The Missing History of Ravensbrück, The Nazi Concentration Camp for Women

While researching women who fought in World War II, I came across the name Ravensbrück a few times, because that's where several of those fighters died. However, you don't hear much about the German concentration camp for women because its documentation was burned before liberation, and after liberation it fell under Soviet control. Sarah Helm dug up what little information there was by tracking down survivors, accounts of survivors, and visiting what's left at the site 60 years later. Ravensbrück was opened in 1939 to imprison women who were prostitutes, criminals, minorities, or who had opposed Hitler. Later it was where women resistance fighters from occupied countries and women from the Red Army were sent when captured by the Nazis.      

A survivor talked of a camp hospital where ‘syphilis germs were injected into the spinal cord’. Another described seeing women arrive at the camp after a ‘death march’ through the snow from Auschwitz. One of the male SOE agents, imprisoned at Dachau, wrote a note saying he had heard about women from Ravensbrück being forced to work in a Dachau brothel.

Several of the interviewees mentioned a young woman guard called Binz who had ‘light, bobbed hair’. Another guard had once been a nanny in Wimbledon. Among the prisoners were ‘the cream of Europe’s women’, according to a British investigator; they included General de Gaulle’s niece, a former British women’s golf champion and scores of Polish countesses.

In an excerpt from her book RAVENSBRÜCK: Life and Death in Hitler’s Concentration Camp for Women, Sarah Helm tells of the Nazi developments that led to overcrowded women's prisons and the opening of the first concentration camp for women at Ravensbrück in 1939. -via Digg

(Image credit: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1985-0417-15/CC-BY-SA 3.0)

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