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Ravensbrück Concentration Camp


Ravensbrück (German pronunciation: [?a?v?ns?b??k]) was a notorious women'sconcentration camp during World War II, located in northern Germany, 90 km north of Berlin at a site near the village of Ravensbrück (part of Fürstenberg/Havel).

Construction of the camp began in November 1938 by SS leader Heinrich Himmlerand 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 prisoners 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.

The first prisoners at Ravensbrück were approximately 900 women. The SS had transferred these prisoners from the Lichtenburg women's concentration camp in Saxony 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.

Hundreds of children were incarcerated in Ravensbrück. The cruelty and the sadism of the Nazis against the children had no limits, and the fate of those little victims was absolutely awful. Children and babies were in fact sentenced to death before they were born. Newborn babies were immediately separated from their mother and drowned or thrown into a sealed room until they died. Most of the time, this was done in front of the mother. There are dozen of testimonies about children thrown alive into the crematory, buried alive, poisoned, strangled, or drowned in Ravensbrück.  Several children were also used for sadistic "medical" experiments. Hundreds of little girls, sometimes only 8, were sterilized by direct exposure of genitals to X-rays. In the early months of Ravensbrück, children were immediately killed. The SS doctor Rosenthal and his girlfriend Gerda Quernheim aborted by force pregnant women, and this was often done using bestial methods. Later, newborn children were sometimes allowed to survive, but due to the lack of food and the awful sanitary conditions, these babies died very soon.

Only the strongest children could survive. Those children had to work day and night with the women in the workshop and help them with the heaviest labor. Only very few of these children survived the war.
There were OTHER children in the camp as well. At first, they arrived with mothers who were Gypsies orJews 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 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 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 to Bavaria.

Among the thousands executed by the Germans at Ravensbrück were four female members of the British World War II organization Special Operations ExecutiveDenise BlochCecily LefortLilian Rolfe and Violette Szabo. Other victims included the Roman Catholic nun Élise RivetElisabeth de Rothschild (the only member of the Rothschild family to die in the Holocaust), Russian Orthodox nun St. Maria Skobtsova, the 25-year-old French Princess Anne de Bauffremont-Courtenay andOlga Benário, wife of the Brazilian Communist leader Luís Carlos Prestes. 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 and her family were arrested by the Nazis for harbouring Jews in their home in Haarlem, the Netherlands. The ordeal of Corrie and her sister Betsie ten Boom 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, 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, 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 Ga?czy?ski. Later that same year Lucyana Wolanowska and her son emigrated to Australia.

Will Lammert, Memorial Tragende (Woman with Burden) for the Ravensbrück Concentration Camp memorial site, 1959





Camp guard Hildegard Neumann

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 andOberaufseherinnen) in Ravensbrück were:

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 GoeritzMargot Dreschel and Elisabeth Kammer. Head wardress at the Uckermark death complex of Ravensbrück was Ruth Closius(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 government extradited Hermine Braunsteiner for trial in Germany for war crimes.

In 2006 the United States government expelled Elfriede Rinkel, 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.

Hildegard Neumann

Hildegard Neumann

 (born May 4, 1919)

was a chief overseer at several Nazi concentration, transition and detention camps during the last year of World War II. She was born in Deutsch GabelCzechoslovakia.

Neumann came to the Ravensbrück concentration camp in October 1944, where she became anOberaufseherin (Chief Wardress) soon after. Because of her good conduct, the Nazis sent her to the Theresienstadt concentration camp and ghetto in Czechoslovakia in November 1944 as Head Female Overseer. Neumann was known as a cruel female guard.

She oversaw between ten and thirty female police and over 20,000 female Jewish prisoners. Neumann also aided in the deportation of more than 40,000 women and children from the camp to the Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen camps, where most were killed. The tasks of the female overseers in Theresienstadt was to guard women prisoners at work on "labour kommandos," during transports to other camps, and in the ghetto itself. Most were cruel and abusive, especially Caecilia Rojko, who was nicknamed the "Prisoners' Fright," and Hildegard Mende, whom gained the nickname "Beast".

Neumann fled the camp in May 1945, and was never prosecuted for war crimes, even though more than 100,000 Jews were deported from Theresienstadt and were murdered or died there, and 55,000 died in the camp itself.




  • 30-1-1917~5-11-2110

Emma Zimmer

Emma Anne Zimmer 

(August 14, 1888 – September 20, 1948)

was a female overseer at the Ravensbrück concentration camp for two years during the war.

Emma Zimmer was born as Emma Anne Mezel in Schlüchtern. On June 1, 1943, already over 50 years old, she was granted permission to stay on staff as a female overseer at Ravensbrück, despite her age. She was the first chief woman officer at Ravensbrück from 1939-1941. She took an active part in the selection of internees to be gassed during 1941 at the Bernberg Euthanasia Center near Berlin. Zimmer served as a guard at Ravensbrück and was known in the camp as a brutal and sadistic guard.

Emma Zimmer stood trial at the seventh Ravensbrück Trial and was sentenced to death for her war crimes. She was hanged on September 20, 1948. She was 60 years old.

  • August 14, 1888 – September 20, 1948

Johanna Langefeld

Johanna Langefeld

 (5 March 1900 - 26 January 1974)

was a German female guard and supervisor at three Nazi concentration camps.

In March 1938, she applied for a job as a camp guard in the first SS concentration camp for women in Lichtenburg. After one year, Langefeld became the female superintendent of this camp. She stayed in that position until the camp population was transferred to Ravensbrück in May 1939.

The female superintendent (in German the actual term is Oberaufseherin) was the assistant of the so-called Schutzhaftlagerführer, the protective custody camp leader, who was the deputy of the Camp Commandant. According to the camp regulations, the Oberaufseherin should “consult the Schutzhaftlagerführer in all female matters.”

Johanna Langefeld was in charge of the selections in Ravensbrück during the so-called “14f13” murder campaign.

In the middle of March 1942, Langefeld was assigned to build a new women's camp in Auschwitz. There she selected prisoners for the gas chamber.

Rudolf Höß, the Commandant of the Auschwitz concentration camp, recalled his relationship towards Johanna Langefeld as follows:

The chief female supervisor of the period, Frau Langefeld, was in no way capable of coping with the situation, yet she refused to accept any instructions given her by the leader of the protective custody camp. Acting on my own initiative, I simply put the women’s camp under his jurisdiction.

During the visit of Heinrich Himmler on July 18, 1942, Langefeld tried to get him to annul this order. In fact, Rudolf Höß admitted after the war that “the Reichsführer SS absolutely refused” his order and that he wished “a women's camp to be commanded by a woman”. Himmler ordered that Langefeld should stay in charge of the women’s camp and that in the future, no SS man should enter the female camp.

That same month, the Auschwitz women's camp was moved to Auschwitz-Birkenau camp three km away. Two weeks later, Langefeld had an injury of her meniscus and required a cartilage operation in the Hohenlychen SS Sanatorium near Ravensbrück. During her stay there, she went to see Oswald Pohl, the chief of the SS Economy and Administration Head Office, in Berlin-Lichterfelde, and convinced him to transfer her back to Ravensbrück. Maria Mandel became the new Oberaufseherin of the women's prisoner camp in Auschwitz. Oswald Pohl instructed the Chief of Department D of his SS Economy and Administration Head Office, Richard Glücks, to order that duties of protective custody camp leaders in the Women's Camps be executed thereafter by the female superintendents, the Oberaufseherinnen.

Margarete Buber-Neumann, who became Langefeld's prisoner assistant in Ravensbrück, recorded that Langefeld was dismissed for excessive sympathy with Polish prisoners; she was separated from her son, taken under arrest to Breslau, where an SS tribunal prepared a trial against her. Langefeld never went to trial, and was released from her camp duties. She then moved to Munich and started to work for BMW.

Arrest and death

On December 20, 1945, Langefeld was arrested by the U.S. Army, and in September 1946, she was extradited to the Polish judiciary preparing a trial in Kraków against SS personnel in Auschwitz. On December 23, 1946, Johanna Langefeld escaped from prison and hid in a cloister, working in a private home. Sometime around 1957, she returned illegally to live with her sister in Munich. She died in Augsburg, Germany on January 26, 1974, at the age of 73.



  • 5 March 1900 - 26 January 1974

Frauen Konzentrationslager, Women's Concentration camp

During the first six years of the Third Reich's existence, few women were taken to concentration camps.
They were guarded by male members of the SS in smaller camps (e.g., Nordheim, Lichtenburg). With the increase of terror in the spring of 1939, it became necessary to create a separate camp for female prisoners.

The Nazis founded Ravensbrück, the new FKL (Frauen Konzentrationslager, women's concentration camp) north of Berlin. Originally the camp was apt for housing 10,000 people. In Ravensbrück SS female overseers were responsible for supervising the prisoners, who performed forced labour, and for keeping the strict camp regulations.

Most of them reported for duty answering the call of "patriotic" newspaper ads, many young women sought independence from their families, others were attracted by the relatively high salary. After a successful entrance exam they signed a contract with an SS helper (SS-Helferin), then a several-month-long training followed in Ravensbrück. Although the SS female overseers received an SS uniform and an SS wage, being women, they were not allowed to become SS members with equal rights and to give orders to male members. The outer watch and the camp leadership in Ravensbrück continued to be performed by men.

Out of the 130,000 women deported to Ravensbrück between 1939 and 1945, more than 90,000 died here. Besides hunger and illness, many fell victim to the brutality of the SS female overseers. Many of the SS female overseers trained in Ravensbrück were redeployed to the new concentration camps built after the breakout of the war (Lublin-Majdanek, Auschwitz, Plaszów, etc.).


ID Card

Karl Gebhardt

Born 23.11.1897 in The Hague, died 2.6. 1948. Surgeon. Prof. Dr. med. Medical Superintendent of the SS Hohenlychen Sanatorium, Consulting Surgeon of the Waffen-SS, Chief Surgeon in the Staff of the Reich Physician SS and Police. Defendant in the Medical Trial. 

Gebhardt studied medicine in Munich starting in 1919. After two years as an unpaid assistant physician he received a post as an intern at the Surgical Clinic of the University of Munich, under Sauerbruch in 1924 and later under Lexer. There he gained his habilitation in 1932. In 1935, he switched to Berlin, where he was appointed associate professor. 

In 1936 he distinguished himself in his post as a head of the Medical Department of the Reich Academy for Physical Exercises as senior physician of the Olympic Games. 
In 1937 he became chair holder for orthopedic surgery at the University of Berlin. In his student days Gebhardt had been a supporter of the national-counter-rcvolutionary movement and was active among other things in the Volunteer Corps "the Upland Alliance."
He joined the NSDAP on 1.5.1933 (No. 1,723,317). He began his SS career in 1935 as a medical superintendent of the Hohenlychen Sanatorium. In 1938 Hitler appointed him as his personal physician. In 1940 he became Consulting Surgeon of the Waffen-SS and President of the German Red Cross. Starting in 1943 Gebhardt was active in the Reich Physician SS and Police, Ernst Grawitz's Staff as a Chief Surgeon. He rose to the rank of SS Major General and Major General of the Waffen-SS. Due to his top position in the SS, Gebhardt was involved in a series of experiments on humans which were carried out on concentration camp prisoners.
He could pursue his personal research interests as a specialist in reconstructive surgery as the main coordinator of the surgical experiments carried out on prisoners of the Ravensbrück Women's Concentration Camp, in which he attempted to defend the principles of invasive war surgery against the controversial innovations of the sulfanilamide treatment of war injuries.  Gebhardt was condemned to death by the American Military Tribunal No. I in August 1947 and executed on 2.6.1948. Otherwise, Twenty-three German doctors and scientists, one a woman, sit in the dock of Nuermberg court during their arraignment on charges of inhuman experimentation on inmates of Nazi concentration camps.  Left to right, front row: Karl Brandt, Siegfried Handloser, Paul Rostock, Oskar Schroeder, Karl Genzken, Karl Gebhardt, Kurt Blome, Joachim Mrugowsky, Rudolf Brandt, Helmut Poppendick, and Wolfram Sievers. Left to right, back row: Gerhard Rose, Siegfried Ruff, Victor Brack, Hans-Wolfram Romberg, Hermann Becker-Reyseng, George August Weltz, Konrad Schaefer, Waldemar Hoven, Wilhelm Beiglbock, Adolf Pororry, Herta Oberheuser, and Fritz Fischer.

  • 23.11.1897~ 2.6. 1948

The Gas Chamber in Ravensbrück

The Ravensbrück concentration camp for women near Fürstenberg (about 90 km north of Berlin) was established in 1939. The camp complex included a smaller KZ for men and the so called "Jugendschutzlager Uckermark" (a camp for young persons) as well as 28 satellite camps ("Außenlager"). Approximately 28,000 people perished in the Ravensbrück camp complex. 

The planned Gas Chamber "Neue Wäscherei" ("New Laundry") 

The "Neue Wäscherei" Just outside of the northern camp wall is the site of the todays memorial. Near the former "Revier" there is a building that was most probably erected to serve as gas chamber (with two rooms). It is the socalled "Neue Wäscherei". The construction works started in October 1944 but were delayed, probably because of a lack of material. Because of the situation at the front in late January / early February 1945 the camp authorities had to find a temporary solution for gassing purposes. It is also possible that the prisoners who had to build the "Neue Wäscherei" gas chambers delayed the works intentionally so that this killing facility never went into operation. 
The "Neue Wäscherei" One can assume that the former Auschwitz commander, Rudolf Höß (in his capacity as chief of the WVHA office DI), together with his superior Oswald Pohl and camp commander Fritz Suhren; inspected the construction works between end of February and mid March 1945. This was witnessed byWalter Jahn who had been imprisoned in the men’s camp since 1941. As an electrician he had to install cables in the "Neue Wäscherei", and testified against Pohl in Nürnberg. In addition he drew a sketch of the gas chambers for the court. 

There are also testimonies from usually reliable witnesses about the use of mobile gas chambers or the installation of a gas chamber in an adapted Dutch railway wagon that was parked in a pine wood behind the so called "Siemenslager". However these statements are questioned by some researchers. 
It is notable that defendants of the Ravensbrück trials (altogether seven trials) freely mentioned a gas chamber in the "former barrack" but never mentioned another gas chamber (in the "Neue Wäscherei"). 

The Gas Chamber in the Barrack 

Crematory and
Gas Chambers Barrack No plans or remnants of the building are available. Therefore all facts about this real gas chamber of Ravensbrück are based on the testimonies from witnesses (SS men and former prisoners) who all agreed about type and location of the gas chamber. This provides firm evidence to support the existence of the gas chamber. It was installed in the warehouse barrack of the Malerkommando (painter’s command) that was located directly beside the crematorium. The barrack was emptied and then sealed. The gas (Zyklon B) was poured into the gas chamber through an opening in the ceiling. Some witnesses stated that this has been done by prisoners but this can be doubted because the SS usually did it itself. 
According to witnesses one side of the gas chamber could be turned down to facilitate the removal of the corpses and the ventilation. Others talked about double doors. To hide the crime a two metre high fence was built around the barrack. 
A few metres away from the barrack a small shed was located. Here the victims had to undress before the SS drove them to the gas chamber. It is not clear if SS doctors were present at the gassings. 
The prisoners who were forced to work in the gas chamber came from the smaller men’s camp. As "hearer of secrets" they were killed by the SS on 25 April 1945 in the bunker, shortly before the evacuation of the camp. 

Memorial for the
Gas Chambers Barrack The exact procedure of the gassings cannot be reconstructed with absolute certainty because of the variance in the reports of the different witnesses. 
There is still some uncertainty about the size of the gas chamber. Witnesses, such as the SchutzhaftlagerführerSS-Hauptsturmführer Johann Schwarzhuber, who had relevant experiences from his former job at Auschwitz-Birkenau, stated that the size of the gas chamber measured 9 x 4.50 m. Former prisoners declared that the size was 4 x 6 m. The difference may come from the fact that a wall had been erected so that a small anteroom was created. That means that the gas chamber could have had a size of approximately 20 m2. Schwarzhuberspecified the capacity of the gas chamber at 150 persons. 
There is also disagreement about the number of victims. The gassings started between end of January and early February 1945. The killings continued until end of April. The last gassings might have happened on 22 or 23 April 1945 (the camp was liberated on 30. April 1945). 
Schwarzhuber stated that the number of victims was 2,300-2,400. Others, like the researchers Bernhard Strebel and Anise Posel-Vinay, estimated the number of victims at 5,000-6,000. 

The aim of the gassings was to exterminate ill prisoners and those who were not able to march longer distances before the camp's evacuation. Schwarzhuber's statement that the gassings started in late February is undoubtedly wrong. According to the diary entries of witnesses'it was early and mid February. In addition, some of the very rare camp documents show that by mid February lists were drawn up which clearly show that the people "went into the gas". 

View from the former Gas Chamber
to the Crematory The selected women mainly came from the socalled "Jugendschutzlager Uckermark", 1.5 km away from the main camp. A part of this camp had been selected by the SS in January 1945 for the separation of ill, elderly and those women from the Ravensbrück main camp who were unable for work. This may possibly be traced back to Himmler's order (from autumn 1944) to camp commanderSuhren to kill 2,000 prisoners per month. The women were accomodated in barracks without beds, latrines and water. 
Because the women were set on "half rations", having got neither coats nor blankets, and because of newly invented and senseless roll calls, one can say that this was a "death zone", led by Ruth Closius-Neudeck, who told about the camp and the gassings at her trial. 
In the afternoon selections took place to select the most weak women. They were brought to the socalled "Turnhalle" (gymnasium) from where they were picked up by the SS in the evening and brought to the Stammlager. To prevent rumour and chaos, the women were told that they should be transferred to other and better camps. Lists were compiled which should show that the women were transferred to a camp called "Mittwerda". These lists contained approximately 4,000-5,000 names. The camp "Mittwerda" didn't exist. Everything was just camouflage for the murder. In addition, from satellite camps and the men were brought to the gas chamber and gassed. 

The last gassings happened when the Swedish Red Cross was in the camp to compile transports with weakened prisoners to carry them to neutral Sweden (via the still occupied Denmark). 

Otto Moll * In the beginning the women were shot. Because this method was too time-consuming and noticeable, it was changed into gassing in end of January. The shootings as well as the gassings were supervised by SS-Hauptscharführer Otto MollMoll, who already has had experience of gassings at Auschwitz-Birkenau (chief of the crematories), ended his gassing career at Ravensbrück. 
Even after the establishment of the gas chamber the shootings continued in Ravensbrück. The gas chamber staff consisted of SS men with experiences in Auschwitz, for example their chief Schwarzhuber, who wasSchutzhaftlagerführer of the mens camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau
During the first Ravensbrück trial in Hamburg (1946) Schwarzhuber stated: 
"I was present at a gassing. 150 women were always forced into the gas chamber. Hauptscharführer Moll ordered the women to undress and that they had to join a delousing. Then they were led to the gassing room and the doors were closed. A male prisoner, wearing a gas mask, entered the roof and threw a gas can through a small opening, which he immediately closed after that, into the room. I heard groaning and whimpering in the room. After 2-3 minutes it became silent in the room..." 

The SS attempts to keep the gassings secret, failed. A female German prisoner could secretely add (already under the date 9 February 1945) to her diary: 
"Something terrible: Those who were sent on transport yesterday were sent to the gas chambers..." 

In December 1947 the chief warder of the camp "Uckermark", Closius-Neudeck, testified: 
"When the vans were completely filled, both SS men and I drove in the direction of the crematory. There we had to unload the prisoners at a toolshed. In my function as Oberaufseherin I ordered them to undress completely (...) When all women were undressed, a disguised SS man in a white coat brought the women, one after the other, to another toolshed. When this shed was filled, it was locked. Then two male prisoners were ordered to enter the roof. 
I have seen how they dropped something there. Then the opening on the roof was closed. After the two prisoners had climbed down the roof, the motors of the lorries were switched on so that the screaming of the victims could not be heard." 

In the night of the 23 April 1945 the barrack was blown up by the SS, according to some witnesses. Therefore no important traces remained after a few days when the camp was liberated by the Red Army. In contrary other witnesses stated that they still had seen the barrack shortly after the end of the war. 

We don't know if the foundations of the barrack are still there: The site where the barrack was located, was converted into a DDR memorial after the war. It became a part of the graves field at the camp wall. An archeological inspection to locate the exact site of the gas chamber would disrupt the today’s graves. A positive result would not be predictable anyway. 

Schwarzhuber, Moll, Closius-Neudeck, Pohl, Höß and the former commander Suhren were finally sentenced to death and executed. 

Auschwitz Museum * 

Ruth Meyerowitz Born: 1929, Frankfurt, Germay

In Frankfurt, Ruth's family faced intensifying anti-Jewish measures; her father's business was taken over and Ruth's Jewish school was closed. In April 1943, Ruth and her family were deported to Auschwitz. Ruth was forced to work on road repairs. She also worked in the "Kanada" unit, sorting possessions brought into the camp. In November 1944, Ruth was transferred to the Ravensbrueck camp system, in Germany. She was liberated in May 1945, during a death march from the Malchow camp.

On November first, 1944, we were loaded onto a train, the same train that brought people in to the camp, and on one side was the crematorium and on the other side was uh so-called freedom, the western part of, uh, Germany. And we were sitting on this train for a while and we didn't know which way it was going. We were hoping that it was true that we were really being taken to Germany to uh...for labor, but uh it could have been just the other way, we could have gone to the crematorium, up to the crematorium.

Well finally the train moved out and we were indeed taken to Germany and we stayed in Ravensbrueck. We were taken to Ravensbrueck because all this is in northern Germany, very close to the North Sea. We were taken there and we were kept in a very large tent, something like a circus tent, for several days without food and water. It was uh the, without the water...I mean we were sort of used to starvation, but without water it was just something awful.

It rained and we had these spoons, and we were trying to put our spoon outside the tent to try and collect a few drops of water. And of course we didn't have the patience to wait for the spoon to fill up, so as soon as we had a few drops of water, we would anxiously drink it.


Blanka Rothschild Born: 1922, Lodz, Poland

Blanka was an only child in a close-knit family in Lodz, Poland. Her father died in 1937. After the German invasion of Poland, Blanka and her mother remained in Lodz with Blanka's grandmother, who was unable to travel.

Along with other relatives, they were forced into the Lodz ghetto in 1940. There, Blanka worked in a bakery. She and her mother later worked in a hospital in the Lodz ghetto, where they remained until late 1944 when they were deported to the Ravensbrueck camp in Germany.

From Ravensbrueck, Blanka and her mother were sent to a subcamp of Sachsenhausen. Blanka was forced to work in an airplane factory (Arado-Werke). Her mother was sent to another camp. Soviet forces liberated Blanka in spring 1945. Blanka, living in abandoned houses, made her way back to Lodz. She discovered that none of her relatives, including her mother, had survived. Blanka then moved westward to Berlin, eventually to a displaced persons camp. She emigrated to the United States in 1947.

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 Ravensbrueck 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.

Doris Greenberg Born: 1930, Warsaw, Poland

The Germans invaded Poland in 1939 and established a ghetto in Warsaw in 1940. After her parents were deported, Doris hid with her sister and other relatives. Her sister, seized in a raid, was killed. Doris learned her parents had been killed and witnessed the shooting of an uncle, whose death prompted her grandmother to commit suicide. Doris was smuggled out of the ghetto and lived as a non-Jewish maid and cook, but was ultimately deported to Ravensbrueck concentration camp in Germany.

Ravensbrueck was a very huge camp, and there were inmates from many, many nations. During the short stay, I could notice truckfulls of bodies, of skinny...just bones and skin...bodies, dead bodies. They had...they had a place where they hung people. I did not witness any, any hanging, but they they had a place and I could see the trucks going back and forth with bodies here and bodies there. We did not do much over there. We were then transported to another camp.

Eva Braun Levine Born: Lodz, Poland July 6, 1916

Eva was the second daughter of five children born to Jewish parents. Her father dealt in real estate, and the family owned the apartment building in which they lived. The building had an elevator, a luxury for that time. Eva finished high school, and she began working for her father and studying history at a small local university.

1933-39: Nightlife for young people was lively in Lodz, and I often went dancing with my boyfriend, Herman. In 1939 we married. Then the Germans invaded. One day, the Gestapo banged at our door. They slapped my father-in-law, demanding we hand over our valuable rugs. "The maid already took them," I protested. When they yelled back, I grabbed one man by the lapels: "Why don't you believe us? We're leaving! Here, see our suitcases?" They left.

1940-44: Herman and I were caught in the ghetto of Piotrkow Trybunalski after we arrived there in May 1941 looking for food. My family was deported there as well. For three years I worked with my mother and sisters in the ghetto; in November 1944 all the women were deported to the Ravensbrueck concentration camp in Germany. When we got off the train Nazis "examined" our crotches for hidden valuables. The work I did in the camp was so backbreaking that I lost tissue in my spine.

As the Allies advanced, the camp prisoners were evacuated to the Bergen-Belsen camp. There, Eva was liberated by the British in April 1945. She moved to the United States in 1950.

Machla Spicehandler Braun Born: Lowicz, Poland ca. 1886

Raised in Lowicz, Poland, in a religious Jewish family, Machla moved to Lodz when she married Jacob Braun. Her husband worked as a businessman and real estate investor. He became the landlord for an apartment building where he and his family also lived. Machla, a housewife, cared for their five children, who ranged in age from 5 to 15.

1933-39: Machla worked as a volunteer for the Zionist cause. The Brauns were a close family, and Machla's daughters Lena and Eva held their weddings in the Braun's large apartment: they were catered, elaborate affairs with the rooms decorated with flowers. Machla's fourth child married in 1939. Soon afterwards, the Gestapo began coming daily to the Braun's apartment, demanding information about their building's tenants.

1940-45: The Nazis deported the Brauns to a ghetto in the town of Piotrkow Trybunalski, where Machla and her four daughters were separated from the men in the family. In November 1944 Machla and her daughters were sent to the Ravensbrueck camp for women. At her age, Machla could not handle the back-breaking labor, so Lena did much of her work. Machla and the girls were later transferred to the Bergen-Belsen camp, where Machla was so weakened by starvation and disease that she lay dying on the floor of her filthy barrack.

Two days after the British liberated the camp in April 1945, Machla died at Bergen-Belsen.


Hilda Kusserow Born: Dembogora, Poland July 9, 1888

Hilda was born in a territory ruled by Germany until 1919. A teacher and a painter, she married Franz Kusserow and moved to western Germany before World War I. There, she gave birth to 11 children and became a Jehovah's Witness. After 1931 the Kusserow home in the small town of Bad Lippspringe was the headquarters of a Jehovah's Witness congregation.

1933-39: The Nazis repeatedly searched our home because our family remained openly steadfast in our devotion to Jehovah. I continued doing missionary work even though it was banned. In 1936 I was arrested and imprisoned for six weeks. When I was released I continued hosting Bible study meetings in our home, even after my husband was imprisoned. In 1939 the police took away my three youngest children to be "reeducated" in foster homes.

1940-44: Two of my sons were executed for refusing induction into the German army. My husband returned home on August 16, 1940. Because we kept hosting Bible studies, I was arrested along with my husband and our daughters Hildegard and Magdalena in April 1941. I served a two-year term. When released I was told that I could go home if I signed a statement renouncing my faith. I refused and was deported to the Ravensbrueck concentration camp, where I was reunited with two of my daughters who'd already been there a year.

During a forced march from Ravensbrueck, Hilda and her two daughters were liberated by the Soviets in April 1945. When the war ended, they returned to Bad Lippspringe.

Gabrielle Weidner Born: Brussels, Belgium August 17, 1914

Gabrielle was the second of four children born to Dutch parents. Her father was a minister in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. She grew up in Collonges, France, near the Swiss border, where her father served as a pastor. Gabrielle was baptized in the Seventh-Day Adventist faith at the age of 16. She attended secondary school in London, England.

1933-39: Gabrielle became increasingly active in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, eventually becoming the secretary at the French-Belgian Union of Seventh-Day Adventists headquarters in Paris. Her student travels in western Europe and her knowledge of foreign languages proved useful in her work. On September 3, 1939, two days after Germany invaded Poland, France declared war on Germany.

1940-44: German forces invaded France in May 1940, and Gabrielle fled to the south. After the armistice, Gabrielle returned to Paris and resumed working for the church. On Saturday, February 26, 1944, the Gestapo arrested her during 10 a.m. church services. Along with 140 other members of the "Dutch-Paris" network that helped Dutch Jews and political refugees, Gabrielle was implicated by a fellow member who was tortured. On August 24 Gabrielle was deported from the Fresnes Prison in Paris to the Ravensbrueck camp in Germany.

On February 17, 1945, Gabrielle died of malnutrition in Koenigsberg, a subcamp of Ravensbrueck, just days after being liberated by Soviet troops.


Romani (Gypsy) inmates at forced labor in Ravensbrueck concentration camp. Germany, between 1941 and 1944.

Forced Labor

Inmates at forced labor in the Ravensbrueck concentration camp. Germany, between 1940 and 1942.

Horror of Nazi sex slaves forced to work in camps Read more:

Hundreds of women branded anti-social by the Nazis were forced to work as prostitutes, servicing slave labourers in concentration camps, it was revealed today.

The 'brothel women', whose existence has remained a virtual secret since the end of the Second World War, worked at 10 camps equipped with copulation cells.

They were forced to have sex with eight men a day and up to 40 at weekends - watched by guards - as SS chief Heinrich Himmler tried to keep up morale among slave labourers.

The plight of the women is the subject of a new exhibition, featuring scores of faded index cards with anonymous prisoner numbers, on the site of the Ravensbruck camp, north of Berlin.

Historians used testimonies by former Ravensbruck prisoners, excerpts from Nazi SS files and accounts by camp guards to put the exhibition together.

They recalled how women, written off as anti-social elements, were told they would be freed after six months.

They were fed fresh food and vitamins, and tanned with sun lamps to improve their looks.

Unlike other women prisoners they were allowed to keep their hair. However, most of them were abused by guards and none set free.

Only a few of the survivors applied for compensation after the war because their experiences were too degrading to talk about.

Read more:

"Prisoner 66730."

(April 15, 1892 – April 15, 1983)

Cornelia Johanna Arnolda Ten Boom, was generally known as Corrie Ten Boom.  She was a Dutch Christian Holocaust survivor who helped many Jews escape the Nazis during World War II. Corrie Ten Boom co-wrote her autobiography, "The Hiding Place", which was later made into a movie of the same name. In December, 1967, Corrie Ten Boom was honored as one of the "Righteous Among the Nations" by the State of Israel.

Corrie Ten Boom was born on April 15, 1892,  into a Christian family which openly practiced their faith.  Their acts of generosity and social commitment had long been recognized.  Their house was always open to any needy person.

Corrie’s grandfather, Willem Ten Boom, had established a watchmaker’s shop in 1837, at the age of 19, in Barteljorisstraat, Haarlem, Holland, the city where Corrie was born. The shop was located on the ground floor, while the family living quarters were on the upper floors.

Corrie Ten Boom in 1915.

In later years the shop was inherited by Willem’s son, Casper Ten Boom.  In 1922,  Corrie Ten Boom became the first licensed female watchmaker in the Netherlands.

The Ten Boom Family - Betsie, Nollie, Casper, Willem, Mother, and Corrie.

Corrie Ten Boom was the youngest of four children.  Her father, Casper Ten Boom, was a respected watch maker and repairman.  Her older sister, Elisabeth (whom they affectionately called Betsie) was diagnosed with pernicious anemia, making her very frail.  They had two other siblings: Nollie, their sister, and Willem, who was a theologian.  Both of them were married,  but,  Betsie and Corrie never married.  Corrie, in honor of Betsie,  took a vow of celibacy. 

The children of the Ten Boom Family  - Betsie, Willem, Nollie and Corrie.

In 1939, the peaceful, neutral country of Holland was attacked by the Germans under Adolph Hitler.  Only a few hours after Holland's Prime Minister's comforting speech about how Holland would never be attacked and there would be no war,  the sound of bombs exploding awakened sisters Corrie and Betsie Ten Boom. They had just retired for the night.  Corrie Ten Boom was 48 years old, when the war began.

In occupied Holland,  the Dutch churches had issued a collective protest against the treatment of the country's Jews.  Although Hitler's government ("the Reich") ignored such pleas,  many Dutch citizens did all they could to protect innocent people and prevent their deportation.  Without hesitation,  they actively disobeyed the Nazis' unjust laws.

Some non-Jewish Dutch citizens,  like Casper Ten Boom,  the elderly watchmaker from Haarlem,  decided to voluntarily wear the yellow star.  He reasoned that if everyone wore the humiliating symbol, how could German Reich officials distinguish Jews from non-Jews?

His act of defiance is recreated in "The Hiding Place," a film based on his daughter Corrie's book of the same name.

Corrie Ten Boom, along with her father, Casper Ten Boom, and sister, Betsie Ten Boom, were some of the thousands of people who took Jewish people into their homes, and hid them from the Nazis . Corrie and her family also gave them stolen ration cards so that they could buy food and escape to the countryside. They knew the price was high and that they could be caught at any moment,  but they did everything they could to save the lives  of the Jewish fugitives and the resistance members..

Betsie and Casper ten Boom on March 9, 1944.

Casper Ten Boom's family was among those actively helping to save Jews and Dutch resistance members from death at the hands of the Nazis.  He ultimately paid with his life.   So did several other members of his family.  His daughter Corrie, however, survived to tell their story. 

The occupation of Haarlem resulted in stricter laws and very little freedom.  Citizens were not allowed to leave their homes after curfew, which went from 9:00 to 6:00 pm.  Holland's national anthem,"Wilhemus," was banned.  The Gestapo,  a Nazi police organization,  would raid people's homes and take the young men between the ages of 17 and 30, and force them to work in the army. 

The Jewish people were severely persecuted.  They were imprisoned, killed, or sent to extermination camps to die.  This didn't just happen only to the Jewish people,  it also happened to anyone that helped them in any way. 

Corrie Ten Boom

The Ten Boom family was compassionate and didn't care what anyone else said.  They continued to open their doors to the needy - no matter what was their race or religious beliefs.

Alpina Sign.

The triangular Alpina sign (It is barely seen through the curtains) was a signal that indicated that it was safe to enter the Ten Boom house. 

The hiding place was entered through the back of Corrie's bedroom closet.

The hiding place was entered through the back of Corrie's bedroom closet. It was through the bottom portion of the closet. After they had gone inside, the back of the closet decended to seal it off. 
Although their hiding place was cleverly hidden behind a false brick wall in Corrie's room, the Ten Boom family still had to be extremely cautious in all security matters. 
An alarm system was placed in their rooms to inform anyone in the house of potential dangers.  Their friends would, "break into" their house and pretend to be the Gestapo agents, so that they could practice what they would say (and not say, most importantly!) in case of a raid.  Drills were done on a regular basis.

During practice drills, the illegal residents of the house would have to climb these steep stairs to Corrie's bedroom .

One night, while Corrie was in bed with the flu, the sound of footsteps awakened her. "We didn't plan a drill today," she thought while her head spinned with fever. She soon realized that this was not a drill! The Jews her family had hidden for so long were running from real Nazi police! She watched as each one of them sprinted into the false wall. That is... almost all of them. She heard the sickening sound of wheezing. The oldest Jew in their home, Mary Italle, had asthma and was struggling to make it to the secret room. Once Mary had made it into Corrie's room, Corrie sprang from her bed and helped her make it through the secret panel... only seconds before a Nazi policeman appeared in her room.

The police interrogated the family and many other people who came over to the Ten Boom home to warn them of the danger, a little too late.  The police were brutal, especially to Betsie and Corrie.  They struck them every time that they refused to tell them about their underground work.

Finally, the police loaded everyone that was found in the Ten Boom house into vans and headed for the city jail.  They were taken into a large room (a former gymnasium) where several other prisoners sat waiting to know about their fate. The suffering they endured there, that night, was minuscule compared to what would soon be coming.

Two days after the raid, the six persons in hiding were able to escape through this window with the help of the resistance. 

The entire story may be read in Corrie ten Boom's book, "The Hiding Place"

Once again, the Ten Boom family was loaded onto a van and headed for Scheveningen prison.  Corrie and Betsie were separated from their father who was in another part of the prison.  Corrie was still sick from the flu,  therefore she was placed in solitary confinement for the majority of her imprisonment. 

On the day of Adolph Hitler's birthday,  the prison workers left to go to a party.  Corrie attempted to learn more about her family's condition!  She called out Betsie's name.  Betsie was still in the prison and she relayed this message: "God is good!"   Corrie found out that her sister Nollie, and her brother Willem had been released.  She could not get any  information about her father.  No one seemed to know anything about him.

When Corrie received the news that her father, Casper Ten Boom, had died,  she wrote on the wall: "Father: Released."  Even in her time of grief, Corrie Ten Boom knew that her father was now in a better place.

Corrie got over her sickness and was soon well enough to attend her first hearing.  The hearings were one-on-one and took plave in little huts.  She was placed with Lieutenant Rhams.  The Lieutenant tried at first to "butter her up" with kindness that had not ever been shown in prison.  But, soon Corrie and Lieutenant Rhams became friends and scarcely discussed her critical situation.  He seemed more interested in hearing about her family life and religious beliefs.  She ministered to him. Lieutenant Rhams had gone through many tragedies in his life.  He called it: "the Great Darkness".  Through their conversations,  both Corrie and the Lieutenant had found joy.

But, this joy did not last.  Soon, Corrie, Betsie and several other female prisoners were transported to Vught, a concentration camp in Holland.  The conditions there were terrible, much harsher than that of Scheveningen.  The rules were very strict, and if they were broken, the entire camp would be punished. Sometimes, they would only get half-rations of food.  Sometimes, they'd have to stand at attention for long periods of time.  Sometimes, individual prisoners would be sent to the bunkers (a locker-sized room where prisoners would stand with their hands tied above their heads).

Vught was filled with much hate and violence.  But there, Corrie and Betsie learned forgiveness in a place where it was sometimes impossible to forgive . Often, Corrie would hear her sister Betsie say "I feel so sorry for them,"  or "May God forgive them."  It only took a moment to realize that Betsie was referring to their enemies.  At first, Corrie didn't understand this compassion for the very people that were mistreating them.  But, as time went on,  faith took the place of fear and Corrie came to an understanding.

After a few months in Vught,  which seemed like an eternity to them,  Betsie, Corrie and other prisoners were once again transported to another camp.  This time it was to Germany.

At Ravensbruck
After piling into a van, the prisoners were taken on a Four day journey to Ravensbruck. Ravensbruck was the worst of all the prisons and camps that Corrie and Betsie had been to. At least at Vught and Scheveningen, prisoners were called by their names.  In Ravensbruck, all you had was a number.

The moment that the weary prisoners arrived in Ravensbruck, the prison staff rushed toward them swinging their crops at them. The camp was filled with constant suffering.  Every time that they needed to visit the doctor  they needed to take off all their clothes - in front of men.  Roll call was at 4:30 am, and anyone who arrived late would be beaten. 

Ravensbruck was a Concentration camp for women which opened near Fürstenberg,  just 56 miles north of Berlin, in May 1939.  It was constructed on reclaimed swampland and built by male prisoners from Sachsenhausen during the winter of 1938-1939 . It was origionally designed to hold 15,000 prisoners, but, Ravensbruck eventually held more than 120,000 women from 23 different nations. 

Irma Grese

Irma Grese “worked” at the Nazi concentration camps of Ravensbruck, Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Dubbed the “Bitch of Belsen” by camp inmates for her cruel and perverse behaviour, she was one of the most notorious of the female Nazi war criminals.  In March 1943, Irma Grese was transferred as a female guard to Auschwitz, and by the end of that year she was Senior Supervisor,  the second highest ranking woman at the camp, in charge of around 30,000 Jewish female prisoners.  After the end of WWII ,  Irma Grese was tried as a war criminal and was hanged for her crimes.

Each day grew harder for the sisters. But they continued to place their trust in God who in turn gave them the strength they needed to survive unthinkable situations.

In Ravensbruck, Betsie became very ill. Corrie begged the prison workers to take her to the hospital, but they refused to do so. Instead, Betsie was made to go to the sick-call, which did not help her. During her sickness, Betsie told Corrie of her plans to start a camp for people to find healing from the scars caused by the concentration camp.  Corrie listened and planned to make this dream come true.

A Ravensburk Crematorium.

A few days later, Betsie died. After finally being taken to the hospital, Betsie had gone on to her reward. 

Corrie had sneaked into the back of the hospital where several dead bodies laid about... including Betsie Ten Boom's.  Corrie asked mentally why God would allow this to happen,  but, she left the hospital with the assurance that her sister was safe in the arms of Jesus.

Only a few days later, Corrie's name was called. She was surprised to hear her name! She was so used to "Prisoner 66730."   Little did she know that she was going to be released!

Corrie Ten Boom and her family ultimately helped to save more than 800 people - through a "hiding place" built in Corrie's bedroom,  before the Ten Booms were betrayed by a Dutchman, who had been working for Casper Ten Boom. He reported them to the Nazi police, on February 28, 1944. 

The Gestapo never found the six people who were inside the secret space when the house was searched.  About forty-seven hours later, a member of the Dutch resistance let them out through an upstairs window.

The ten Booms were punished for having illegal ration cards, which the Gestapo found hidden in the stairwell of their home.  (Be patient with this slow-loading virtual tour.)  Corrie and her sister Betsie were ultimately sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp, where Betsie died.  Corrie was released, due to a clerical error, not long before other women in her age group, also imprisoned at Ravensbrück, were executed.

The Raid At The Ten Boom Shop And Home

The Gestapo (the secret Nazi police ) and their agents waited all day long while keeping the watchmaker’s shop under surveillance, and then detained every and all of the persons who attempted to enter the premises. Towards sunset they had arrested around thirty prisoners.

They then raided the house, where they arrested Corrie, her father Casper, her brothers and sisters Willem, Nollie and Betsie and her nephew Peter They were incarcerated at the Scheveningen jail.

Although the Gestapo suspected that there were persons hiding somewhere and therefore carefully checked the whole building,  they could not find the refuge where four Jews (two men and two women) and two resistance fighters were hiding at the time.  Although the house had continued to be under survei1Iance,  all of them would be rescued by other members of Corrie Ten Boom’s network. 

The upstairs window from which the six hidden people were escorted to safety.
During the 47 hours they spent hidden until they were freed, they managed to stay motionless and silent, with practically with no food or water. The four Jews were taken to another refuge and three of them survived the war. As to the two members of the resistance, one of them passed away some time afterwards, while the other one managed to survive the war.

Four Jewish Dutchmen and two members of the Dutch underground survived a Nazi raid by hiding in the "hiding place".   Part of the wall was later cut away after the war so museum visitors could see the brick wall and what it was like  inside of the "hiding place".

The Fate Of The Ten Boom Family

While under detention, when Casper was informed that he could be condemned to death for saving Jews, he declared: ”It would be a honor to give my life for God’s chosen people”. He died ten days after his arrest,  at the age of 84 years.

Corrie and her sister Betsie were detained at three different prisons during the following ten months, until they were finally sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp, near Berlin, in Germany.

Betsie, who was 59 years old, died soon after being interned: she could not overcome the conditions to which she had been subjected.

The brother, Willem, who was 60 years old, and whose ”crime” had been his cooperation with the resistance, fell ill with tuberculosis while he was in jail, and died soon after the war was over.

One of Corrie Ten Boom’s nephews, Christian, who at the time was 24 years old,  was taken to the Bergen Belsen death camp and was also accused of being part of the resistance movement.  Nothing was heard of him ever since.

Time Of Pardon And Forgiveness

Corrie Ten Boom returned to Holland and would recover from the health problems that accosted her since the time she was kept in prison. She spent in her own house in Haarlem the 1ast winter months of the war, but, she did not remain inactive. As she would say, ”God gave us love to enable us to pardon our enemies”.

Corrie did pardon. She forgave the loss of her dear ones and for her own sufferings, which had been inflicted on her while at the concentration camp.  And she even went much farther.   In 1947,  in Muenchen,  a man wanted to greet her and shake her hand.  As soon as she looked upon his  face she recognized him as one of the most cruel guardians at Ravensbruck. He was one of the many guards before whom she had to march naked together with her sister Betsie when, in accordance with the special criteria set up by the Nazis.  They latter selected those who were still useful from those who had no useful purpose any more.  How could she shake this man’s hands?  He told her that he had "converted" to Christianity after the war and that he believed that God had forgiven him for all the evil he had done at the concentration camp. He said that he needed for her personally to tell him that she forgave him.  Carrie did so, and shook hands with him.

And as it was evident that she had much more to give, she founded in Bloemendal a convalescent's house dedicated to the healing and relaxation of survivors.

Corrie believed that her life was a gift of God and that she needed to share with others what she and her sister Betsie had learned at the concentration camp: ”There is no pain so deep that God’s love cannot reach if”.

When she was 53 years old Carrie started a worldwide ministry to spread her faith and her experience, for which reason she traveled to over 60 different countries in the following 33 years of her life.

Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem) honored Corrie in several ways, including a case study  and a tree along the Avenue of the "Righteous Among the Nations".

In 1978,  Corrie Ten Boom suffered a cerebral-vascular stroke that left her paralyzed.  She passed away on April 15, 1983, on her 91st birthday. 

According with Jewish tradition, only those persons who are specially blessed by God are granted the privilege of dying on the same date of their birthday.

The old safe-haven was transformed into a museum.  The building located at Nr 19, Barteljorisstraat, in Haar1em, did not change much since the 194O’s.  Today, it is easier and faster to reach it, since it is located at only 15 minutes’ by train from Amsterdam. 

The Casper Ten Boom Living Room.

The Corrie Ten Boom Foundation bought it in 1987, and the following year opened it for the public converted into a museum, since it is a site of great historic value and a source of inspiration for the faithful. The museum shows the rooms of the house with their furniture, objects and family portraits; the ”refuge” and a permanent exhibit of the Dutch Resistance Movement.

In actual fact, the house became again an ”open door house” for everybody as conceived by the ten Boom family in accordance with their principles and their faith, since admittance is free. And to keep tradition unchanged and going, a watchmaker’s shop is still functioning on the ground floor.

Corrie Ten Boom's history is nothing more (and nothing less) than the life story of a common woman who accomplished extraordinary things through her Faith In God. 

While Corrie Ten Boom is widely known among Christian circles around the world, in the Netherlands she's not quite as famous as the other wartime icon, Anne Frank. 

Aty Bennema thinks there is a logical explanation for that: "First of all we are no longer a Christian nation and here at the museum we give a Christian message. The other reason is, there are many more people who did the same as the Ten Boom family, even in Haarlem." 

  • Cornelia Johanna Arnolda Ten Boom

Herta Oberhauser

Herta Oberhauser, who was a physician at the Ravenbrueck concentration camp, is sentenced at the Doctors Trial in Nuremberg. Oberhauser was found guilty of performing medical experiments on camp inmates and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Nuremberg, Germany, August 20, 1947.



Maria Jans-Ungvari, Belgian, born May 12, 1923. Assisted allied avaitors during WWII.Sent to Nazi prison camp, Ravenbruck; she was pregnant at the time. Her son was born in Ravensbruck; then as an infant, was murdered by Nazis.

Meta Christensen, Norwegian, born February 12, 1922. Made illegal identity-cards for underground workers. Sent to concentration camp, Ravensbruck.

Mila Milotova "Sestakova", Czech, born April 2, 1915. Ran underground press, and assisted fugitives. Sent to Ravensbruck.

These women, and many more, are alive today. They meet, as they have for the last twenty years, in Amsterdam, so they and their work will not be forgotten. They call themselves Women of Ravensbruck Committee, a part of the International Ravensbruck Committee formed in 1945.

The objective is still the same : "Vigilance to wage a struggle against both old and new forms of fascism, and to stand up to all forms of racism, to stand for the maintenance of peace and friendship among all people."

Ravensbruck was a concentration camp built in 1939 for women; most of who were part of the resistance to Nazi occupation. The Ravensbruck women were an active part of the Dutch Resistance, French Resistance and many countries who took a stand against fascism and were among the first to be taken prisoners by the Nazis. It is of special importance because of the collective courage of these individuals that united against fascism and racism. Over 90,000 women and children perished in Ravensbruck, and little, if anything, is written about them in history as we know it today. The Soviets had occupied the camp as a military base since the end of the war, and throughout the "cold war" . When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 the camp began its restoration as a museum and memorial.

I began a correspondence with Stennie Protomo-Gret, who lives in Amsterdam, and is president of the Ravensbruck Committee in 1992. I explained to her that I wanted to include them in my "women of Courage" series. However, as the correspondence continued, I began to realize the magnitude of history's exclusion. I felt this project was extremely important, and it must include as many women as possible. Consequently the single painting would need to be a total installation.

I was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant to travel to Europe this past April to record "living histories" of survivors of the camp. I traveled with the women to the great 50th anniversary of the liberation of the camp. I traveled to first the Netherlands, then to Ravensbruck located north of Berlin with many of the survivors. Through this journey we were able to obtain the most incredible stories and taped and filmed interviews.

We were able to obtain much more documentation then we ever expected. I continue receive experiences of many of the women and their stories through the mail from all over Europe; as well as documents from The European Parliament, The Ravensbruck Museum, and many others through my contacts working on this project.

As an artist, I am committed to including women in our history through my paintings. I view my work as inclusive in its purpose; a way of filling the gaps. I strive to bring a more realistic recognition of the capabilities and potential of human beings regardless of gender --- and an understanding and appreciation of women's positive contributions to society.

This is a project that is far more than a series of paintings. It is recording of important lives --- a documentation of history. This installation will not be an anonymous series of black and white photographs. These are real women, who had real lives, and an incredible amount of heart and courage. .

The women are very supportive of this project and happy to be recognized. Time is passing, however, and as Stennie told me recently, it becomes more and more difficult for these women. Many of them are very old and some very frail.

These women and their work cannot be allowed to go unnoticed any longer. They have been "overlooked" far too long. I have grown extremely loyal to this project, and committed to telling their story in the most powerful and meaningful way possible...

This is an extremely significant and timely project. The nature of this project and its ability to educate come at a time when world strife, civil wars and human rights are at the center of our Worlds attention

Most Sincerely, Julia A Terwilliger

Milena Jesenská

Milena – Franz Kafka's Love, Czech Republic

Milena Jesenská
Count Joachim von Zedtwitz
Zedtwitz' car with which he drove the refugees to the border

I see you more clearly, the movements of your body, your hands, so quick, so determined, it's almost a meeting, although when I try to raise my eyes to your face, what breaks into the flow of the fire and I see nothing but fire.
(from a letter by Franz Kafka to Milena Jesenská)

Milena Jesenská was born August 10, 1896 in Prague. Her father was a dentist and professor of medicine at Charles University in Prague, a conservative Catholic who was a Czech patriot, with whom she had a tense relationship. Her mother died when she was 13, and her adolescence was marked by rebellion and an urge to break away with old patterns. She graduated from the Minerva school, a very prestigious educational institution, began medical studies, but dropped out after several semesters.

When she was about 20, she fell in love with Ernst Pollak.  He worked as a translator in a bank, but was in the circle of Czech intellectuals, and introduced Milena to Franz Kafka, Max Brod, Franz Werfel and others. Her father disapproved of her affair with the German-speaking Jew Pollak, and eventually had her locked up in a mental hospital for nine months, from June 1917 to March 1918.

When she married Pollak after her release from the mental asylum, her father withdrew his financial support and broke off with his daughter. The couple moved to Vienna. She worked as a Czech tutor and started working as a journalist, becoming the Viennese fashion correspondent for a Prague newspaper.

Her years in Vienna were unhappy and her marriage was not working. It was in Vienna that she read Kafka's first stories, and wrote to him, asking him for permission to translate it into Czech. This was the beginning of a passionate correspondence, which would continue until early 1923. Their relationship was conducted mostly through mail, and their love affair had no real future.

Kafka finally broke off the relationship. After he died in 1924, Milena published an obituary in Národní Listy, saying that he was "condemned to see the world with such blinding clarity that he found it unbearable and went to his death.".

After Kafka's death Milena left her husband. She moved first to Dresden and then back to Prague, and became an editor in Národní listy and eventually in P?ítomnost. Her work as editor established her among a group of Czech writers and journalists, of Jewish and also German descent. In 1927 Milena married a Bauhaus architect, Jaromír Krejcar, and in 1928 her daughter Jana was born. She became active in the Communist Party, writing for the party magazine Svít práce, but following the  "show trials" in the Soviet Union in 1936, she left the party.

The annexation of Sudetenland by the Germans in the fall of 1938 brought a mass of refugees, especially Jewish, to Prague. Milena, as well as many others, estimated that the Nazis would soon conquer the whole country and that the ideological dissidents residing there, mainly Jews, would be the first to be persecuted. Milena Jesenská therefore began to encourage her Jewish colleagues to cross the border to Poland and head to the west. The problem became more acute with the German invasion in the spring of 1939.

Then, Milena’s good friend, Count Joachim von Zedtwitz, of German descent, told her about an escape route that had been prepared for Czech pilots wanting to flee to France. It involved crossing the border near Moravská Ostrava with the help of local guides and then continuing on to Katowice, Poland. A British-run office located there helped those escaping get to England. Jesenská and Zedtwitz decided to use this route to smuggle out threatened compatriots.

Very soon, Jesenská’s apartment became a temporary way station for those in flight. While they stayed in her house, Milena took care of their needs and supplied them with food and the false papers that they would need on the journey.  In his letter to Yad Vashem from 8 April 1945, Zedtwitz wrote: "I met many people in her apartment in Kourmska 6.

There they found shelter and were preparing for their flight over the border to Poland. For conspiratorial reasons I never knew their names, and I may have forgotten some. Milena and I soon agreed that I could help her with this activity. Usually I would take people with my car, an Aero two-seater, from Milena's apartment and drive them to Moravská Ostrava near the Polish border." Zedtwitz was also recognized as Righteous Among the Nations.

The Jewish, communist journalist Eugen Klinger was one among many other refugees that hid in Jesenská’s apartment and was then rescued with Jesenská and Zedtwitz’s help. Klinger survived the war in London. While still in Prague, Klinger had tried to persuade Jesenská to escape to the west, but she refused. Jesenská believed the danger that she faced as an anti-fascist was less than the danger faced by her Jewish friends and, therefore, that she should continue with the rescue activities for as long as possible. This proved to be a fatal error.

On November 11, 1939, the Gestapo arrested Jesenská. Three letters from Zedtwitz found in her apartment contained information that led to his arrest and detention for 15 months. After being detained in several prisons, Jesenská was deported to Ravensbrück concentration camp for women. In the camp she met a fellow prisoner, Margarete Buber-Neuamnn, Martin Buber's daughter. A rare friendship developed between the two. Due to the camp conditions Milena's health deteriorated and she died on May 17, 1944, three weeks before D-Day.

On December 14, 1994, Yad Vashem recognized Milena Jesenská as Righteous Among the Nations.


  • August 10, 1896~May 17, 1944

Contributor: bgill
Created: November 3, 2011 · Modified: November 19, 2011

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