Rosemarie Reinhard Musso was 6 years old when she was told she was going to be hanged.
“It was horrifying,” said Musso, who was born in a small German village right at the beginning of World War II.
Her father had already dodged death at least once. Because he was the lone dentist in the town, Nazi officers brought Jews to him for dental work.
“The Nazis would take the Jews out of the concentration camp and make them do forced labor at the coal mine near us, and because of the malnutrition, their teeth started rotting,” said Musso, sharing her story with Samford University’s Legacy League on March 5. “The Nazis would put them on the truck, bring them to my father and tell him to pull their teeth with no anesthetic.”
Her father would say derogatory things to the Jews and tell them to get out of his office and down to the basement because he didn’t have room for them. Once there — and with the Nazis confident he wasn’t sympathetic to the Jews’ plight — the officers would leave, and Musso’s father would treat them with anesthetics, give them food to eat and try to make them comfortable for a little while.
“My father was even able to help some Jews escape,” Musso said.
But that all caught up with him — twice. The first time when he got the summons that he was to be executed, he got on his bike and rode straight to a baroness that he had treated for gum disease.
“He showed her the summons and said, ‘Can you help me?’ She immediately got on the phone and called a friend of hers who was a high-ranking general and said, ‘You’re wanting to execute the only dentist who has been able to help me with the gum disease that I have,’” Musso said. “She had been to other dentists in Germany and Switzerland, and no one could help her except my father. She said, ‘You can’t execute him because I need him.’”
Soon after, he got word that his execution orders had been rescinded.
But as the war went on and Musso’s father continued to help the Jews, he got word again that he was to be executed, along with his wife and eight children.
“It was legally set for us to be hung,” Musso said. But God intervened in a miraculous way, she said — on the day of their hanging, American troops came into their village, and some of Musso’s father’s dental patients ran toward the troops and asked them to go save her family.
“The troops immediately came with tanks and armor to our home and saved our lives,” she said.
‘God dealt with me’
The war was over and God had saved Musso’s life, but growing up in WWII had traumatized her emotionally. She hated Hitler, harbored fear and associated God’s feelings toward her with the heavy hand of her strict father.
Much later, she moved to Birmingham and became an attorney, and a friend invited her to church.
“God dealt with me and I stayed in the church,” Musso said. “I started reading the Bible myself, and God started dealing with me. I was in my 50s when I got saved, but it was 100% turnaround. The day after I got saved, I was preaching to everybody.”
‘Father forgive them’
And in the years that followed, God worked another miracle in her heart — forgiveness.
“It took me about 10 years to be able to forgive Hitler, but when I did, I forgave him and my father at the same time, and that set me free,” Musso said.
She tells her story in her book “Father Forgive Them: The Four Laws of Forgiveness.”
Katie Hughes, vice president for programs for Samford’s Legacy League, called Musso “a survivor and a champion.”
“Through all of the challenges, Rosemarie has allowed God to be her guide,” she said.
Legacy League’s next event is April 30 featuring Emmy Award-winning Broadway actress and singer Liz Callaway. For more information, visit samford.edu/legacyleague/events.