A Flicker of Light, p.1Roberta Kagan
A Flicker of Light: Petra's Story
Copyright©2011 by Roberta Kagan
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author.
The characters and events in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
Please visit my website: www.robertakagan.com to see other works by Roberta Kagan and
Roberta Kagan writing as Veronika Knight
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Edited by: Karman Moore
Artwork provided by: Dayron Villaverde
I would like to dedicate this book to my husband, who has proven to have more patience than anyone I have ever met; to my daughter, whose brilliant assistance I could never do without; to my wonderful and talented editor, and best friend, Karman Moore, who made this book possible; to my cat who is my constant muse; and to everyone who has suffered due to the reign of the Third Reich. And to you…the readers who make it all possible. Blessings to all of you, Roberta Kagan.
A Flicker of Light: Petra's Story
By Roberta Kagan
In 1935, under the direction of Adolph Hitler, Reichsfurher Heinrich Himmler created a program to genetically engineer children, although that term for what they were attempting to do had not yet been coined at that time. These children would be the superior race of the future - perfect Aryan babies – and they would rule the world in the newly-conquered Europe as the leaders of the Third Reich, which Hitler assured the German people would last for at least 1,000 years.
The Nazis built institutions where blonde-haired, blue-eyed women with acceptable ancestry mated with SS officers, like thoroughbred horses. These carefully chosen women of German or Norwegian descent would have only Aryan characteristics in their bloodlines.
Unwed mothers found themselves welcomed without stigma, provided they met the proper criteria. Given the finest food and medical care available during their pregnancies, these women lived surrounded by extravagance in sprawling mansions. Unbeknownst to them, the furnishings had been stolen from the homes of arrested Jews. The mothers, on admittance, agreed to surrender their children at birth to be raised in the Lebensborn orphanage until they could be adopted by families who were approved as devout followers of the Nazi doctrine.
The babies’ biological fathers had the first option. If they so chose, they could adopt the children themselves. Some of the fathers married the children's mothers and brought their offspring home. Many married men came to impregnate the Lebensborn women; sometimes they took the infants to live with them and their wives. However, many of the babies remained in the orphanage and never found homes. Later, after the war, some of the children spent years in mental hospitals. The ugly stigma surrounding their birth followed them throughout their lives.
Unable to find information on their birth parents, some children of the Lebensborn still search today. The first establishment, Steinhoring (commonly referred to as Heim Hockland, which means highlands) was located in the outskirts of Munich. This charming country castle sat cradled deep within the fertile emerald hills of the German countryside.
And so, it is here - in one of these luxurious prisons, where a group of delusional men felt it their right to play God - that our story begins.
Heim Hockland/Steinhoring Institute for the Lebensborn
Outskirts of Munich, Germany, 1942
uietly, so as not to alert her roommate in the Steinhoring Institute, Petra Jorgensen reached beneath her small twin bed. Her long slender fingers gripped the handle of her black cardboard valise, taking care not to scrape the floor as she pulled the small suitcase from its place under the bed. Then, taking a moment to glance over and reassure herself that Ursula, her roommate, remained asleep, she continued to pack. Ursula lay on her side, propped up on two thick pillows and covered with heavy blankets. The only sound that could be heard in the small room that the girls shared was the deep, rhythmic humming sound of Ursula’s snoring. She was unlikely to awaken.
Petra had few belongings, so the packing would be quick and efficient. She held the latch of the suitcase so that it would not make a sound as she opened it. Reaching inside, she caressed the binding of the small book she found there. In the darkness, her hands felt the familiar burgundy leather cover with its raised gold letters: Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales. This collection had been her favorite when she was a little girl. She planned to read it to her child when the baby reached an age to be capable of understanding. Smiling, Petra remembered gazing into her mother’s soft blue eyes and listening intently as Mama had read the stories aloud. Petra thought briefly of The Little Mermaid - a story of love and sacrifice. In fact, the story was so like her own that the thought of it brought heat to her face like a slap of reality.
Although Petra knew she would love the baby regardless of its sex, she secretly wished for a girl - a pretty child, whom she could dress in lacy frocks, with soft blonde curls - someone to read to who would listen as she had done. She’d spent many nights envisioning a garden in the summer with the sun cascading down like ribbons onto a patch of creamy golden daffodils, the little one beside her with bows in her hair. In her mind’s eye, she could see the child looking up at her with a face of wonder, eyes wide and innocent. Petra had grown up with two younger brothers, and although she loved them, she knew firsthand how different boys and girls could be. A girl child would be someone she could understand fully, someone whose emotions and thoughts would be reflective of her own.
Her toothbrush and a bar of soap wrapped in a rough washcloth waited on the nightstand to be placed with her other possessions. Then, she removed two floral cotton dresses from the small closet; both garments were large enough to suffice until the baby's birth. When she’d left home in a huff, she’d given very little thought to what she might need. And now that the temperatures had dropped, she realized she should have packed warmer clothes. Petra shook her head, annoyed at her own thoughtlessness. Then, without taking care to fold them, she tossed the dresses into her suitcase. Next she added some undergarments: a thin pale pink cotton nightgown, a thicker red flannel one, an alternate pair of sensible black shoes, and finally the picture on the night table.
Petra looked at the picture, paralyzed with sentiment. She caressed the photograph and stared into the familiar face by the moonlight that filtered through the window. Her heart ached as she remembered Hans - his clear ivory skin and bright smile, how his corn-colored hair would bleach by the sun to almost white. Then she allowed her mind to drift to his lips and the memory of his kiss. The sweet spearmint taste of his tongue and the clean, crisp citrus smell of his cologne descended upon her as if he stood right there beside her in this dark God-forsaken room. Her heart cried out in a silent voice only she could hear. The pain enveloped her as she pressed the picture to her breast. Like a dark sword, grief tore a cavernous hole inside of her that she feared would never be filled.
She would never look into those gentle blue eyes again.
“Hans,” she thought, “how could you leave me here in a place like Heim Hockland? How? What happened to our dreams? Where is your love? You promised to always be here for me. And now you are gone. Hans, can you hear me? Hans, I’m alone and frightened, so frightened. Hans?”
Petra bit her lower lip; she must steel herself against the tears that threatened to betray her resolve. With heaviness in her soul, she focused on packing. She must hurry.
So she would not see it when she opened the valise, she turned the picture frame upside down in the bottom of the suitcase and t
Petra shivered as reality hit home. She was alone. Somehow, she must find a way to raise their child herself. Regardless of how hard she tried to be strong, the tightness in her throat and the emptiness inside of her would not go away.
She resolved that no matter what crossed her path in the future, she would never love again. The pain of loss was too devastating. At that moment Petra resigned herself to living for the speck of life that grew quietly within her protective womb. All of her love would be given to her child from now on.
Although she tried to stay on task, her mind traveled back to the beginning. She remembered the shock, and shame she’d felt when she’d learned she was pregnant. The dread she’d felt knowing that she must go to her parents had been overwhelming, but she’d seen no other option - Hans was still enlisted in the German army. And she’d been right to be terrified. When she’d told her parents that she was pregnant, her father's Viking blood had raged with anger. His face had taken on a crimson shade and his features had distorted until she hardly recognized him. Tears of disgrace had covered her mother’s face. At that point, Petra had known she could no longer stay at her childhood home. She had to leave, and with Hans’ help, she would seek refuge. They were just seventeen and neither had much money. This had left them with nowhere to turn until Hans had heard about the Lebensborn program. He’d sent a letter to Petra, filled with excitement, sharing all the details. Together, through letters, they’d made plans for her to have the baby at Heim Hockland. Hans’ brother was in the Waffen-SS, so with his help she had been accepted into the program. Once things had been arranged, she had refused to cry or show weakness as her father stomped through the Norwegian seaside shack where they had lived, slamming doors and shouting. Instead, she’d set her jaw in determination, and without a goodbye, Petra had left her family behind. When she’d closed the door on the petrified faces of her little brothers and her youth, her journey into an uncertain future had begun.
She’d gotten a ride to Denmark, but the long, tedious trip from Denmark to Munich had seemed endless. Although she had only been in her first trimester of pregnancy, her bladder seemed to fill more often. Once she was on the train for the final leg of the trip, the motion of the rail car had made her stomach weak and her head ache. But worst of all, she’d been plagued by solitude. Petra had gazed out the window, the rickety motion of the train jolting her as they’d rambled along. She’d seen happy families outside their homes - children laughed, running and playing; farmers worked in golden fields; women hung clothes on the line to dry - all of them safe and comfortable, all of them unaware of her predicament. She’d tried to sleep, but she’d been edgy and far too frightened.
The sunlight filtered through the window pane, reflecting a child’s small handprint on the glass. Petra leaned her head against the casement and watched the world go by. She’d almost drifted off to sleep when her eyes caught those of an aged peasant woman carrying a large basket. The old woman wore a black and red checkered scarf tied around her head. She’d stared back at Petra, her wizened face lined with wrinkles and her skin thick as leather. For a mere second, their eyes had locked. Petra had felt a shiver run up the back of her spine, and she’d trembled. The experience had disturbed her, but she could not pinpoint why. Instead, she’d tried to force it from her mind. But when she’d closed her eyes, the old woman's face had returned, her eyes taking the form of black spiders.
As the train sped through the German countryside, Petra had tried to keep her mind on pleasant thoughts. She’d focused on Hans and the future they would share when he was released from the army. Perhaps they would live in a farmhouse similar to the ones she’d seen out the window of the train. At that moment, Petra had been blissfully unaware that she would soon be risking her life to escape from Heim Hockland, the very place she’d then raced toward.
The Outskirts of Munich, Germany, 1943
hen she arrived in the crowded railway station, Petra found herself immediately greeted by two SS officers. They approached her dressed in immaculate black uniforms with shining boots.
“Frauline Jorgensen?” a tall blond man asked as he offered to take her bag. “I’m Oberfurer Werner and this is my partner Gruppenfuhrer Becker.”
“Yes, I am Petra Jorgensen.”
“Good, so we found you. Your trip was satisfactory, I hope?” Oberfurer Werner asked.
“Yes, it was fine.” She studied their faces. Neither of them could have been more than twenty-two.
“Good, very good. You are hungry, yes?”
“Actually, I suppose I am.”
“Then come this way, please.”
Only one of the men spoke. Both of them had blond hair and blue eyes, but the one who’d called himself Oberfurer Werner had a tall, muscular build and several medals on his breast pocket. He’d combed his thick, shiny hair back, using oil to keep it in place. His chiseled features and the smell of his expensive cologne gave Petra the impression of a ladies’ man. The other fellow was small and thin, with a pale gray pallor. He was of a lesser rank, which was obvious from the lack of medals on his coat. He wore thick spectacles, which he constantly pushed up as they slid back down his nose. With his slender shoulders, and delicate face, hands and feet, if dressed differently, he could have passed for a young woman.
The three of them entered a café on the corner of a busy street and took a table by the window. Each table boasted a small vase of red and white carnations, and a matching red and white tablecloth. When the waitress took their order, Oberfurer Werner took a moment to smile at her and admire the girl’s ample bosom. Then, with a seductive smile, he ordered blood sausage, with rice and thick black bread - enough for the entire table. Becker ordered sauerbrauten with fried potatoes; this plate arrived first. Grease formed dark pools around the entree. “Would you like some, Frauline?” Werner offered Petra some of his partner’s food.
“Oh, no, thank you,” Petra half smiled but she kept her arms folded across her chest. Both men drank from large glass mugs of rich, dark beer.
“You like German beer, Frauline?” Werner asked.
“I don’t drink much beer.”
“It’s a bit bitter to the taste unless you are used to it; then it is quite wonderful,” he said. His smile and manner were charming.
When the rest of the food arrived, the sight of the sausage made Petra’s stomach turn. Taking a slice of the black bread from the center of the table, she picked at it, trying to control the nausea.
“Would you care for something else, Frauline? A chicken cutlet, perhaps?” Werner seemed genuinely concerned. “If there is anything I can get for you, please don’t hesitate to ask.”
“Thank you, no. I think it is just my condition.” Once the crusty dough of the bread touched her tongue, she realized that she was famished, “Maybe I will have a beer.”
With a smile, Werner turned to the waitress, “Please, can you bring a beer for the Frauline?”
“Yes, of course,” the waitress replied; her face lit up at the attention from the attractive officer.
Once the beer arrived, Petra took a sip and began to feel the nausea subside. But she decided not to risk becoming ill on the remainder of the journey, so she opted not to eat anything else.
The two men nodded to each other as if they had seen other pregnant women they’d escorted to the Institute with the same weak stomach. Then Werner offered Petra a warm smile.
“You must try to eat, of course, to keep the baby healthy,” he said.
“Yes, I know. I am sure I will be fine once I arrive at Steinhoring.”
“It is very lovely,” Werner offered as he paid the check and left a large tip for
“I am only planning to be at Heim Hockland temporarily. My future husband is at the Russian front fighting for the cause. When he comes back we will adopt the baby. Of course, we will raise it to follow the Nazi doctrine as is expected of us.”
“Good. He sounds like a good man,” Werner said.
“Yes, he is a good man.” Petra knew that she and Hans had no intention of following any doctrine at all once Hans came home from the army. Neither of them knew much about the Third Reich or any other politics for that matter, and neither of them cared. Hans had been drafted and forced to serve. He had found Petra his only joy on his tour of duty. But to ensure her place at Heim Hockland for the time being, she told her escorts what they expected to hear.
Petra was ushered to the back of a comfortable automobile. Once the officer closed the door, she ran her fingers along the fine leather seats. The rich smell of cowhide, combined with Werner’s cologne, filled her senses.
After a long ride leading out of the city, the countryside on the outskirts of Munich came into view. Petra, too concerned with her destination to pay attention to the surroundings during the ride, missed all of the beauty.
The black Mercedes turned slowly off the main road and onto a long private driveway. It continued around the circular path until it pulled up in front of a large country home. Heim Hockland looked like a fairy-tale castle surrounded by large shady trees and colorful flowering plants. Inside, expensive original artwork adorned the walls. The hardwood floors were covered with imported rugs and polished daily to a shine that reflected the light. A huge red brick fireplace stood along the west wall; to the right of it was a magnificent black grand piano. As a child, Petra had learned to play. She wondered she would have the opportunity to play this beautiful instrument while she was here. As she looked around, Petra was astounded, for she had never seen such opulence. A large-bodied woman of middle age wearing a floral printed dress entered the room to greet them.
A Flicker of Light by Roberta Kagan / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes