Honors World History, block B
April 16, 2012
Ravensbrück: a Forgotten Horror
Located just fifty miles from the renowned Holocaust concentration camp of Auchwitz is another camp of equal status. Ravensbrück was the only major concentration camp for women during World War II. It was established by the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in November of 1938. He chose to locate his new camp at a small town called Ravensbrück because it was hidden and out of sight, but also centrally located and therefore easy to reach. The town was not far from Furstenburg, Germany, a city with a direct railroad to Berlin. In the winter of 1938, five hundred prisoners were transferred to the town of Ravensbrück to build the actual concentration camp, which consisted of fourteen barracks, an infirmary, and a kitchen. In the spring, a small men's camp was also built It was completely isolated from the women's camp, which was surrounded by a tall electrical fence. The camp officially opened on May 18th, 1939, with the arrival of eight hundred and sixty German prisoners and seven Austrian prisoners. All in all, it is estimated that over 132,000 women and children were imprisoned at Ravensbrück, and out of that number at least 92,000 died or were killed. The women living at Ravensbrück were identified by a colored triangular badge (called a Winkel) that they wore. Jewish women wore two yellow triangles on top of each other, forming a Jewish Star, unless they were also part of another category. In that case, one of the triangles would be the other color. For example, “criminals” wore green triangles, “asocials” such as Gypsies, vagrants, lesbians, and prostitutes wore black or brown, political prisoners wore red, and Jehovah's Witnesses wore lavender. If a Jewish woman was also a political prisoner, she would be identified by a red triangle beneath a yellow one. Like any other concentration camp, the conditions were horrible, and the women there lived in fear of...