War is its own special kind of hell. This is the story of the “Lost German Girl” parts of which were later incorporated in a Steven Spielberg film. While the Spielberg movie was historical fiction, there is naked reality here as filmed by US Army Air Force cameraman Oren Haglund in 1945, just one day after the surrender of Nazi Germany to the Allies.
At 3:23 in the video, the girl appears. Later she would be identified as Lore Bauer, a young German girl who had been assigned to operate anti-aircraft guns as Germany was experiencing massive losses of male soldiers. Stationed in Czechoslovakia when the war ended, she and her other female companions were brutally beaten and raped by angry Czechs who had suffered at the hands of the SS.
When she ran into an American unit on the road, you can see her bury her face into a small notebook. It turns out that she had hidden about 100 Czech crowns (currency) which she did not realize was worthless at the end of the conflict. She flashed the currency to bribe the soldiers into allowing her to pass.
To let her know that the unit was American, cameraman Haglund handed her a US penny. Over time she made her way back to Germany and eventually married after the war. She gave birth to two daughters, and it was a granddaughter, Emi, who would eventually visit Haglund’s grave in San Bernardino, California and leave a penny–the very same penny given to her grandmother in 1945–on his headstone.
In that time of war, was she guilty? How far and how deep is God’s forgiveness? Far be it for me to judge her, but I cling to the line of the poem spoken in the background by the Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva that imparts this immortal promise, “my unavoidable faults and trespasses will be forgiven me.”