From the recording Vocal Music--Hymn Arrangements
Walter and Edith Rohloff were an unforgettably wonderful German couple who lived down the street from us. They endured many struggles in Germany, before, during, and after WWII. Each of them wrote about their experiences, and when I read Edith's history, I was so struck with how much she had endured so faithfully as a Saint in Germany during that time. She spoke so poignantly of an experience on a stopped train in Germany as World War II was coming to an end, fearfully fleeing the advancing Russians, not knowing what would happen to them. As she wrote in her diary of her fears, she heard a couple who had just lost their baby singing a beloved Germany hymn, "So Nimm Denn, meine Haende," "Lord, Take My Hand." As she heard this hymn, her fears left and she was filled with peace and comfort, knowing that she was in the Lord's hands and that He would lead her on her way. I copied this story, so impressed by it, and years later in 2012, shortly before Edith passed away, I felt to take the words and make a song out of it for a program. Here we are 6 years later with a semi-decent recording of it. Walter passed away just last year in 2017 at the age of 94, but the last few years of his life were absolutely devoted to sharing his testimony with others in his book taken from his life history, "Under the Wings of the Almighty." Walter eventually felt to include many of Edith's experiences, including this one, in his book, which you can find on Amazon. They were truly "Wunderbar!"
I take the passage below from a program in which they song was included in 2013. It includes Edith's actual words.
Edith & Walter Rohloff live in our ward, down the street from us. They were LDS Saints in pre-war Germany, and both found themselves in the middle of the conflict, he as a soldier in the German army, she in a family where the women were left to take care of & provide for those left behind in a war-torn country while the men were off fighting in the German army. They both survived the war, married, lived through years of religious oppression in East Germany, and then escaped to the west, eventually settling in Utah. Walter has written a wonderful book about his experiences (it currently sells on Amazon—check it out, Under the Wings of the Almighty—any proceeds go to humanitarian causes), but Edith also left a history. A few years ago I was reading her history, and again, I felt like I was living through it with her, maybe because as a woman I particularly identify with her. And then I came upon an experience at the end of World War II as thousands in Germany were boarding slow-moving trains to flee the advancing Russian army that I share in her words:
I wrote in my diary. It was 1 o’clock at night. Everybody around me was asleep. I was sitting on our hard sled and my back was hurting. The train was already standing for more than 20 hours, and we didn’t know why. We had no radio and didn’t know how far the Russian army was away from us. What would be our fate? The fear of falling into the hands of the Russian army never left us. But when I prayed a calm feeling came over me. Still sitting with my thoughts, I heard other train refugees singing. Death had taken their little baby and they found solace in this hymn.
Lord, Take My Hand (English translation)—So nimm den meine haende
Lord, take my hand and lead me on life’s way, Direct, protect, lead me from day to day.
Without your grace and favor, I will go astray, So take my hand, O Savior, and lead the way.
Lord, when the tempest rages, I know I need not fear, For you, the Rock of Ages, are always near,
Close by my side abiding, I will fear no foe, For when your hand is guiding, in peace I will go.
Lord, when the shadows lengthen and night has come, I know that you will strengthen my steps towards our home.
And nothing can impeded me, O blessed friend.
So take my hand and lead me unto the end. Lord, take my hand, blessed friend.
Edith continues: A melancholy feeling came over me. Tears were rolling down my cheeks. I remembered this hymn from the days when we were singing it at home or in church. But now we were sitting here in the dark and the future was bleak. But somehow this hymn lifted me up and made me feel good. The horrible pictures impressed upon my mind by other refugees who had contact with the Russians faded, and a positive outlook returned, knowing the Lord was with us. Standing here on the train at the railroad station, and knowing the Russian army came nearer with every hour had aggravated our fear, but now I felt good in the knowledge that with the Lord’s help, we safely would reach our destination.
When I read this, I knew I would eventually make this English words into a song. They just spoke to me—and again, somewhere I just heard a song. And a few years later I got to do that, finishing it about a year-and-a-half ago before she passed away in 2012 at the age of 91. Along the way it got tied up with “I Need Thee Every Hour” in one unified message.
I’m grateful for music and for the strength it can give us. It gave Edith and her fellow train passengers comfort at that time. Sometimes we think of music as a decoration of life, something that we enjoy and engage in when all is going well—but I think sometimes when we are in the most desperate and deprived of circumstances, music may be one of the few things we have left. It can be one of the most heartfelt and comforting conduits of expressing faith & gratitude to Him and receiving hope and peace from Him. The song of the righteous, even or especially in the most desperate of circumstances, is a prayer unto Him, and shall be answered with a blessing upon our heads.