Ravensbruck


Not all women found Hitler and Nazism attractive, and Himmler decided to open a special concentration camp for women only. About 2,000 female prisoners from the Lichtenburg concentration camp were transported to Ravensbruck in the spring of 1939 to build a camp for themselves. Lichtenburg was one of the first concentration camps established in 1933. The camp was located in an old medieval castle in a small town about ten miles south of Berlin. The camp existed until 1939 when it was finally dismantled and the women of the camp were transferred to Ravensbruck.

In the spring of 1941, a camp for male prisoners was also built. Jews, gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, prostitutes are some of the categories of people who sat in the camp and they were allowed to work in small nearby factories and farms. The female part of the camp was guarded by female SS guards who were as brutal in their treatment of the prisoners as their male colleagues. In the spring of 1942, a camp for young women was built about 500 meters from Ravensbruck and called Uckermark.

In the summer of 1942, the camp became an important part of Nazi medical science. The SS doctors began by simulating war injuries on prisoners. Among other things, unnecessary bone transplants were performed and the prisoners were subjected to gunshot wounds. The injuries were then treated with a bactericidal substance called sulfanilamide to test its effectiveness on gunshot wounds. Women were also subjected to sterilization experiments because the Nazis wanted to keep the women’s working capacity but at the same time make them infertile.

In early 1945, on Himmler’s orders, a gas chamber was built next to the crematorium to assassinate those prisoners who were unable to work. The gas chamber was destroyed at the end of the war. In late March 1945, Himmler gave permission for the red cross to evacuate 500 female prisoners. These were picked up in the so-called white buses to Denmark and Sweden. About 2,500 German prisoners were also released. Just outside the camp there is a long street with large yellow villas where the SS staff lived during their free time. About 130,000 people went through the camp during its existence. The Soviet army liberated the camp on 3 May 1945 and remained there until 1993.

Current status: Partly preserved/demolished with museum (2011).

Address: Strasse der Nationen, 16798 F├╝rstenberg/ Havel.

Get there: Car.

Follow up in books: Kogon, Eugen: The Theory and Practice of Hell: The German Concentration Camps and the System Behind Them (2006).