A young differently abled woman vows to liberate her best friend from the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust.

An Unlikely Heroine


It was the midst of the Great War.  Raven Brackman was living in her own personal torture chamber in the barracks of the Ravensbruck concentration camp.  Raven was born in the barracks, but there was something out of the ordinary about her.  Raven was born with a condition similar to cerebral palsy.  Her mother had perished in the camp's gas chamber and from the age of two the only recollection Raven had of her mother Anya was her saying; " Take care of those you love my child."  Thirty seconds later, Anya's ashes were seen coming from the incinerator into a starless sky. From that moment on, Raven vowed to unfetter herself as well as her best friend Deidre. 

Raven was now twenty two years of age.  She learned German and was able to translate the camp's events.  Raven enlisted in the camp brothel as a ploy to pry secrets for lapses in strategy.  She would utilize these moments of weakness in planning her escape.  Deidre wanted to be free as well.  It was decided that the two friends would be liberated together or die trying.  Months passed and it was now the dead of winter 1943.  Typhus was rampant and thousands of Raven and Deidre's sisters in circumstances were passing away because of the epidemic or through the brutal Neanderthals in the guise of SS uniforms by vehicle of rape, the barrel of a rifle or pistol; the blade of a dagger, gas chambers, or medical experiments.

Deidre had gathered scraps of wood from a dumpster near Stalag 7: the barracks where she and Raven were housed.  Raven was small in frame, but momentous in courage.  At four feet tall with ebony locks and gray eyes, this petite woman had the heart of a tigress.  The raven, for which Raven was bestowed her moniker was viewed as an omen of death. But on a dark cold evening, during her fifteenth year at Ravensbruck, Raven witnessed a raven and morning dove perched in the small window of Stalag 7.  Raven took the pair of unlikely birds as a sign of things to come for herself and Deidre.

The next few nights were spent in seclusion.   To the SS guards stationed outside, the noise was nothing more than idle conversation between prisoners. Raven was constructing a homemade wheelchair out of the wood scraps, pieces of tire from wrecks of military vehicles, and a piece of mattress for the cushion.  Raven also fashioned a bed for Deidre because she had grown weak from frostbite.  Deidre amputated her own foot with a sharpened spoon rather than be discovered by the guards.  Because of their different abilities, Raven and Deidre both would have been transferred to the asylum at Bernberg and executed by the gas  chambers as part of the human cleansing that was at the center of Hitler's insanity.

Raven was adamant that both she and Deidre would surpass the hell of the Holocaust so that their future descendants would know that any obstacles could be eradicated through drive and raw courage.  On December 12, 1944, Raven carefully lifted a slumbering Deidre into the crudely made wooden berth and transferred into her new wheelchair.  Wrapped in thin blankets from their bunks, wearing only their striped pajama like uniforms; the best friends had previously packed up the precious mementos they had managed to retrieve from their parents' corpses before they were creamated.  These keepsakes included two Star of David pendants made of fourteen karat gold.  The girls were dedicated to their fath.

The guards were passed out from drinking heavily.  Raven and Deidre opened the door of Stalag 7 and stole out into the bitter cold of night.  The friends made their way to the main gaite of the Ravensbruck compound.  With careful movement and crouching, Raven and Deidre crossed over to freedom through a hole in the fence.  Raven rolled with Deidre along the main road by the cover of night for eight months.  One day in April 1945, a Soviet soldier found Raven by the roadside. He noticed the identification number tattooed on Raven' arm ; 777777.  The soldier was awestruck at the resillence of these young friends who had survived the unspeakable horrors of the Third Reich.

Deidre had succumbed to the elements and Raven had performed a Kaddish while burying her in a field.  Using a scrap of the bed where Deidre had once lain as a headstone, Raven had laid a small stone on top out of reverence for the essence of her dearest friend.  Raven was at peace that her vow to Deidre of being liberated together had come to fruition.  Soon after Raven's escape, Ravensbruck was freed by Soviet armies.

Raven became a noted professor of history and passionate orator.  But what Raven Brackman became most remembered for was her miniscule role as an unlikely heroine who changed the course of tolerance in humankind.



Submitted: September 03, 2012

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