Ravensbrück: Week 1

During this first week I split my research up into two components. First, I wanted to further my basic understanding of Ravensbrück concentration camp. Before I dive into primary source research in the coming weeks, I felt it was important to fully grasp the fundamental workings and conditions of the camp, the various groups of women held captive and their relationships with one another, and the role of the SS personnel in charge of Ravensbrück. I spent most of the week reading and taking notes on Sarah Helm’s Ravensbrück: Life and Death in Hitler’s Concentration Camp for Women. Last winter, when I was deciding on the focus of my dissertation, I read generally on the topic to understand the state of the historiography. Helm’s book was one of the texts I relied on; I read through her introduction and a couple other chapters. The 2014 book is perhaps the most comprehensive and in-depth examination of the camp; over 600 pages long, it serves Helm’s purpose of providing a full biography of the camp in order to illuminate the wider Nazi story. Helm progresses chronologically and weaves the stories of prisoners together with the conditions of the camp, and the actions of SS officials and individuals living in the surrounding areas. After reading, I examined Helm’s bibliography to identify other books and articles that could be useful in my future research.

I spent the remainder of the week preparing for my research trip to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, DC. I used the USHMM online catalogue to make a list of the archival items related to Ravensbrück. I split this list into two categories: sources that are available digitally, and sources that must be viewed in person at the archives. I corresponded with an archivist at USHMM and requested items to view in preparation for my research trip next week.