Ravensbrück concentration camp
Overview
Ravensbrück was a notorious women's concentration camp during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, located in northern Germany, 90 km north of Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

 at a site near the village of Ravensbrück (part of Fürstenberg/Havel
Fürstenberg/Havel
Fürstenberg is a town in the Oberhavel district, in Brandenburg, Germany. Fürstenberg was the site of the Ravensbrück concentration camp, and a memorial now occupies the site.-Geography:...

).

Construction of the camp began in November 1938 by SS leader Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was Reichsführer of the SS, a military commander, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. As Chief of the German Police and the Minister of the Interior from 1943, Himmler oversaw all internal and external police and security forces, including the Gestapo...

 and was unusual in that it was a camp primarily for women. The camp opened in May 1939. In the spring of 1941, the SS authorities established a small men's camp adjacent to the main camp.

Between 1939 and 1945, over 130,000 female prisoner
Prisoner
A prisoner is someone incarcerated in a prison, jail or similar facility.Prisoner or The Prisoner may also refer to:* Prisoner of war, a soldier in wartime, held as by an enemy* Political prisoner, someone held in prison for their ideology...

s passed through the Ravensbrück camp system, around 26,000 were Jewish.
Encyclopedia
Ravensbrück was a notorious women's concentration camp during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, located in northern Germany, 90 km north of Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

 at a site near the village of Ravensbrück (part of Fürstenberg/Havel
Fürstenberg/Havel
Fürstenberg is a town in the Oberhavel district, in Brandenburg, Germany. Fürstenberg was the site of the Ravensbrück concentration camp, and a memorial now occupies the site.-Geography:...

).

Construction of the camp began in November 1938 by SS leader Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was Reichsführer of the SS, a military commander, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. As Chief of the German Police and the Minister of the Interior from 1943, Himmler oversaw all internal and external police and security forces, including the Gestapo...

 and was unusual in that it was a camp primarily for women. The camp opened in May 1939. In the spring of 1941, the SS authorities established a small men's camp adjacent to the main camp.

Between 1939 and 1945, over 130,000 female prisoner
Prisoner
A prisoner is someone incarcerated in a prison, jail or similar facility.Prisoner or The Prisoner may also refer to:* Prisoner of war, a soldier in wartime, held as by an enemy* Political prisoner, someone held in prison for their ideology...

s passed through the Ravensbrück camp system, around 26,000 were Jewish. Between 15,000 and 32,000 of the total survived. Although the inmates came from every country in German-occupied Europe, the largest single national group incarcerated in the camp consisted of Polish women.

Prisoners

The first prisoners at Ravensbrück were approximately 900 women. The SS had transferred these prisoners from the Lichtenburg
Lichtenburg (concentration camp)
Lichtenburg was a Nazi concentration camp, housed in a Renaissance castle in Prettin, near Wittenberg in eastern Germany. Along with Sachsenburg, it was among the first to be built by the Nazis, and was operated by the SS from 1933 to 1939. It held as many as 2000 male prisoners from 1933 to 1937...

 women's concentration camp in Saxony
Saxony
The Free State of Saxony is a landlocked state of Germany, contingent with Brandenburg, Saxony Anhalt, Thuringia, Bavaria, the Czech Republic and Poland. It is the tenth-largest German state in area, with of Germany's sixteen states....

 in May 1939. By the end of 1942, the inmate population of Ravensbrück had grown to about 10,000. In January 1945, the camp had more than 45,000 women prisoners.

There were children in the camp as well. At first, they arrived with mothers who were Gypsies or Jews incarcerated in the camp or were born to imprisoned women. There were few of them at the time. There were a few Czech children from Lidice
Lidice
Lidice is a village in the Czech Republic just northwest of Prague. It is built on the site of a previous village of the same name which, as part of the Nazi Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, was on orders from Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, completely destroyed by German forces in reprisal...

 in July 1942. Later the children in the camp represented almost all nations of Europe occupied by Germany. Between April and October 1944 their number increased considerably, consisting of two groups. One group comprised Roma children with their mothers or sisters brought into the camp after the Roma camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau was closed. The other group included mostly children who were brought with Polish mothers sent to Ravensbrück after the collapse of the Warsaw Uprising
Warsaw Uprising
The Warsaw Uprising was a major World War II operation by the Polish resistance Home Army , to liberate Warsaw from Nazi Germany. The rebellion was timed to coincide with the Soviet Union's Red Army approaching the eastern suburbs of the city and the retreat of German forces...

 of 1944. With a few exceptions all these children died of starvation. Ravensbrück had 70 sub-camps used for slave labour that were spread across an area from the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

 to Bavaria
Bavaria
Bavaria, formally the Free State of Bavaria is a state of Germany, located in the southeast of Germany. With an area of , it is the largest state by area, forming almost 20% of the total land area of Germany...

.

Among the thousands executed by the German
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

s at Ravensbrück were four female members of the British World War II organization Special Operations Executive
Special Operations Executive
The Special Operations Executive was a World War II organisation of the United Kingdom. It was officially formed by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Minister of Economic Warfare Hugh Dalton on 22 July 1940, to conduct guerrilla warfare against the Axis powers and to instruct and aid local...

: Denise Bloch
Denise Bloch
Denise Madeleine Bloch was a French secret agent working with the British Special Operations Executive in World War II.- Early life :...

, Cecily Lefort
Cecily Lefort
Cecily Lefort was a British SOE agent, during World War II.-Early life:Born as Cecily Margot MacKenzie in London of Scottish ancestry, she lived on the coast of Brittany in France from the age of 24 with her French husband, Dr...

, Lilian Rolfe
Lilian Rolfe
Lilian Vera Rolfe was an Allied secret agent in World War II.-Early life:...

 and Violette Szabo
Violette Szabo
Violette Reine Elizabeth Bushell Szabo, GC, was a Second World War French-British secret agent.-Early life and marriage:...

. Other victims included the Roman Catholic nun Élise Rivet
Élise Rivet
Élise Rivet was a Roman Catholic nun and World War II heroine....

, Elisabeth de Rothschild
Elisabeth de Rothschild
Elisabeth de Rothschild was a member by marriage of the wine-making branch of the Rothschild family....

 (the only member of the Rothschild family
Rothschild family
The Rothschild family , known as The House of Rothschild, or more simply as the Rothschilds, is a Jewish-German family that established European banking and finance houses starting in the late 18th century...

 to die in the Holocaust), Russian Orthodox nun St. Maria Skobtsova, the 25-year-old French Princess Anne de Bauffremont-Courtenay
Princess Anne de Bauffremont-Courtenay
Princess Anne de Bauffremont-Courtenay of France was born on 1 April 1919 in Paris. She was the daughter of Pierre d'Alcantara de Bauffremont, Prince-Duc de Bauffremont-Courtenay and Therese Chevrier. She died on 15 February 1945 at Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany aged just 25. There is a...

 and Olga Benário, wife of the Brazilian Communist leader Luís Carlos Prestes
Luís Carlos Prestes
Luís Carlos Prestes was a leader of the 1920s tenente rebellion and the Communist opposition to the dictatorship of Getúlio Vargas in Brazil....

. The largest group of executed women at the Ravensbrück camp was composed of 200 young Polish patriots who were members of the Home Army.

Among the survivors of the Ravensbrück camp was Christian author and speaker Corrie ten Boom
Corrie ten Boom
Cornelia "Corrie" ten Boom was a Dutch Christian, who with her father and other family members helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II. Her family was arrested due to an informant in 1944, and her father died 10 days later at Scheveningen prison where they were first held...

. Corrie ten Boom and her family were arrested by the Nazis for harbouring Jews in their home in Haarlem
Haarlem
Haarlem is a municipality and a city in the Netherlands. It is the capital of the province of North Holland, the northern half of Holland, which at one time was the most powerful of the seven provinces of the Dutch Republic...

, the Netherlands. The ordeal of Corrie and her sister Betsie ten Boom
Betsie ten Boom
Elisabeth ten Boom was one of the leading characters in The Hiding Place, a book written by her sister Corrie ten Boom about the family's experiences during World War II. Nicknamed Betsie, she suffered with pernicious anemia from her birth...

 in the camp is documented in her book The Hiding Place which was eventually produced as a motion picture. Countess Karolina Lanckoronska, a Polish art historian and author of Michelangelo in Ravensbruck also was imprisoned in the camp from 1943–1945. Eileen Nearne
Eileen Nearne
Eileen Mary "Didi" Nearne MBE, was a member of the UK's Special Operations Executive during World War II. She served in occupied France as a radio operator under the codename "Rose".-Early life and career:...

, a member of the Special Operations Executive was a prisoner in 1944 before being transferred to another work camp and escaping.

In 1945, just prior to liberation, the poet, playwright and author of "The Green Goose", Konstanty Ildefons Galczynski
Konstanty Ildefons Galczynski
Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński , alias Karakuliambro, was a Polish poet. He is well-known for the "paradramatic" absurd humorous sketches of the Green Goose Theatre.-Biography:...

, managed to save one of the Ravensbruck inmates from certain death. Her name was Lucyna Wolanowska. They began living together, and in Ja­nu­ary 1946 their son was born, also named Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński. Later that same year Lucyana Wolanowska and her son emigrated to Australia.

Some prominent female prisoners:
  • Andrée Peel
    Andrée Peel
    Andrée Peel was one of a couple of women known as Agent Rose .She worked against the German occupation of France as a member of the French Resistance during the Second World War....

    , French Resistance
    French Resistance
    The French Resistance is the name used to denote the collection of French resistance movements that fought against the Nazi German occupation of France and against the collaborationist Vichy régime during World War II...

  • Vera Albreht
    Vera Albreht
    Vera Albreht was a Slovene poet, writer, publicist and translator.-Life:She was born as Vera Kessler in Krško into the well-to-do family. Her mother was Marija Kessler, nee Trenz, an ethnic German and her father Slovene, Rudolph Kessler...

    , Slovenia
    Slovenia
    Slovenia , officially the Republic of Slovenia , is a country in Central and Southeastern Europe touching the Alps and bordering the Mediterranean. Slovenia borders Italy to the west, Croatia to the south and east, Hungary to the northeast, and Austria to the north, and also has a small portion of...

    n poet
  • Mother Maria
    Mother Maria
    Maria Skobtsova , known as Mother Maria , Saint Mary of Paris, born Elizaveta Yurievna Pilenko , Kuzmina-Karavayeva by her first marriage, Skobtsova by her second marriage, was a Russian noblewoman, poet, nun, and member of the French Resistance during World War II...

    , (Saint Maria Skobtsova), nun
  • Henryka Bartnicka-Tajchert
  • Esther Béjarano
    Esther Béjarano
    Esther Béjarano , Violette Jacquet, and Anita Lasker Wallfisch are among the last survivors of the Girl orchestra of Auschwitz.- Biography :...

  • Maja Berezowska
    Maja Berezowska
    Maja Berezowska was a Polish painter.From 1933 to 1936 she lived in Paris and worked with magazines such as "Le Figaro", "Le Rire" and "Ici Paris". She made a few caricature cartoons of Adolf Hitler which resulted in the official protest of the German Embassy in Paris, which sued Berezowska...

  • Halina Birenbaum
    Halina Birenbaum
    Halina Birenbaum is a Holocaust survivor, writer, poet and translator. Born in Warsaw, Birenbaum spent her childhood in the Warsaw Ghetto and later on in Nazi concentration camps: Majdanek, Auschwitz , Ravensbrück and Neustadt-Glewe, from which she was liberated in 1945...

  • Corrie
    Corrie ten Boom
    Cornelia "Corrie" ten Boom was a Dutch Christian, who with her father and other family members helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II. Her family was arrested due to an informant in 1944, and her father died 10 days later at Scheveningen prison where they were first held...

     and Betsie ten Boom
    Betsie ten Boom
    Elisabeth ten Boom was one of the leading characters in The Hiding Place, a book written by her sister Corrie ten Boom about the family's experiences during World War II. Nicknamed Betsie, she suffered with pernicious anemia from her birth...

  • Margarete Buber-Neumann
    Margarete Buber-Neumann
    Margarete Buber-Neumann , was a leading member of the Communist Party of Germany during the years of the Weimar Republic. She survived imprisonment during World War II in both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany...

  • Mother of Adolf Burger
    Adolf Burger
    Adolf Burger Adolf Burger Adolf Burger (born August 12, 1917, Kakaslomnic (aka Nagy-Lomnicz, , , Comitate of Szepes, Kingdom of Hungary, Austro-Hungarian Empire) is a Jewish Slovak typographer, memoir writer, and Holocaust survivor involved in Operation Bernhard...

  • Anica Černej
    Anica Cernej
    Anica Černej was a Slovene author and poet.-Career:Černej worked at college of education in Ljubljana, where her main interests were social and pedagogical subjects.-Controversy:...

    , Slovenian poet
  • Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz
    Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz
    Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz , was a niece of General Charles de Gaulle, a member of the French Resistance, and the president of ATD Quart Monde.-Biography:...

  • Milena Jesenská
    Milena Jesenská
    Milena Jesenská was a Czech journalist, writer, editor and translator, who refused to abandon her Jewish friends and was deported to and died alongside them in Ravensbrück concentration camp....

  • Countess Karolina Lanckorońska
    Countess Karolina Lanckoronska
    Countess Karolina Maria Adelajda Franciszka Ksawera Małgorzata Edina Lanckorońska was a Polish World War II resistance fighter, historian and art historian.-Life:...

  • Violette Lecoq
    Violette Lecoq
    Violette Lecoq was a French nurse, illustrator, and a resistance member during World War II. She is known for her drawings from the Ravensbrück concentration camp, which were also used as evidence at the first Ravensbrück Trials in 1946....

    , French artist
  • Anja Lundholm
  • Halina Krahelska
    Halina Krahelska
    Halina Krahelska was a Polish activist, publicist and writer. Member of the Polish Socialist Party, arrested by the Russian authorities and deported to Russia, where she joined the Trudoviks and took part in the Russian Revolution of 1917...

  • Eileen Nearne
    Eileen Nearne
    Eileen Mary "Didi" Nearne MBE, was a member of the UK's Special Operations Executive during World War II. She served in occupied France as a radio operator under the codename "Rose".-Early life and career:...

    , AKA Agent Rose (escaped)
  • Boleslawa Janiak (Niksa)
  • Sylvia Salvesen
    Sylvia Salvesen
    Sylvia Salvesen was a member of the high society in Norway, and a resistance pioneer during World War II. She was arrested and sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany...

    , author
  • Jadwiga Sawik, Henryk Sławik's wife
  • Ceija Stojka
    Ceija Stojka
    Ceija Stojka is an Austrian-Romani writer, painter and musician, survivor of the Holocaust.She is from the Lovari caste, the fifth of six children, sister of Karl Stojka and Mongo Stojka, also writers and musicians...

  • Violette Szabo
    Violette Szabo
    Violette Reine Elizabeth Bushell Szabo, GC, was a Second World War French-British secret agent.-Early life and marriage:...

  • Gemma LaGuardia Gluck, sister of Fiorello La Guardia, mayor of New York
  • Germaine Tillion
    Germaine Tillion
    Germaine Tillion born in Allègre in Haute-Loire on May 30, 1907 – April 18, 2008) was a French anthropologist, best known for her work in Algeria in the 1950s on behalf of the French government.- Anthropology of the Chaoui :...

  • Nadia Stiers  (née Reznik in 1903 at Hâncești, Roumanie) communist militant
  • Seren Tuvel, author of The Seamstress
    The Seamstress
    -Cast:* Lída Baarová as Líza Bártová * Theodor Pištěk as Bárta* Hugo Haas as Francois Lorrain* Bedrich Veverka as Alfons* Adina Mandlová as Mici* Ruzena Slemrová as Majitelka salónu Yvette* Vera Ferbasová as Tonka* Václav Trégl as Houzvicka...

  • Emmy Nikis, wife of Mario Nikis
  • Odette Sansom
    Odette Sansom
    Odette Sansom Hallowes GC, MBE, Chevalier de la légion d'honneur was an Allied heroine of the Second World War.-Early years:...

  • Rose Van Thyn
    Rose Van Thyn
    Rozette Lopes-Dias Van Thyn, known as Rose Van Thyn , was a survivor of the World War II Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, who as a naturalized United States citizen residing in Shreveport, Louisiana, was involved for three decades in education about the Holocaust.-The Holocaust:In 1942, when...

  • France Jarre (née Pejot), mother of musician Jean Michel Jarre
    Jean Michel Jarre
    Jean Michel André Jarre is a French composer, performer and music producer. He is a pioneer in the electronic, ambient and New Age genres, and known as an organiser of outdoor spectacles of his music featuring lights, laser displays, and fireworks.Jarre was raised in Lyon by his mother and...

     (Maurice Jarre
    Maurice Jarre
    Maurice-Alexis Jarre was a French composer and conductor.Although he composed several concert works, he is best known for his film scores, and is particularly known for his collaborations with film director David Lean. Jarre composed the scores to all of Lean's films since Lawrence of Arabia...

    's wife)
  • The mother and sister of Juliette Gréco
    Juliette Gréco
    Juliette Gréco, — also Michelle – is a French actress and popular chanson singer.-Early life and family:Juliette Gréco was born in Montpellier to a Corsican father and a mother who became active in the Résistance, in the Hérault département of southern France. She was raised by her maternal...

    . (The 16-year old Juliette was arrested but was deemed too young for deportation and stayed in France.)
  • Elisabeth Barbier( Campbell) French Resitance-founder Reseau Vaneau.
  • Jannette L'herminer French Resistance- Sister of Capitaine de Corvette Jean l'Herminier
  • Hanna Zemer, Slovak-born Israeli journalist
  • Corrie ten Boom
    Corrie ten Boom
    Cornelia "Corrie" ten Boom was a Dutch Christian, who with her father and other family members helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II. Her family was arrested due to an informant in 1944, and her father died 10 days later at Scheveningen prison where they were first held...


Prominent male prisoners:
  • Eugen Bolz
    Eugen Bolz
    Eugen Anton Bolz was a German politician and a member of the resistance to the Nazi régime.- Life :Born in Rottenburg am Neckar, Eugen Bolz was his parents' twelfth child. His father, Joseph Bolz, was a salesman. His mother was Maria Theresia Bolz . Bolz studied law in Tübingen and there became a...

  • Leopold Engleitner
    Leopold Engleitner
    Leopold Engleitner is a Holocaust survivor and conscientious objector who speaks publicly on his experiences with students. He is the subject of the documentary Unbroken Will...

  • August Froehlich
    August Froehlich
    August Froehlich was a German Roman Catholic priest. In his pastoral activity he opposed National Socialism. He stood up for rights of German Catholics and of Polish forced labourers, martyred in Dachau concentration camp....

  • Julius Leber
    Julius Leber
    Julius Leber was a German politician of the SPD and a member of the German Resistance against the Nazi régime.-Early life:...

  • Hjalmar Schacht
    Hjalmar Schacht
    Dr. Hjalmar Horace Greeley Schacht was a German economist, banker, liberal politician, and co-founder of the German Democratic Party. He served as the Currency Commissioner and President of the Reichsbank under the Weimar Republic...

  • Otto Schniewind
    Otto Schniewind
    Otto Schniewind was a General Admiral with the Kriegsmarine during World War II and a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross . The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.-Career:Schniewind entered the...

  • Karl Seitz
    Karl Seitz
    Karl Seitz was an Austrian politician and the first President of Austria.Karl Seitz was born in Vienna, then capital of the Austro-Hungarian empire, as the son of a struggling small-time coal trader. Following the premature death of his father in 1875, the family was thrown into abject poverty,...

  • Fritz Wolffheim
    Fritz Wolffheim
    Fritz Wolffheim was a German communist politician and writer. He was a leading figure in the National Bolshevism tendency that was briefly influential in Germany after World War I.-Early life:...

  • Jurek Becker
    Jurek Becker
    Jurek Becker was a Polish-born German writer, film-author and GDR dissident. His most famous novel is Jacob the Liar, which has been made into two films. He lived in Łódź during World War II for about two years and survived the Holocaust.-Childhood:Jurek Becker was born in 1937 and lived in the...

     as child

Guards

Besides the male Nazi administrators, the camp staff included over 150 female SS guards assigned to oversee the prisoners at one time during the camp's operational period.

Ravensbrück served as a training camp for over 4,000 female overseers. The technical term for a female guard in a Nazi camp was an Aufseherin. The women either stayed in the camp or eventually served in other camps. The female chief overseers (Lagerfuehrerinnen and Oberaufseherinnen) in Ravensbrück were:
  • May 1939–1941: Oberaufseherin Emma Zimmer
    Emma Zimmer
    Emma Anne Zimmer was a female overseer at the Ravensbrück concentration camp for two years during the war....

     and assistant Johanna Langefeld
    Johanna Langefeld
    Johanna Langefeld was a German female guard and supervisor at three Nazi concentration camps.-Early life:Born in Kupferdreh , Johanna Langefeld was brought up in a Lutheran-Protestant, nationalistic family. Her father was a blacksmith. In 1924 she moved to Mülheim and married Wilhelm Langefeld,...

  • 1941 – March 1942: Oberaufseherin Johanna Langefeld
    Johanna Langefeld
    Johanna Langefeld was a German female guard and supervisor at three Nazi concentration camps.-Early life:Born in Kupferdreh , Johanna Langefeld was brought up in a Lutheran-Protestant, nationalistic family. Her father was a blacksmith. In 1924 she moved to Mülheim and married Wilhelm Langefeld,...

  • March–October 1942: Oberaufseherin Maria Mandel
    Maria Mandel
    Maria Mandel was an Austrian SS-Helferin infamous for her key role in The Holocaust as a top-ranking official at the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp where she is believed to have been directly responsible for the deaths of over 500,000 female prisoners.-Life:Mandel was born in Münzkirchen,...

  • October 1942 – August 1943 Johanna Langefeld
    Johanna Langefeld
    Johanna Langefeld was a German female guard and supervisor at three Nazi concentration camps.-Early life:Born in Kupferdreh , Johanna Langefeld was brought up in a Lutheran-Protestant, nationalistic family. Her father was a blacksmith. In 1924 she moved to Mülheim and married Wilhelm Langefeld,...

     who returned from Auschwitz
  • August 1943 – September 1944 Chef Oberaufseherin Anna Klein-Plaubel, with deputy wardress Dorothea Binz
    Dorothea Binz
    Dorothea Binz was an SS supervisor at Ravensbrück concentration camp during the Second World War.-Life:Born to a middle class German family in Försterei Dusterlake, Binz attended school until she was fifteen...

  • September 1944 – April 1945 Chef Oberaufseherin Luise Brunner, Lagerfuehrerin Lotte Toberentz
    Lotte Toberentz
    Lotte Toberentz, born Maria Charlotte Toberentz was the head overseer of the Uckermark concentration camp for girls in its early years...

     (January 1945-April), with deputy wardress (Stellvertrende Oberaufseherin) Dorothea Binz
    Dorothea Binz
    Dorothea Binz was an SS supervisor at Ravensbrück concentration camp during the Second World War.-Life:Born to a middle class German family in Försterei Dusterlake, Binz attended school until she was fifteen...

  • Vera Salvequart
    Vera Salvequart
    Vera Salvequart was a Czech-born nurse at Ravensbrück concentration camp from December 1944 to 1945....



Quite a few of these women went on to serve as chief wardresses in other camps. Several dozen block overseers (Blockführerinnen), accompanied by dogs, SS men and whips oversaw the prisoners in their living quarters in Ravensbrück, at roll call and during food distribution. These women were usually described as inhumane and sadistic. At any single time, a report overseer (Rapportführerin) handled the roll calls and general discipline of the internees. Rosel Laurenzen originally served as head of the labor pool at the camp (Arbeitdienstführerin) along with her assistant Gertrud Schoeber. In 1944 Greta Boesel took over this command. Other high ranking SS women included Christel Jankowsky, Ilse Goeritz, Margot Dreschel
Margot Dreschel
Margot Dreschel was a prison guard at concentration camps who was born in Neugersdorf, Germany.Before her enlistment as an SS auxiliary, she worked at an office in Berlin. On January 31, 1941, Margot Dreschel arrived at Ravensbrück to begin guard training...

 and Elisabeth Kammer. Head wardress at the Uckermark death complex
Uckermark concentration camp
The Uckermark concentration camp was a small Nazi concentration camp for girls near the Ravensbrück concentration camp in Fürstenberg/Havel, Germany and then an "emergency" extermination camp....

 of Ravensbrück was Ruth Closius
Ruth Closius
Ruth Closius-Neudeck was an SS supervisor at a death camp complex from December 1944 until March 1945.-Early life:...

 (January 1945 – March 1945). Regular Aufseherinnen were not usually granted access to the internees' compound unless they supervised inside work details. Most of the 'SS' women met their prisoner work gangs at the gate each morning and returned them later in the day. The treatment by the SS women in Ravensbrück was normally brutal. Elfriede Muller, an SS Aufseherin in the camp was so harsh that the prisoners nicknamed her "The Beast of Ravensbrück".

In 1973 the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 government extradited Hermine Braunsteiner
Hermine Braunsteiner
Hermine Braunsteiner Ryan was a female camp guard and the first Nazi war criminal to be extradited from the United States.-Early life:...

 for trial in Germany for war crimes.

In 2006 the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 government expelled Elfriede Rinkel
Elfriede Rinkel
Elfriede Lina Rinkel was a guard at the Ravensbrück concentration camp from June 1944 until April 1945 handling an SS-trained guard dog...

, an 84 year-old woman who had resided in San Francisco since 1959. It was discovered that she had been a guard at Ravensbrück from 1944 to 1945.

Camp Commanders

  • SS-Hauptsturmführer
    Hauptsturmführer
    Hauptsturmführer was a Nazi rank of the SS which was used between the years of 1934 and 1945. The rank of Hauptsturmführer was a mid-grade company level officer and was the equivalent of a Captain in the German Army and also the equivalent of captain in foreign armies...

     – Max Kögel
    Max Kögel
    Otto Max Koegel was a Nazi officer who served as a commander at Lichtenburg, Ravensbrück, Majdanek and Flossenbürg concentration camps.-Early life:...

    , May 1939 – August 1942
  • SS-Hauptsturmführer
    Hauptsturmführer
    Hauptsturmführer was a Nazi rank of the SS which was used between the years of 1934 and 1945. The rank of Hauptsturmführer was a mid-grade company level officer and was the equivalent of a Captain in the German Army and also the equivalent of captain in foreign armies...

     – Fritz Suhren
    Fritz Suhren
    Fritz Suhren was a German Schutzstaffel officer and Nazi concentration camp commandant.-Early years:Suhren joined the Nazi Party in 1928 and the Sturmabteilung at the same time...

    , August 1942 – liberation in 1945

Life in the camp

When a new prisoner arrived at Ravensbrück she was required to wear a color-coded triangle (a Winkel) that identified her by category with a letter sewn within the triangle indicating the prisoner's nationality. Polish women wore a red triangle denoting a political prisoner with a letter "P". By 1942, Polish
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 women became the largest national component at the camp. Jewish women wore yellow triangles but sometimes, unlike the other prisoners, they wore a second triangle for the other categories or for "race defilement". Some detainees had their hair shaved, such as those from Czechoslovakia and Poland, but "Aryan" transports did not. In 1943, for instance, a group of Norwegian women came to the camp. (Norwegians/Scandinavians were ranked by the Nazis as the purest of all Aryans.) None had their hair shaved. Between 1942 and 1943 almost all Jewish women from the Ravensbrück camp were sent to Auschwitz in several transports following Nazi policy to make Germany "Judenrein" (cleansed of Jews). Common criminals wore green triangles, Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 prisoners of war, German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 and Austrian Communists had red triangles and members of the Jehovah's Witnesses
Jehovah's Witnesses
Jehovah's Witnesses is a millenarian restorationist Christian denomination with nontrinitarian beliefs distinct from mainstream Christianity. The religion reports worldwide membership of over 7 million adherents involved in evangelism, convention attendance of over 12 million, and annual...

 were labeled with lavender triangles. Classified separately with black triangles were prostitutes, Gypsies, lesbians, or women who refused to marry.

Based on the Nazis incomplete transport list "Zugangsliste" consisting 25,028 names of women sent by Nazis to the camp, it is estimated that the Ravensbrück prisoner population's ethnic structure was the following: Poles
Poles
thumb|right|180px|The state flag of [[Poland]] as used by Polish government and diplomatic authoritiesThe Polish people, or Poles , are a nation indigenous to Poland. They are united by the Polish language, which belongs to the historical Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages of Central Europe...

 24.9%, Germans 19.9%, Jews 15.1%, Russians
Russians
The Russian people are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Russia, speaking the Russian language and primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries....

 15.0%, French
French people
The French are a nation that share a common French culture and speak the French language as a mother tongue. Historically, the French population are descended from peoples of Celtic, Latin and Germanic origin, and are today a mixture of several ethnic groups...

 7.3%, Gypsies 5.4%, other 12.4%. Gestapo
Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

 categorized the inmates as follows: political 83.54%, anti-social 12.35%, criminal 2.02%, Jehovah Witnesses 1.11%, racial defilement
Rassenschande
Rassenschande or Blutschande was the Nazi term for sexual relations between Aryans and non-Aryans, which was punishable by law...

 0.78%, other 0.20%. The list is one of the most important documents, preserved in the last moments of the camp operation by courageous members of the Polish underground girl guides
Szare Szeregi
"Gray Ranks" was a codename for the underground Polish Scouting Association during World War II.The wartime organisation was created on 27 September 1939, actively resisted and fought German occupation in Warsaw until 18 January 1945, and contributed to the resistance operations of the Polish...

 unit "Mury
Mury
This article is about the Second World War Polish Scouting organisation. For article about the song, see Mury .Mury was a clandestine Girl Scouts group organized by young Polish women who were political prisoners in the concentration camp in Ravensbrück...

" (The Walls). The rest of the camp documents were burned by escaping SS overseers in pits or in the crematorium.

One form of resistance was the secret education programs organized by prisoners for their fellow inmates. All national groups had some sort of program. The most extensive were among Polish women where various high-school-level classes were taught by experienced teachers.

Inmates at Ravensbrück suffered greatly. Living in subhuman conditions, thousands were shot, strangled, gassed, buried alive or worked to death. Periodically, the SS authorities subjected prisoners in the camp to "selections" in which the Germans isolated those prisoners considered too weak or injured to work and killed them. At first "selected" prisoners were shot. Beginning in 1942 they were transferred to "euthanasia
Euthanasia
Euthanasia refers to the practice of intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain and suffering....

" killing centers or to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp. The SS staff also murdered some prisoners in the camp infirmary by lethal injection.

Starting in the summer of 1942, medical experiments
Nazi human experimentation
Nazi human experimentation was a series of medical experiments on large numbers of prisoners by the Nazi German regime in its concentration camps mainly in the early 1940s, during World War II and the Holocaust. Prisoners were coerced into participating: they did not willingly volunteer and there...

 were conducted without consent on 86 women; 74 of them were Polish inmates. There were two types of the experiments done on the Polish political prisoners. The first type tested the efficacy of sulfonamide
Sulfonamide (medicine)
Sulfonamide or sulphonamide is the basis of several groups of drugs. The original antibacterial sulfonamides are synthetic antimicrobial agents that contain the sulfonamide group. Some sulfonamides are also devoid of antibacterial activity, e.g., the anticonvulsant sultiame...

 drugs. These experiments involved deliberate cutting into and infecting leg bones and muscles with virulent bacteria, cutting nerves, introducing substances like pieces of wood or glass into tissues and fracturing bones. The second set of experiments studied bone, muscle and nerve regeneration and the possibility of transplanting bones from one person to another. Out of the 74 Polish victims, called Króliki, Kaninchen, Lapins or Rabbits by the experimenters, five died as a result of the experiments, six with unhealed wounds were executed and the rest survived with permanent physical damage, due to assistance from other inmates. Four of them — Jadwiga Dzido, Maria Broel-Plater, Władysława Karolewska and Maria Kuśmierczuk — testified against Nazi doctors at the Doctors' Trial
Doctors' Trial
The Doctors' Trial was the first of 12 trials for war crimes that the United States authorities held in their occupation zone in Nuremberg, Germany after the end of World War II. These trials were held before U.S...

 in 1946.

Between 120 and 140 Gypsy women were sterilized
Compulsory sterilization
Compulsory sterilization also known as forced sterilization programs are government policies which attempt to force people to undergo surgical sterilization...

 in the camp in January 1945. All of them were unaware of the full consequences because they'd been deceived into signing the consent form after being told by the camp overseers that the German authorities would release them if they complied.

All inmates were required to do heavy labor ranging from strenuous outdoor jobs to building the V-2 rocket
V-2 rocket
The V-2 rocket , technical name Aggregat-4 , was a ballistic missile that was developed at the beginning of the Second World War in Germany, specifically targeted at London and later Antwerp. The liquid-propellant rocket was the world's first long-range combat-ballistic missile and first known...

 parts for Siemens
Siemens
Siemens may refer toSiemens, a German family name carried by generations of telecommunications industrialists, including:* Werner von Siemens , inventor, founder of Siemens AG...

. The SS also built several factories near Ravensbrück for the production of textiles and electrical components.

The women forced to work at Ravensbrück concentration camps industries used their skills in sewing and the fact that they had access to the factory to make shoddy soldiers' socks. They made adjustments on the machines to make the fabric thin at the heel and the toe, which made the socks easily broken when the German soldiers marched. This gave the soldiers sore feet.

For the women in the camp, it was important to retain some of their dignity and the feeling that they were still human beings. Therefore, they made necklaces, bracelets and other personal items like small dolls and books to keep as part of their dignity. These personal effects were of great importance to the women and many of them risked their lives to keep these possessions. Some of these types of effects can be seen at the exhibition “voices from Ravensbrück” (culture in Lund, Sweden).

The bodies of those killed in the camp were cremated in the nearby Fürstenberg crematorium until 1943. In that year SS authorities constructed a crematorium at a site near the camp prison. In the autumn of 1944 the SS constructed a gas chamber near the crematorium. The Germans gassed several thousand prisoners at Ravensbrück before the camp's liberation in April 1945.

Death march and liberation

With the Soviet Army's rapid approach in the Spring of 1945 the SS decided to exterminate as many prisoners as they could in order to avoid leaving anyone to testify as to what had happened in the camp. With the Russians only hours away, at the end of March, the SS ordered the women still physically well enough to walk to leave the camp, forcing over 20,000 prisoners on a death march toward northern Mecklenburg. Shortly before the evacuation, the Germans had handed over 7000 female prisoners, mostly French, to officials of the Swedish and Danish Red Cross. Fewer than 3,500 malnourished and sickly women and 300 men remained in the camp when it was liberated by the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 on April 30, 1945. The survivors of the Death March were liberated in the following hours by a Russian scout unit.

By the time liberation came for the survivors, tens of thousands (estimates are about 30,000 to 40,000) of women and children had perished there.

SS guards, female guards and former prisoners with administrative positions at the camp were arrested at the end of the war by the Allies
Allies
In everyday English usage, allies are people, groups, or nations that have joined together in an association for mutual benefit or to achieve some common purpose, whether or not explicit agreement has been worked out between them...

 and tried at the Hamburg Ravensbrück Trials from 1946 to 1948. Sixteen of the accused were found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity and sentenced to death.

Memorial site

On the site of the former concentration camp there is a memorial today. In 1954 the sculptor Will Lammert
Will Lammert
Will Lammert was a German sculptor. In 1959 he was posthumously awarded the National Prize of the German Democratic Republic.- Germany :...

 was commissioned to design the memorial site between the crematorium, the camp wall and Schwedtsee Lake
Schwedtsee
Schwedtsee is a lake in the Mecklenburg Lake District, in Germany. It is situated in the district of Oberhavel in the state of Brandenburg, and lies to the east of the centre of the town of Fürstenberg...

. Up to his death in 1957 the artist created a large number of sculpted models of women.

For the inaugural opening of the National Memorial site a scaled-up version of Tragende (Woman with Burden) was created (under the supervision of Fritz Cremer
Fritz Cremer
Fritz Cremer was a German sculptor of catholic extraction who turned to communism in the 1920s. Originally a stone-cutter, he studied at Berlin and got a government grant for the German academy in Rome, Villa Massimo, from 1937 to 1938...

) and exhibited. This central symbolic figure, also known as the "Pietà
Pietà
The Pietà is a subject in Christian art depicting the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus, most often found in sculpture. As such, it is a particular form of the Lamentation of Christ, a scene from the Passion of Christ found in cycles of the Life of Christ...

 of Ravensbrück" stands atop a stele on the peninsular in Lake Schwedtsee. The "Zwei Stehende" (Two Women Standing) monument also has its origins in Lammert's models. Other statues, which were also originally created for Ravensbrück, have been on display at the Old Jewish Cemetery in Berlin Mitte since 1985, in commemoration of the Jewish victims of fascism.

Since 1984 the former SS headquarters have housed the "Museum des antifaschistischen Widerstandskampfes" (Museum of Anti-fascist Resistance). After the withdrawal from Germany of the Soviet Army
Soviet Army
The Soviet Army is the name given to the main part of the Armed Forces of the Soviet Union between 1946 and 1992. Previously, it had been known as the Red Army. Informally, Армия referred to all the MOD armed forces, except, in some cases, the Soviet Navy.This article covers the Soviet Ground...

, which up to 1993 had been using parts of the former camp for military purposes, it became possible to incorporate more areas of the camp into the memorial site.

Today the former accommodation blocks for the female guards are a youth hostel and a youth meeting centre. In the course of reorganisation which took place in the early 1990s, the "Museum des antifaschistischen Widerstandskampfes" was replaced by two new permanent exhibitions: the first exhibition is called "Women of Ravensbrück" and displays the examples of the biographies of 27 former prisoners. The second exhibition is entitled "Ravensbrück. Topography and History of the Women's Concentration Camp". It provides information about the origins of the camp, describes the daily life in the camp and explains the principle of "Vernichtung durch Arbeit" (extermination through work). Since 2004 there has also been an exhibition about the female guards at the Ravensbrück Women's Concentration Camp, housed in another of their former accommodation blocks. There are also temporary exhibitions of special interest held regularly at the memorial.

On 16 and April 17, 2005 a ceremony was held to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the camp's liberation
Liberation
-Publications:* Libération, French newspaper* Libération , a Moroccan newspaper* Liberation , monthly pacifist magazine founded, published, and edited by A.J...

. Among those invited were around 600 survivors from all over the world, mostly eastern Europe. At the same time a new, permanent outdoor exhibition was opened, on the theme of the train transports to Ravensbrück. Its central exhibit is a refurbished goods wagon. The exhibition's information boards describe the origins of the transports and how they developed over time, and explain the different types of train, where they arrived and the part played by the local residents. It is probably the only exhibition so far at a German memorial which is dedicated solely to the subject of the transports to the camp.

See also

  • List of subcamps of Ravensbrück
  • List of Nazi-German concentration camps
  • Norbert Masur
    Norbert Masur
    Norbert Masur was a Swedish representative who aided in the rescue of Nazi concentration camp victims during World War II.Masur was born in Friedrichstadt, Germany, and was the son of Leiser Masur. As an exiled Jewish German, he later moved to Stockholm...

  • Holocaust memorial landscapes in Germany
    Holocaust memorial landscapes in Germany
    Holocaust memorial landscapes in Germany encompass a large group of commemorative works dealing with the outdoor built environment. Most often these memorials attempt to keep the memory of Holocaust victims alive through dissemination of this memory to the public.- Theory :Since the end of World...


External links

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