Saturday, January 2, 2010

Dreams - Escape from the camp

People have many dreams which vary in intensity. Mine are like drawn out dramas that are like sagas with detailed plots, interesting characters, and colorful backgrounds. This is one of my dreams that left a mark I have never forgotten. I will say of this story; it does not have a nice ending, and while I have only visited a German concentration camp, Dachaw, a couple of times, the place and plot were not a manifestation of those visits.

It was an all female concentration camp far from any town, set in a forest and isolated. No other camps were nearby and rarely was there contact beyond the forest. The camp held 10 bunk houses for the prisoners and 3 main buildings for guards, main commander, and kitchens. Gardens were allowed for the women to grow and harvest our own vegetables. I had been in this camp a year and knew all the women, about 200 in all. I even knew and were on amicable terms with the guards since they did not rotate out of their assignments at the camp on a regular basis and only left to go home on occasional visits.

How all the POW women ended up in this camp seemed a pointless matter. We all pulled together to make the best of it and being women, knew how to work the system to get additional considerations. We were able to bath and wash clothes regularly, since discovering the commandant's phobia about bugs, germs and disease. The food wasn't bad, having convinced the guards that our cooking far exceeded the flat, tasteless fare their camp cook provided. We were able to obtain blankets and socks to keep warm. Rarely was anyone sick. Even on rare occasions, small groups of women with guards were allowed to go beyond the two perimeter fences topped with barbed wire to find wild strawberries and other herbs. Not a bad life, but still the guards posts and the lower weapons never let us forget that we were prisoners with no chance of freedom.
To be continued....


  1. Even though we all had jobs and chores to occupy our hands, at night laying in our bunks we would think about our lives before imprisonment. We whispered about our husbands and children we were separated from and cried at the unknown. Where they safe? Where they wondering about us? Did they escape the same fate; where they alive? Eventually, we began to realize that we may never know and the longer we were in the camp, the more distant our chances of ever finding our families became. We had to take some action.
    The plan was hatched and we knew that the one thing that provided us a measure of success was the trusting, relaxed relationship we had developed with the guards. It seemed ironic that the situation which provided us with a bearable confinement would now be used to secure our freedom.
    So we started digging. An underground pipe used to provide water ran from a small pumphouse outside the compound, under the double wire fences, and into the kitchens in the main bunkhouse. The outside pumphouse was situated on a small grassy slope and half way between the fences and the forest. A tunnel dug along the pipe and just beyond the pumphouse would give just enough cover for an escape in the nightime darkness. Maybe all of us would get out, but certainly enough to find help for the rest.
    So for weeks we dug, starting the pantry by the kitchen and moving dirt covertly to the gardens. Following the pipe kept us on course and became a icon for freedom. Where it curved up into the outside pumphouse was the goal and it became our sole focus. As we came closer to our goal, happiness filled our bodies and minds. Even the guards enjoyed the friendliness as many of us were more prone to talk and smile, even whistle occasionnally. I would catch myself humming as I worked in the garden and hear Hans, one of the gaurds I had come to know well, humming with me. Afraid to raise suspicion, we began to temper our excitement and show a more reserved demeanor.
    After six weeks of spooning out handfuls of dirt, the water pipe curved up into the outside pumphouse. Our heart pounded and fear began to build as we contemplated the next step to freedom.
    To be continued...