Ravensbrück concentration campRavensbrück was a German concentration camp located about 50 miles north of Berlin. It was founded in 1938 by SS leader Heinrich Himmler and was unusual in that it was a camp primarily for women and children. Ravensbrück had 70 sub-camps used for slave labor that were spread across an area from the Baltic Sea to Bavaria.
When a new prisoner arrived at Ravensbrück they were required to wear a color-coded triangle that identified them by category with a letter sewn within the triangle that indicated the prisoner's nationality. Jewish women wore yellow triangles, but if they were also political prisoners, they were identified with an additional red triangle. Common criminals wore green triangles, Resistance movement fighters and Soviet prisoners of war had red triangles, and members of the Jehovah's Witnesses were labelled with purple triangles. Classified separately with black triangles were lesbians, prostitutes, and Gypsies.
Inmates at Ravensbrück suffered greatly. Living in subhuman conditions, thousands were shot, strangled, gassed, buried alive, or worked to death. Some died in so-called medical experiments. All inmates were required to do heavy labor, including small children, who were commonly worked to death. The women were forced to work at many kinds of slave labor, from heavy outdoor jobs to building the V-2 rocket parts for the giant German company, Siemens Electric.
Ravensbrück had a gas chamber and crematorium, and at the end of 1944 the place became a killing center. With the rapid approach by the Soviet Army in the Spring of 1945, the SS decided to exterminate as many prisoners as they could in order to avoid anyone being left to testify as to what happened in the camp. With the Russians only hours away, at the end of April, the SS ordered the woman still physically well enough to walk to leave the camp. Less than 2,000 malnourished and sickly women and 300 men remained in the camp when it was liberated by the Red Army on April 30th, 1945. The survivors of the Death March were liberated in the following hours by a Russian scout unit. By the time liberation came, over 90,000 women and children had perished there.
Amongst the thousands executed by the Germans at Ravensbrück were four female members of the SOE : Denise Bloch, Cecily Lefort, Lilian Rolfe, and Violette Szabo as well as the Roman Catholic nun, Elise Rivet and the 25-year-old French Princess Anne de Bauffremont-Courtenay.
Following the war, little was written about Ravensbrück as it was considered to have been one of the lesser camps. However, renewed attention and interest in the camp came about following the Düsseldorf War Crimes Trials begun in 1976. Among the most notorious placed on trial was a guard supervisor at Ravensbrück, Hermine Braunsteiner, who had been tracked down by the famous Nazi-hunter, Simon Wiesenthal. Numerous witnesses from Ravensbrück identified her as the pale, blue-eyed, six-foot tall blonde, called "The Stomping Mare" because of her penchant for killing children by trampling them, often in front of their mothers. In 1981, the then 61-year-old woman was sentenced to life imprisonment for numerous child murders and other crimes of brutality.
(not to be confused with Ravensburger, a board game company)