Concentrated Odessey

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A scratched black train with faded white writing, which read Auschwitz Camp 1940, rolled along the tracks. It passed through the small town of Oswiecim until it reached the very end and desolated part of town, the part of town from which ordinary men kept distances, and mothers would warn their children to stay away. There, stood a short, but wide, faded brown building with an elongated tower rising from the center. It was highly fenced from all sides and appeared inescapable. Uniformed men stood guard in neat rows against the thick, ivy-covered brick wall.

They held up their sharp spears as the train drew closer. Devoran, a young girl of 17, stepped out of the train and placed her bare feet on the hard and rocky road. She was fond of reading about the travels of young maidens on their way to extravagant balls and her journey by train seemed unusually uncomfortable compared to it. Her hair had been pulled into a tight bun and she wore a white and blue patched-up dress which roughly covered her ankles. Devoran hadn’t seen the other girls on the train, as there was no source of light inside. But as everyone emerged out of the train and stepped out in the empty sunlit courtyard, Devoran got a close look at each one. Some wore torn clothes, others had disheveled hair, but they all had one thing in common; they all wore frightened expressions. Soldiers approached and guided them towards the building. There was an arch, which read Arbeit Macht Frei, leading from one pillar of the gate to the other. Devoran looked up at the arch, “Work sets you free”, she silently translated. Her grandmother had taught her a few simple German words, claiming she would find them useful in the future. Grandma would’ve been proud of me, she smiled to herself, but a frown soon replaced it when the realization hit her; she might never get to see her grandmother again. Everyone walked silently in straight rows, afraid of what terrors awaited them inside.

They entered another courtyard but this time, it wasn’t empty. It was full of grimy girls, who looked as if they were brutally abused since birth. Most of them were deeply scarred, and some even wore eyepatches. Will this be my state once I start working here? Devoran shuddered. A camp official walked in, examined the children, and yelled, “Well? What’re you waiting for? Mold those into pots!” He pointed to some bags of clay stacked in an untidy pile. Devoran and the other girls got to work. They all took one bag and started molding while the camp official observed their efforts and occasionally muttered threats. He looked as if a permanent scowl had been painted on his face, or perhaps he had been battle-scarred such that the corners of his mouth simply could not be raised. Days had passed with the girls tirelessly working, and the scoldings of the camp official had begun sounding almost normal to them. Devoran’s gentle hands started changing from a pale hue to a bright red. They had suffered many cuts and scratches over the past few days and her mind often wandered to the world outside the camp. She became accustomed to gazing at the sky, envying the glorious freedom of birds, and yearning to join their flight. Their loud screeches would echo every morning from the wild forests on either side of the building. “One day”, she said quietly to herself, “I will leave this wretched place. ” Devoran awoke one night in her sleeping quarter, it was dark out and the others were still sleeping. She silently walked towards the door that led to the courtyard. Devoran undoubtedly knew that the guard had locked the door the previous night, but she, with a negligible amount of hope in her heart, pulled at the handle to confirm. It was locked, she let out a distressed sigh. She decided to retire to her bed when something caught the corner of her eye. It was a small ledge in front of a window high up on the wall.

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Devoran’s eyes twinkled with restored hope, this was her golden opportunity to escape. With purpose in her eyes, she climbed up to the top bunk and caught hold of the ledge. She slowly, but carefully lifted herself up until she was balancing on the ledge. With one hand holding on tightly to the ledge, she pushed the window open with her other hand. The window swung open and, in one fluid motion, she jumped out. Devoran landed on some boxes filled with hardened clay pots. Some of them had cracked under her weight but she didn’t care, she got up and took a look around. It was a moonless night and she could barely see a thing. The only source of light was a blinking street lamp by the gate. Devoran headed towards it. When she reached the gate, she noticed two guards standing on the opposite side. She took a deep breath and, by putting one foot on the bottom rail of the gate, started climbing. She could see the open field, where they had first arrived by train. “Almost there”, she whispered under her breath. Her lips curled into a smile. She felt someone grab her from the back and she was suddenly pulled down to the ground, the air rushed out of her lungs. Devoran hit the ground and her vision blurred. “Thought you could get away, did you?”Devoran looked up to see a hazy figure of a man wearing the camp guard uniform. Devoran was brought back to the sleeping quarters the following morning and presented in front of the rest of the girls. “This”, snarled the camp official, “is what happens when you disobey camp rules. ”Everyone stared at the fallen figure of Devoran. She had swollen eyes, her mouth was drooling blood, and her face was badly scarred. The other girls held their breaths. “Now get to work!” he shouted. They all obeyed.

A few days had gone by and Devoran’s wounds were slowly starting to heal. The camp guards had made her feel excruciating pain but they could not remove the eagerness of escaping from her and for this reason, she constructed another plan to break out. “Get back to your sleeping quarters”, said the camp official. It was past dawn and the sky was getting darker. Devoran quickly ran past the crowd and hid behind the boxes of hardened clay pots. She waited until everyone had gone inside and the lights were turned off. Staying as low to the ground as possible, she emerged from behind the boxes and slowly crawled in the direction of the blinking light. She noticed that security had tightened since her last attempt. I’ll just have to be more careful and vigilant as ever, she thought. She reached a small shed and hid behind it, finally raising herself up from the ground. She slightly craned her neck to the side, ensuring that the path was clear before going any further. She stepped out into the open and silently crept towards the gate. She had almost reached it when she felt the heavy weight of a hand being pressed on her left shoulder. “You don’t give up, do you? said the voice softly. Devoran’s heart raced. She imagined the camp guards inflicting tremendous pain and tears came to her eyes. “All you Germans are callouses”, she whispered harshly. “I’m not German. I’m Polish, and I agree with you about that”, the voice replied, “I was there when they beat you and I’m surprised, you don’t give up. Everyone who comes to this camp usually forgets about escape within the first few days, but you kept going. If you really want to escape, there’s a back entrance for soldiers only. It’s always isolated at this time. ” He pointed in the opposite direction of the gate.

Devoran walked behind the Polish soldier, looking around every now and then, making sure no one had spotted them. When they finally reached the gate, the soldier halted. He turned and looked at the arched sign, which read Arbeit Macht Frei. “It’s a cynical lie”, he stated, “No matter how much they work, they’re never set free. ” He led Devoran a little beyond the gate. “You’ll have to journey on your own from here. Good luck”, he smiled. Devoran gave a weak smile and looked back, it was as if a murky shadow had engulfed the entire camp. She courageously straightened herself and walked ahead. Two weeks later, the daily paper arrived in town. Polish worker from Auschwitz camp gets incarcerated for aiding Jewish girl, the headline read.

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