Can dreams accurately predict future events? Are they able to reveal vital information that isn’t available elsewhere?
Holocaust survivor Esther Raab would answer both those questions affirmatively. She had a dream on October 13, 1943, that literally saved her life.
At the time, she was one of 600 Jewish prisoners in Sobibor, the secret Nazi extermination camp located in eastern Poland. This was not a work camp — Sobibor was meant strictly for executions.
When Raab arrived at the camp in December of 1942, she was alone in the world. Her father and mother had been shot; her brother was missing and presumed dead. Raab would have soon joined them by way of the gas chamber except for a twist of fate — the Nazis needed a camp seamstress, and because Esther could sew, she was pulled from the group headed for slaughter. Her skill with a needle and thread enabled her to join the cadre of inmates who provided administrative support. It was truly a near miss.
To illustrate how ruthlessly effective the Sobibor operation was, no prisoner ever needed an identifying concentration camp tattoo. “Most of the people who arrived, within a half-an-hour, were smoke,” Raab explained. “There was no reason to tattoo anyone.”
In summer 1943, rumors began circulating that Sobibor would soon be closing — the Jewish support staff would all be killed. The prisoners quickly put together a committee to organize a plan for a mass escape. Although most doubted such a plan could work, it was their only desperate hope.
The strategy the committee eventually adopted called for luring the commanding SS officers into quarters where they could be incapacitated. The prisoners would then flee through Sobibor’s main gate, thereby avoiding surrounding mine fields.
The night before the escape (October 13), just before lights out, something happened among the prisoners that had never happened at Sobibor before. As they settled in to sleep, they all began to cry.
“Nobody cried before,” Raab recalled. “We were all too numb to cry. First, the Nazis took our laughter, then they took our tears. But that night, we said goodbye to each other, knowing that we might not survive, and we all cried.”
As she slept, Raab’s mother came to her in a dream. She showed Raab three spots of refuge, the last a barn: it was a roadmap to safety. Raab awoke knowing she had received valuable guidance.
At 4 pm the next day, the plan was launched. More than 10 Nazis were trapped and killed — but confusion quickly ensued. Guards in the gun towers began firing. Some prisoners gave up, but Raab did not. She escaped over a ladder and made it across a minefield, hopscotching from dead body to dead body to avoid explosives. During the harrowing dash, she wiped blood from her face as a Nazi bullet had grazed her left temple.
Three hundred prisoners attempted escape that day but, ultimately, only 50 survived to see the end of the war.
Once in the woods, Raab felt like she knew exactly where she was going. Joined by a small coterie of fellow captives, she followed her dream directions and wound up finding the barn her mother had revealed.
Shockingly, Raab discovered her brother, thought to be dead, was already encamped in this barn. The astonishment of seeing him alive strengthened her recognition of the prophetic nature of her dream.
Along with others, the two hid in a bunker dug beneath the barn for nine months until they were liberated by the Soviet Army.
Raab eventually married and, in 1950, moved to the United States. In addition to owning a family business, she tirelessly spoke out about the barbarous Nazi cruelty. “I did it for those who were martyred who can’t speak for themselves,” Raab asserted.
At the Nazi War Crimes trials, Raab testified as a key witness. She also identified John Demjanjuk as a Sobibor guard. (Demjanjuk had fled to the United States after the War and was hiding in plain site as an autoworker in Cleveland.)
Her life was portrayed in the two-act play Dear Esther and in the movie, Escape from Sobibor.
Raab passed away April 13, 2015 at 92. She was buried with a Torah fragment recovered from the Holocaust.
To the end, Raab attributed her survival to her mother’s lifesaving dream message and her belief in God. “I have a deep belief in the Almighty,” she said. “I think he knows what he’s doing.”
Psychologists have been researching “precognitive dreams” intensively for more than 30 years. According to Michael Schredl, Ph.D., this is a dream “that seemingly includes knowledge about the future which cannot be inferred from actual available information.”
At this point, scientists are still searching for more empirical proof for the existence of these dreams.
Esther Raab was light years ahead of the researchers. Her life was a testament to this compelling and puzzling phenomenon.