She said, “You’re doing your own thing.”

Audience: (laughing)

Hansi: I said, “What is my own thing?”

Audience: (laughing)

Hansi: She didn’t know that. No answer. You know what I found out about your freedom? You got it, you use it, you take it for granted, and you can’t explain it. I went from neighbor to neighbor to ask how freedom worked in America, and you couldn’t explain it. And I went to God, and I said, “God, w- how does freedom work? How do you have a country that has law and order when there isn’t that out of control everywhere?” The Lord gave me a statement by William Penn, and that statement you might have heard in elementary school, and you thought, “It’s nice,” and then you forgot about it.

William Penn says, “My fellow Americans, you have a choice.” Hey, I have said that sentence so often this week. Let me repeat it e- again if you forget everything else I told you. Don’t forget that one sentence. Only free people have a choice. Only freedom gives you choice because you have to have two or more sides, and you cannot choose unless somebody gives you more than one side.

So William Penn says, “You have a choice.” What is our choice? Wow, a choice. What is the choice? You may be governed by God or ruled by tyrants. Oh, I knew what it meant to be ruled by tyrants, honey. Nobody needed tell me that. But governed by God, what does that mean? You know what I found out? That’s that self-control, that inner control that you sing in your patriotic songs about. That is that Judeo-Christian ethic that you ha- have in your heart, and you know what’s right and wrong. But because you have a choice, you may choose yourself what to do. Nobody makes you.

And I slowly grew into the mainstream of the American life and into your freedom. And first, you are scared of it, and then you learn to live with it, and then you fall in love with it. And I fell in love with America and freedom, folks. And suddenly, it dawned on me that there was a life that I could have that most people on this earth will never have, that I was allowed to start to think for myself.

You know, I was past 30 when I learned to think for myself. You know, I was past 30 when I started to make my own decisions. Would you like to know one of the very first three choices that I made?

I walked into a courtroom, and there was an American flag. And I looked at that judge and I said, “Sir, may I have the privilege of becoming an American citizen?” And after, they checked me out because I had such a bad political record. Took a while. Then they said, “Yes.” And you know what? I stood under that flag, and I said, “I pledge (laughs) allegiance to the flag of the United States, one nation under God, and I understood why we were free, because we are a nation under God.” And I cried.

Ladies and gentlemen, most of you are Americans by birth. I would like to tell you very proudly that I’m an American by my free choice. And boy, am I proud of it.

Audience: (clapping)

Hansi: Thank you. I shall never take the gift of salvation for granted, and I shall never take the gift of freedom for granted, my beloved friends, never ever. And that’s why I can never take the military for granted. You see, that’s when God gave me the final desire of my heart, when He sent me into that ministry where I finally could go to the military, could tell them my story, and I could do something that I wasn’t capable of doing in 1945 because I was too confused, and I didn’t speak English. And wherever I go, whenever I speak to the military, I just want to do one thing. I want to say, “Thank you to you. Thank you for who you are. Thank you for what you stand for, and thank you that you’re willing to defend freedom. Thank you that you are right now alone without him or her because you believe in freedom.”

My beloved, beloved friends, if America ever forgets that God has given us that tremendous gift of freedom, not only to enjoy it, but to defend it and to keep it, because there’s a world out there that dreams about this kind of life. They don’t understand it completely, but they know they have s- we have something that they would like to have.

And folks, it is just such a privilege for me to talk to you about that because I have always believed that the American military is the elite of the free. I know the American public takes you for granted. Folks, the Americans are precious people. They are neighborly, and kind, and helpful, but sometimes they get thoughtless because they had something for too long. They take freedom for granted.

Consequently, they have to take you for granted who defends that freedom. But folks, that does not take the value of freedom down. It is the greatest gift that the God of heaven has given to planet Earth and the human race because you need that freedom of choice even to receive salvation. You have to have a choice.

The first thing that the communists take away from you is your freedom to choose Jesus Christ. Hell hates freedom, as much as hell hates salvation. And God said if we just can trust Him, and folks, it’s time to trust in God, come back to Him and pray, and understand that we are a nation under God. Sometimes, we think we can be free without that. Folks, when we lose the inner control, we have to get out of control. You have to have something to run a country.

And if we ever forget to teach our kids that inner control and freedom goes together, we are teaching them anarchy. We cannot let our young people think that freedom is free man, and I can do anything I please. No, that’s not so. Freedom, my beloved friends, has been paid for by many lives in the last 200 years. And freedom is something that God values so highly that He blesses those who stand for it. May the Lord bless you and keep you, and may the Lord bless my beloved homeland, the United States of America. And oh God, bless our military. Thank you very much.

Audience: (clapping)

John: And that wraps up a very patriotic presentation given to a group of American military wives in 1990. Our guest was Maria Anne Hirschmann, also known as Hansi.

Jim: Well, I hope our Canadian listeners will indulge us in a little old-fashioned flag-waving here. I really appreciate how stories like this one from Hansi help us to not take our amazing country for granted. And I appreciate Hansi’s encouragement for us to pray for this nation and to continue to teach our children that freedom must be tempered with self-control. That’s called wisdom. And let me say a heartfelt thank you to all of our listeners who serve in our military or who support someone who serves. The price of our freedom is seen in your sacrifices, and we appreciate you. Please call us if you need prayer and encouragement. As a follow-up to this broadcast, I’d encourage you to request a CD of Hansi’s complete presentation with extra content. Uh, we can send that out to you for a donation of any amount as you support our efforts to help families thrive in Christ.

John: Yeah. Join the team, and, uh, you can do that when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY or donate online and request your CD at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Next time, you’ll hear from two experts who will help you prepare for having the talk with your kids. And if you have school-aged children, you won’t wanna miss that. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.

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