Monday, September 7, 2015


6-7,000 Frenchwomen were deported to Ravensbruck. Only 50-60% returned.

At the end of Autumn 1938, Himmler established a concentration camp exclusively for women. He chose the north Germany area of Ravensbrück because it was out-of-the-way and easy to reach. It 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.

Initially, Ravensbrück had 14 barracks, a kitchen, an infirmary, a crematory and 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. Eventually, several companies were constructed around the camp and employed the use of its prisoners.

The first prisoners arrived in Ravensbrück on 18 May 1939: 860 German women and 7 Austrian women. 400 gypsy women from Austria arrived on 29 May 1939 and the first women from Poland arrived in the camp on 28 September 1939. By the 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 arriving from 20 European countries. As with the other concentration camps, conditions in Ravensbrück were life-threatening: deaths by starvation, beatings, torture, hangings and shootings happened daily. Women who were too weak to work were transferred to the Uckermark "Youth Camp" where they were gassed. Others died by lethal injections or were used for medical experiments by the SS doctors.

Due to the constant growth of the prisoner population, the camp had to be enlarged four times during the war: By the end of 1941, there were 12,000 prisoners; By the end of 1942, the population was 15,000. It reached 42,000 by the end of 1943. By the spring of 1944 prisoners were pouring into Ravensbruck in astonishing numbers. In March alone, 4,052 women entered the camp, raising the population to 20,506. By November that year, the total population was at about 80,000. (A gas chamber was added in 1944.) More than 132,000 women and children were incarcerated in Ravensbrück, many of them women of the resistance. It is estimated that 92,000 of its prisoners died by starvation, weakness or execution. 

During the last months of the war, due to the rapid advance of the Russian Army and to avoid testimony about camp conditions, the SS began to exterminate as many prisoners as they could. At the end of March 1945, the camp archives and the machines of the workshops to a safer place. 

On 27 & 28 April 27 1945, woman who still able to walk were ordered to leave the camp in a death march. 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 30 April 1945 and survivors of the death march were liberated by a Russian scout unit.

Click HERE to read The Missing History of Ravensbruck, the Nazi Concentration Camp for Women.

Click HERE to read Ravensbrück: The Exclusive Women’s Concentration Camp
(Warning ... some of the images on this site are disturbing.)

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