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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: In and Out (04/30/09)

TITLE: Hope Was a Vapor...
By Chely Roach
05/06/09


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The ghetto was nearly a ghost town.

Hannalore held her bag in her right hand, and braced her wobbling, pregnant mother with her left. They were shoulder to shoulder with thousands of others, all sharing one common trait; white arm bands with a blue Star of David. After endless months of quarantine in the ghetto, Hannalore looked over her shoulder at the somber, broken city she once loved; Warsaw. How long have I dreamt of fleeing you, and now, I am petrified to leave…

A soldier with a bullhorn blared in Hannalore’s ear, “Please remain calm as you board the train. All of those that resist will be shot. You are being resettled in the East, so please remain calm…”

She caught his eye, and he scowled at her as if she were something unpleasant adhered to the bottom of his boot.

The massive herd of human flesh was prodded along a wide path lined with barbed wire fencing. As Hannalore and her mother turned the corner, they saw it. It was an ugly monster of steel, graying wood slats, and more ominous razor wire. Dozens of freight cars dotted the tracks. Most were already full.

“Perhaps they won’t have room for us…maybe we’ll get to stay behind.”

“We can hope, child.”

Their massive group was shoved in the freight car, well beyond capacity. Many of the men began to protest as the soldiers pressed even more bodies into the car, but were stifled as the door swung shut. Several young children began to cry in unison. The soft murmurs from their mothers made the men hang their heads…they were captives at the mercy of a merciless regime. Hope was a vapor they dared not cling to.

The train began its slow departure. As it gained momentum, the motes of sunlight that peeked through the slats created a surreal onslaught of light and shadows. Hannalore became very aware of the bare spot in the sole of her left shoe.

“Mother, there’s something on the floor that burns…”

She closed her eyes tightly, “It’s lye.”

“What’s it for?”

Before she could answer, the train car filled with panic. A man peering between the gaps yelled, “We are heading north! We are going to Treblinka!”

Hannalore whispered to her mother, “Treblinka?”

Enormous tears filled her eyes, “It is the camp with no barracks…”

“You mean…”

“No one lives there.” The words hung between them; as the depth of the words washed over Hannalore’s young face, she put her arms around her daughter and recited the Kaddish between sobs.

The two were startled by the ear piercing sound of splintering wood. Four men held up a fifth, who was pummeling the wicked wood with his heels. It began to give way. More joined in; hammering the grey boards, completely undeterred by the damage the wood slats gave back to them. A porthole less than the size of a milk crate flooded the cabin with light and air.

A man on each side of the hole held the barbed wire clear of the opening; the young men who were small but brave enough, lined up to make their leaps of faith. After a couple squeezed through, the passengers let a collective scream at the sound of successive gunfire. An elderly woman at the back of the car squinted out as the train rounded a bend, “There are two soldiers on the last flat car!”

This only stopped the processional for a moment before they resumed their escapes.

Hannalore’s mother clutched her arm, “Go child! Jump!”

“No, Mama! I don’t want to leave you! I won’t!”

The tears poured down her face, “Make the sign of the cross…”

“NO!”

“Do it, child…do it to live.”

Hannalore crossed herself, and then collapsed onto her mother’s swollen belly. Her mother stroked her hair and wept. She wept for her children; born and unborn. She wept for her people.

She led Hannalore to the opening, and kissed her forehead, “Live, child. Love…and forgive.” She ripped the arm band free from her daughter, letting it fall to the lye covered floor.

Blinded by tears but numb from sheer grief, Hannalore threaded herself out of the freight car, and leapt into the tall autumn grass.

She laid there prostrate until she could no longer hear the rumble of the train.

And then she ran.




"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest."

~Elie Wiesel



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This article has been read 845 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Steve Uppendahl05/07/09
Ho-ly crap. Amazing story. Amazing descriptive phrases throughout (including the title), but raw and understated emotion still come through. Impressively done. Powerful.
Sara Harricharan 05/07/09
Good job here. It seems there is more to this story than just this short excerpt. Thanks for sharing this-great job.
Charla Diehl 05/09/09
Let us never forget the horrors of the holocaust--this haunting slice of history was well written and emotional on many levels.
Mona Purvis05/10/09
This is a very compelling story, well-told. Most likely lived out time and again. I'm not sure it was on topic. Maybe, I missed the connection. But, I enjoyed the writing.
Mona
Sharon Kane05/11/09
No chord is foul enough to tell the pain of the holocaust. Your telling was suitably brutal and the title was perfect.
I guess the in/out was how she was forced onto the train and then escaped off it?
Sonya Leigh05/11/09
Such hardship is hard to imagine, but it must never be forgotten. It also helps us remember the sufferings of our fellow brothers and sisters who are presently being persecuted for their faith.

Thank you for this poignant glimpse into one small corner of the Jews' sufferings---and so well written, too.
Shelley Ledfors 05/11/09
A very stirring and poignant portrayal. Your descriptions put me right into the story. The tie-in to the topic is definitely there, but not overt. Very well done.
Kristen Hester05/11/09
Exceptional writing. Bravo. I see the topic. Subtle, but definitely there. Great job.
Betty Castleberry05/12/09
Last minute effort? It reads like a masterpiece. I was enthralled from first word to last.

I will say I struggled just a bit to catch the topic, too, but I believe I understand.

This is bold. Two thumbs up!
Bryan Ridenour05/12/09
Super great writing and I think right on topic. Loved the quote at the end also. Well done.
Rachel Rudd05/12/09
This is well put together from beginning to end! You captured the hopelessness of that time so well...May God forbid that it ever happens again. The topic I saw going in and out of the train....but maybe there was something deeper I missed?
Connie Dixon05/12/09
Wow, incredible. Every word got my attention and drew me into the next phrase. Great job!
Yvonne Blake 05/12/09
Wow! Very descriptive and sobering!
I wondered why a Jew would make the sign of a cross?
Well done
Karlene Jacobsen 05/12/09
I definitely see the topic threaded in there. This is an amazing story. It took a brave and selfless mom to push her daughter to jump; also the bravery of the girl to actually jump and live
Patricia Herchenroether05/13/09
So real, so painful to admit that fellow human beings committed these atrocities. A very powerful story and well-written.
Diana Dart 05/13/09
Emotional, painful, gripping. So well done with pictures I wanted to turn away from, they were so raw, and an MC that I wanted to hold close with love. Beautiful.
Gregory Kane05/13/09
Powerful, authentic writing.
One thing that struck me as unusual (but fitting) was the way that the girl was urged to conceal her Jewishness (removing the armband, making the sign of the cross) so as to preserve her life. As Christians we rightly honour those believers who cling to their faith in Jesus even in the face of intense persecution. But not everyone will make that same choice. And when it's a little girl, it's a very hard call to make.
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/13/09
Riveting--awesome description and story line. You're a stupendous writer!
Sheri Gordon05/13/09
Wow. Wonderful writing. Incredible story. Very good job with the topic.
Loren T. Lowery05/13/09
So glad I was able to read this. Outstanding, authentic writing, powerful and riveting. I was right there on the train, kicking the slats, urging escape to live. Kudos!
Lollie Hofer 05/13/09
Riveting story of a sad, sad time in history. May we never forget the horrors of what millions had to endure. Thanks for sharing this remarkable story.
Lyn Churchyard05/13/09
Moving and well written story. Well done Chely :-)
Joy Faire Stewart05/14/09
Incredibly written story of a horrific time in history. I found it riveting. Amazing!
Dee Yoder 05/14/09
Your story made me want to go Google "escape stories from Nazi trains"! I want to read about those--I've not read of this type of escape story before, but I'm sure many did this, knowing that to stay, was sure death anyway. Riveting and sad, but that little hope at the end for the daughter was the embodiment of the title.
Janice Fitzpatrick05/14/09
Wow! This indeed is a compelling well told story! You surely deserved winning hon. Thank you for writing this!God bless!
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/14/09
Woo Hoo for you! Congratulations!
Sheri Gordon05/14/09
Congratulations on your EC. Incredible writing--as always. :)
Myrna Noyes05/14/09
CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR 2ND PLACE EC for this moving, haunting piece! I appreciate historical settings for stories and have an interest in the WWII era. This was excellent writing! :)
Eliza Evans 05/14/09
Hmmm. I thought I left a comment on here. I must have forgotten to click submit. (blush) Sorry about that!

Anyhoo...WONDERFUL WRITING. (naturally)Excellent atmosphere. Love the build up in the first few lines and the scenes on the train. The whole story felt authentic and oh, so sad and tragic.
Very well done. Congrats!Congrats! :)
Carole Robishaw 05/14/09
My stomach tied up in a complete knot and tears came so I could barely see to read. I will be thinking out this one for a while. Thank you for the reminder that we live in a time of freedom.
Connie Dixon05/14/09
Congratulations, Great job!
Glynis Becker 05/14/09
Completely enthralling. The descriptions and the characters were so well done in so few words. My eyes welled up and my heart broke...wonderfully done!
Marita Thelander 05/14/09
I don't get to take time to read entries very often, but Chely, I am never disappointed with anything you write. Thank you for sharing your gift with us. When will you share with the world your gift of words? Congratulations.
Loren T. Lowery05/15/09
Michele, I was so pleased to see this beautifully written piece place so highly. Your use of words and phrasing are impeccable. Congratulations - well deserved, indeed! Loren
Rhonda Schrock05/19/09
I love the title. You did a wonderful job of portraying the emotions without cheapening or over-dramatizing them. Excellent writing!
Christine Dunn05/19/09
This was excellent, though so harrowing. I couldn't help but imagine the horrific scene as I read. Well done.