Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Pictures Inside Ravensbruck: Hitler's Concentration Camp for Women

Ravensbrück was the only major Nazi concentration camp for women. At the end of autumn 1938, Himmler decided to establish a concentration camp for women in Ravensbrück. This location was chosen by Himmler because it was out-of-the-way and at the same time easy to reach. Ravensbrück was a small village located in a beautiful area with many forests and lakes, not far from Furstenberg. There was a good road from Furstenberg to Ravensbrück and the rail station of Furstenberg had a direct link to Berlin.

At the end of 1938, 500 prisoners were transferred from Sachsenhausen to Ravensbrück in order to build the new camp. They built 14 barracks, a kitchen, an infirmary, as well as a small camp for men, which was totally isolated from the women's camp. The whole camp was surrounded by a high wall with electrified barbed wires on the top.

The first prisoners arrived in Ravensbruck on May 18, 1939: 860 German women and 7 Austrian women. From this time, the number of prisoners increased dramatically--400 gypsy women from Austria arrived on May 29, 1939 and on September 28, 1939, the first women from Poland arrived in the camp. End of 1939, the population of the camp was 2,290.

After the war began, the population of the camp became more international, and soon there were prisoners coming from 20 European countries. The conditions of life in Ravensbrück were as shameful and difficult as in all the other concentration camps--death by starvation, beating, torture, hanging, and shooting happened daily. The women who were too weak to work were transferred to be gassed at the Uckermark "Youth Camp" located nearby Ravensbruck or to Auschwitz. Others were killed by lethal injections or used for "medical" experiments by the SS doctors. Several SS companies surrounded the camp where the prisoners had to work day and night until they died by weakness and illness.

Due to the constant growth of the population, the camp had to be enlarged four times during the war. By the end of 1941, there were 12,000 prisoners. In 1942, several convoys of Russian women were transferred to Ravensbrück. By the end of 1942, the population was 15,000, and it reached 42,000 by the end of 1943. As in the others concentration camps, Ravensbrück had a crematory, and in November 1944, the SS decided to build a gas chamber. At this time, the total population of the camp was 80,000.

All in all, more than 132,000 women and children were incarcerated in Ravensbrück. It is estimated that 92,000 of them died in the camp by starvation, executions, or weakness. During the last months of the war, and due to the rapid advance of the Russian Army, the SS decided to exterminate as many prisoners as they could, in order to avoid any testimony about what happened in the camp. For example, 130 babies and pregnant women were gassed in March 1945.

At the end of March 1945, the SS decided to transfer the archives of the camp and the machines of the workshops to a safer place. On April 27 and 28, 1945, they ordered the woman still able to walk to leave the camp in a Death March. Only 3,000 exhausted or ill women were left in the camp, as well as 300 men.

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

View of the barracks at Ravensbrück.

Surviving female prisoners gathered when the Red Cross arrive at Ravensbrück in April 1945. The white paint camp crosses show they are prisoners, not civilians.

Women prisoners at work in the shoe repair workshop of Ravensbrück.

Female Jewish prisoners who have recently been released from Ravensbrück, cross the Danish border at the Padborg station on their way to Sweden.

Prisoners at Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany stand near barbed wire in 1945

Female inmates in 1939

Shaven-headed children returned from the Ravensbruck concentration camp seen after its liberation by the Russians in 1945.

Dr Herta Oberheuser, a physician who worked at Ravenbruck concentration camp, is flanked by a US guard while on trial for war crimes including injecting prisoners with petrol and deliberately inflicting wounds for experiments

Gestapo head Heinrich Himmler (left) oversaw the running of the concentration camp system during the Holocaust and made frequent stops at Ravensbruck. He is pictured with Hitler at a military parade above.

A temporary gas chamber was made close to the crematorium (pictured) at Ravenbruck concentration camp in order to kill double the number of people.

Female prisoners at forced labor in the Ravensbruck concentration camp.

Clandestine photograph of a Polish political prisoner and medical experimentation victim in the Ravensbrück concentration camp.

Female prisoners at forced labor digging trenches at the Ravensbrück concentration camp. This photograph is from the SS-Propaganda-Album des Frauen-KZ-Ravensbrueck 1940-1941.

Reichsfuehrer-SS Heinrich Himmler inspects Ravensbrück.

Alexander points at scars on the leg of Polish survivor Jadwiga Dzido, who endured sulfanilamide experiments at Ravensbruck concentration camp.

Crema oven at Ravensbruck

Some of the 300 women brought from the Ravensbruck camp by the Red Cross.

Female inmates working in a workshop under SS supervision. Holocaust Research Project.

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