Bethel, near Bielefeld in Germany, is a small town consisting almost exclusively of hospitals. It was founded by Pastor Friedrich von Bodelschwingh.
For more than one hundred years, destitute and sick people have found an ever open door, and a warm welcome in this oasis. The von Bodelschwingh family is still the guardian of this large institution. Towards the end of the war Hitler gave orders to confiscate Bethel and turn it over to the military, which needed more beds for the war casualties. The sick and helpless people, mostly epileptics and mentally ill, were to be sent to “camps” for treatment, meaning gas chambers.
When von Bodelschwingh received the order, he informed his dedicated staff. Countless prayers, desperate pleas for help, were spoken on bent knees. There was no answer. The officials began to make the necessary preparations for an “orderly” transfer.
Pastor von Bodelschwingh was well known throughout Germany and in Berlin. He went from one government official to another, begging for the lives of his “children”. He found some sympathetic ears, but nobody was willing to risk his life, by going to Hitler and pleading on his behalf.
Pastor von Bodelschwingh returned to Bethel, and the preparations for the transfer continued. The end was near.
Two Gestapo Generals arrived, demanding the keys. Von Bodelschwingh suggested that they tour the hospitals, because they had come to facilitate the evacuation. They agreed to accompany him. When they entered the children’s hospital, frightened eyes were focused on the two well fed men in their black uniforms. For a moment, there was absolute silence. Now the children looked at their Pastor, they called him “Onkel Fritz”.
“Children”, he said “this is Uncle General, he has been sent to us by Uncle Hitler to take care of us. We must pray to Jesus and ask him to BLESS Uncle General and Uncle Hitler. ”
The children talked to their Jesus.
The Nazis left and never returned. Today, Bethel is home to fourteen-thousand patients.