Ravensbrück: Week 3

The majority of my work this week focused on secondary sources. I read and took notes on Jack Morrison’s Ravensbrück: Everyday Life in a Women’s Concentration Camp, 1939-1945. Published in 2000, this is the first comprehensive book on the camp written in English. It is similar in content to Helm’s text which I read in my first week of research. Although Morrison references the Rabbits only sparsely through his piece, he does focus quite a bit on relationships and friendships between prisoners in the camp which I found particularly useful. One of his central arguments is that companionship among inmates could increase the chance of survival. Another asset of Morrison’s book that I found interesting was the contrast between images he provides throughout the book. The images can be separated into two categories: photos of the camp taken by Nazi officials to be used as propaganda, and drawings completed by prisoners. Images in the former group depict healthy women working in a pleasant environment and were displayed to visiting delegations to underscore the camp’s decent conditions. The whole of Morrison’s study emphasizes that the depictions in these photos were far from the reality in Ravensbrück. The latter group of images provide a valuable visual glimpse into a handful of prisoner’s thoughts and impressions.

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Ravensbrück: Week 2

This week I traveled to DC to conduct research at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Throughout my time in the archives, I examined administrative documents recovered from Ravensbrück after liberation, records from post-war trials, and various personal collections. Because I had a limited amount of time in the archives, I scanned some of the collections onto a USB drive so that I can examine the sources throughout the remainder of the summer.

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Abstract: Ravensbrück Concentration Camp

Ravensbrück, a small town in the north of Germany, was the site of an all-female Nazi concentration camp that stood from 1939 to 1945. Of the estimated 132,000 women who passed through its gates, approximately 100,000 to 117,000 perished. As the camp lies north of Berlin, it fell behind the Iron Curtain after the end of the war. Out of Western reach, the site became a shrine to the war’s communist heroines. As a consequence, the stories of the women who were held at Ravensbrück were obscured and ignored both in historiographical literature and wider German national consciousness for more than half a century. For this project, I will be analyzing Ravensbrück as an understudied site of horror with a focus on four main groups of women that passed through the camp. Foremost, I will concentrate on a group of Polish women known as the Rabbits. Dr. Karl Gebhard, Dr. Fritz Fischer, and Dr. Herta Oberheuser performed gruesome medical experiments on these women at Ravensbrück in 1942 and 1943. In addition, I will examine female Nazi doctors, female SS personnel, and members of European resistance groups who were arrested and sent to Ravensbrück. I believe concentrating on these groups will provide an overview of the interactions of different women in the camp, both perpetrators and victims, as well as increase scholarly understanding of specific individuals, such as the Rabbits, who have received limited historiographical attention.