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Ravensbrück Concentration Camp

(1938—1945)

The Ravensbrück Concentration Camp was the largest female camp in the Nazi prison system. Many women in the camp were Jewish, others were political prisoners, asocials, Jehovah's Witnesses, gypsies, and criminals. Men oversaw the leadership in the camp, but the female inmates were looked after by women guards of the “female civilian employees of the SS.” Ravensbrück became the largest training facility for these female guards of the SS during the camp's active period. The women of Ravensbrück worked during their incarceration mostly in agricultural and industrial fields. However, prisoners also faced being selected for euthanasia programs, horrifying medical experiments, and even work in brothels. The women of Ravensbrück suffered greatly during their incarceration, and the lack of food and sanitary conditions only aggravated the problems these women faced. When Soviet forces liberated the camp on April 29, 1945, they found thousands of women ready to regain their life and freedom.

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Inmates at forced labor in the Ravensbrueck concentration camp. Germany, between 1940 and 1942. — United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
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Exterior view of barracks at the Ravensbrueck concentration camp. Ravensbrueck, Germany, between May 1939 and April 1945. — United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
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Romani (Gypsy) inmates at forced labor in Ravensbrueck concentration camp. Germany, between 1941 and 1944. — Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz; US Holocaust Memorial Museum

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Blanka Rothschild Describes conditions in the Ravensbrück camp [1994 interview]

There was no sanitation. We did not have latrines. There were holes with wooden--there was a wooden board with two holes, and since many of us were sick from whatever they gave us to eat, it was a constant walk to the latrines, to the holes. It was tremendous degradation of, of human beings. It was, the human spirit suffered more than the physical spirit. Uh, the bodies didn't listen to us, didn't obey us. Uh, we had--as I mentioned before, we lost our menstruation, very thank...gratefully because we couldn't have taken care of this. It was the avitaminosis--the lack of food and vitamins. We slept two, three to a wooden, uh, bunk. The tiers in Ravensbrück were packed with human beings. There was stench in the air, horrible stench, between the latrines and the bodies. The one who was in charge had a special little room and special privileges and special food. We, the Jews, never got close to it. The Germans who...and the Ukrainians were in charge.

 

Source: US Holocaust Memorial Museum; http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/media_oi.php?lang=en&ModuleId=10005199&MediaId=2481

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Place Details

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Camp Commandants:
SS Captain Fritz Suhren: August 20, 1942-April 1945 1
SS Captain Max Koegel: January 1, 1940-August 20, 1942 1
SS Colonel Günther Tamaschke: December 1938-April 31, 1939 1
Inmate Composition:
Czechoslovakia: 3% 1
France: 6% 1
Hungary: 8% 1
Poland: 36% 1
Soviet Union: 21% 1
The Benelux countries: 2% 1
The German Reich, includes Austria: 18% 1
Yugoslavia: 2% 1
2,100 men are sent to Sachsenhausen:
March 1945 1
5,600 females sent to Mauthausen & Bergen-Belsen:
March 1945 1
900 women are transferred from Lichtenburg:
May 1939 1
Construction begins on the Ravensbrück camp:
November 1938 1
Forced evacuation march begins:
April 1945 1
Medical experiments begin on Ravensbrück prisoners:
June 1942 1
Prisoners unfit to work sent to Bernburg:
March 1942 1
Soviet forces liberate the camp:
29 Apr 1945 1
SS establishes a small men's subcamp:
April 1941 1
Subcamps:
Largest subcamps, (held over 1,000 prisoners): Rechlin/Retzow, Malchow, Grüneberg, Neubrandenburg, Karlshagen I, Barth, Leipzig-Schönefeld, Magdeburg, & Altenburg 1

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