The Ravensbrück Women's Concentration Camp
In 1939, the SS had the largest women's concentration camp in the German Reich built in the Prussian village of Ravensbrück, not far from Furstenberg, a health resort that historically had belonged to Mecklenburg. The first female prisoners from Lichtenburg concentration camp were transferred to Ravensbrück in the spring of 1939. In April 1941, a men's camp was added, which was also under the command of the women's camp's commandant, and in June 1942, the immediately adjacent Uckermark juvenile protective custody camp-was taken into operation.
The women's concentration camp was continually expanded until 1945. The SS had more and more huts erected to house prisoners, and in the autumn of 1944, a large tent was added. Within the camp's perimeter wall, an industrial complex comprising several production facilities was established, where female prisoners were forced to carry out tasks traditionally considered women's work such as sewing, weaving or knotting. The company Siemens & Halske had 20 workshops constructed outside the camp's perimeter, where prisoners were forced to work from the late summer of 1942. As the war progressed, over 40 satellite camps in which Ravensbrück prisoners were forced into slave labour were set up all over the German Reich.
Around 132,000 women and children, 20,000 men and 1,000 adolescent girls and young women (imprisoned in the Uckermark juvenile protective custody camp. ) were registered as Ravensbrück prisoners between 1939 and 1945. These prisoners came from over 40 nations and included Jewish, Sinti and Roma people. Tens of thousands of them were murdered, died of hunger and disease or were killed in medical experiments. In the course of Operation 14f13, prisoners considered infirm or unfit for work were selected and murdered. Along with the victims of 14f13, a number of Jewish prisoners were taken to the Bernburg sanatorium and nursing home.
and were murdered in the facility's gas chamber. In late 1944, the SS set up a provisional gas chamber at Ravensbrück in a hut next to the crematorium, where between 5,000 and 6,000 prisoners were gassed between late January and April 1945.
Shortly before the end of the war, the International, Danish and Swedish Red Cross evacuated around 7,500 prisoners to Sweden, Switzerland and France. Following an evacuation order from Himmler, Ravensbrück's commandant Fritz Suhren had the remaining 20,000 prisoners marched towards the north-west in several columns. On 30 April 1945, the Red Army liberated the camp and around 2,000 sick prisoners who had been left behind.
But for most of the women, men and children imprisoned in Ravensbrück, the suffering did not end with their liberation. Many of them died in the following weeks, months or years, and many of the survivors suffered from the consequences of their imprisonment even decades after their liberation.
From the SS photo album: view over the camp from the SS-headquarter's roof, 1940/41
Forced slave labour in Neubrandenburg satellite camp. Drawing by Polish prisoner Maria Hiszpanska.
The Ravensbrück National Memorial
The Ravensbrück National Memorial-was opened on 12 September 1959 and was one of the GDR's three national memorials. In their design, the architects, members of the so- called Buchenwald collective, included parts of the former concentration camp buildings such as the crematorium and the camp prison (cell building) located outside the four-metre high camp wall, as well as a section of the wall itself. In 1959, a mass grave was established outside the camp wall's western section, where the remains of prisoners from various burial sites were reburied. The bronze sculpture Woman, Carrying (Tragende) by Will Lammert is at the heart of the memorial's design and is still considered the memorial's symbol.
From May 1945 until late January 1994, the grounds of the former concentration camp except for the memorial area on the banks of Lake Schwedt were used for military purposes by the Soviet and later the CIS forces.
In 1959/ 1960, the first museum was established at the former camp prison. Survivors from various countries in Europe donated their keepsakes, drawings and documents from the time of their imprisonment. In the early 1980s, the National Memorial's management drew up a concept for the Exhibition of Nations-at the cell
building, which allowed organisations or representatives from the individual countries to design their own exhibitions. 17 such national memorial rooms were designed on the building's first floor.
From 1984, the former SS headquarters, which had been used by the Soviet troops until 1977, housed the Memorial's main permanent exhibition and was referred to as the Museum of Anti-Fascist Resistance.
Crematorium after liberation.
Commemorative ceremony, 1950.
Opening of the Memorial Site on 12 Septemer 1959.
Former prisoners during the opening, 1959.
Reconstructed prison cell.
Former prison building after redesign in the 1950s.
The Ravensbrück Memorial
After the reunification of Germany, the Memorial became part of the Brandenburg Memorials Foundation (Stiftung Brandenburgische Gedenkstätten), a foundation under public law funded by the State of Brandenburg and the Federal Government. Other institutions run by the Brandenburg Memorials Foundation are the Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum, the Death March Museum-in Belower Wald near Wittstock, and the Brandenburg/ Havel Documentation Centre
at the Brandenburg prison.
The Museum of Anti-Fascist Resistance at the former SS head-quarters was replaced by two new permanent exhibitions in the course of the Memorial's redesign in the early 1990s, and three new memorial rooms were added at the cell building: one for the prisoners incarcerated at Ravensbrück following the 20 July 1944 attempt on Hitler's life (1991), one dedicated to the camp's Jewish prisoners (1992) and one for the Sinti and Roma imprisoned at Ravensbrück (1995). A new exhibition on the history of the cell building was opened in 2006. One of the former houses for female guards at the SS housing estate was restored according to the guidelines for the restoration of historic monuments. Since 2004, this building has contained an exhibition on the female SS guards deployed at Ravensbrück concentration camp.
The Ravensbrück International Youth Meeting Centre
The International Youth Meeting Centre established in 2002 at the former houses for female SS guards is a place of historical and political education. The Memorial's educational services offer various programmes and seminars running from one to several days. The Ravensbrück Youth Hostel offers accommodation for up to 99 guests.
The Memorial's Work
Upkeep and Redesign
During the Memorial's expansion and redesign process, which was started in 1993, the main focus was on both researching and restoring the historical structures in the grounds. Following the withdrawal of the CIS troops, the former entrance section of the camp was made accessible again in time for the 50th anniversary of
the camp's liberation in 1995. Parts of the former prisoners' compound and the adjacent industrial complex were also made accessible for visitors through clearance and landscaping works. The industrial complex contains a former textile mill (the so-called tailors' workshop) consisting of eight interconnected workshops, which was secured and partially restored in 1999/ 2000. Further renovation work is planned in the course of the Memorial's redesign over the coming years.
The new Visitor Centre was opened in 2007. In the future, the former SS headquarters will hold the Memorial's main exhibition, and the garage complex behind it will contain administration offices, the Memorial's collections and a function room. Smaller permanent exhibitions examining individual issues in more detail supplement
the main exhibition. These include exhibitions on the former camp prison (Ravensbrück. The Cell Building. , since 2006), the female guards (In the Auxiliary of the SS: Female Guards at the Ravensbrück Women's Concentration Camp. , since 2004), the male SS guards (in preparation) and Slave Labour at the Ravensbrück Women's Concentration Camp. Textile Production for the SS.
The Memorial's collections - archive, library, repository, photograph and media collection - are ideally suited for research. They were started in 1958/ 1959, when the . rst camp museum was being established at the cell building. Former prisoners donated many objects from the time of their imprisonment, including drawings, miniatures and letters. The collections include archival stocks and museum exhibits relating to the women's camp, the men's camp and the Uckermark juvenile protective custody camp. , personal effects of individual former prisoners as well as documents on the history of the Memorial. The collections focus on women's and gender studies issues in general and are therefore permanently expanded. The Memorial's reference library contains specialist literature as well as numerous interviews with survivors and other witnesses. The archive, library, repository, photograph and media collection can be used on weekdays after prior arrangement from 9 a.m. to 4.30 p.m.
Information and Educational Services
A system of information panels guides visitors around the memorial's extensive grounds. The panels mark buildings of historical importance and other sites relevant to the history of the Ravensbrück camp complex and point out the Memorial's exhibitions. An audio-guide system for guiding visitors around the grounds is currently in preparation. The Memorial sees itself as an open place of learning. Its Educational Services offer a wide range of guided tours on various specific topics. These tours take between 60 and 90 minutes and are available by prior arrangement only. So-called Project Days ( duration: at least four hours) as well as seminars running over several days at the International Youth Meeting Centre offer a closer examination of individual topics. These seminars for teenagers or adults on the history of the Ravensbrück concentration camp or on other related topics (if arranged beforehand) may include inquiry-based learning-projects at the Memorial's collections, the topical use of new media as well as active media projects. Class- and seminar rooms for projects in collaboration with schools or other educational institutions are available at the International Youth Meeting Centre. The work camps, held during the summer months, combine historical learning with practical work on the historical site. The Educational Services staff will be happy to discuss a group's visit beforehand in order to adapt programmes to meet their target groups' requirements. Please book your group visits at least six weeks in advance, either by phone (+ 49 33093 603- 85), by email (email@example.com) or online.
The Ravensbrück International Youth Meeting Centre / Youth Hostel has modern seminar rooms complete with video equipment and computers and offers various additional recreational activities. It is suitable for projects or seminars running over several days as well as conferences.
Mahn- und Gedenkstätte Ravensbrück | Stiftung Brandenburgische Gedenkstätten
Strasse der Nationen | D - 16798 Furstenberg/ Havel | Germany
Tel +49 (0) 33093 608-0 | Fax +49 (0) 33093 608-29 | Web www.ravensbrueck.de | eMail firstname.lastname@example.org
Registration for Group Visits
Tel +49 (0) 33093 603-85 | Fax +49 (0) 33093 603-86 | eMail email@example.com
Opening Times Exhibitions
October to April: Tue - Sun 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. | May to September: Tue - Sun 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Opening Times Memorial Grounds
October to April: daily 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. | May to September: daily, 9 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Opening Times Collections ( Archives, Repository and Library)
Tue - Fri 9 a.m. - 4.30 p.m. | Tel +49 (0) 33093 608-14/-16 | firstname.lastname@example.org [archives & library] email@example.com [repository]
Opening Times Educational Services
Tue - Fri 8 a.m. - 4.30 p.m. | Tel +49 ( 0) 33093 603- 85
Guided tours and project days in German cost EURO 15.00 for groups of up to 15 people and EURO 25.00 for groups of up to 30 people. Tours in other languages are available at a surcharge of EURO 25.00 per group.
By train: Regional train ( RE) 5 from Berlin to Stralsund/ Rostock stops at Fürstenberg/Havel and runs every hour. The Memorial is a 25-minute walk from Fürstenberg station, where taxis are also available.
By car: Fürstenberg is located 80 kilometres north of Berlin on Bundesstrasse (Federal Highway) 96, which runs from Berlin to Stralsund; the way to the Memorial from Fürstenberg is signposted.
Tourismusverein Fürstenberger Seenland e.V. | Markt 5 | D - 16798 Furstenberg/ Havel | Germany
Tel +49 (0) 33093 32254 | Fax +49 (0) 33093 32539
Web www.fuerstenberger-seenland.de | eMail firstname.lastname@example.org
Jugendherberge Ravensbrück ( Youth Hostel)
Strasse der Nationen 3 | D - 16798 Fürstenberg/ Havel | Germany
Tel +49 (0) 33093 605- 90 | Fax +49 (0) 33093 605- 85
Web www.jh-ravensbrueck.de | eMail email@example.com
© Stiftung Brandenburgische Gedenkstätten, 2008 [Ravensbrück Memorial | Brandenburg Memorials Foundation, Strasse der Nationen, D-16798 Fürstenberg/ Havel, Germany]
Compiled by: Dr. Matthias Heyl ( project coordinator visitor information), Dr. Insa Eschebach, Monika Herzog, Cordula Hundertmark, Dr. Horst Seferens
Editor: Ulrike Dittrich, English translation by: Georg Felix Harsch.
Webmaster: Dr. Matthias Heyl (since 2002), firstname.lastname@example.org
Historical Overview and Map [PDF]