• Keyvisual Ravensbrück

Welcome to the online anniversay of liberation at Ravensbrück Memorial

#sharingmemory – The 76th anniversary of liberation at Ravensbrück Memorial

The programme of this year’s digital anniversary of the liberation of the Ravensbrück women’s concentration camp focuses on the perspectives of the families of former prisoners. Family members share their thoughts at digital events and in short interviews that are available as videos. Click here for their contributions and the remainder of the programme.

Prisoner kitchen after liberation, May 1945.
Photographer unknown
Ravensbrück Memorial, Photo No. 1032

Liberation in 1945

The history of liberation

The Red Army liberated Ravensbrück concentration camp and the 2,000 sick prisoners who had been left behind on 30 April 1945. Yet for many of the women, men and children, the suffering did not end with their liberation.

“I can no longer draw flowers”, the artist Helen Ernst wrote in a letter two years after her liberation from imprisonment at Ravensbrück. Her experience is shared by many who had to gradually find their feet in life. They often found no-one was left at home or had to make a new start in a new country – haunted by their memories and experiences.

As a result of transfers from camps in the east and transports from Hungary and the destroyed city of Warsaw, thousands of prisoners were deported to Ravensbrück from late summer 1944 onwards. This dramatically worsened the already disastrous living conditions in the camp. In early 1945, the SS began to select older and sick prisoners and those no longer capable of work in order to kill them. About 6,000 women were murdered in a newly created “death zone” on the site of the former “Uckermark juvenile protective custody camp” and in a provisional gas chamber directly next to the crematorium, or were shot dead in its vicinity.

From 21 April 1945 onwards, about 7,500 prisoners were evacuated to Scandinavia by the International Danish and Swedish Red Cross. On 27 and 28 April, the SS cleared the camp and marched the remaining prisoners towards the north-west. About 3,000 sick and weakened women and men remained in the camp when an advance guard of the Second Belorussian Front reached the women’s concentration camp at Ravensbrück on 30 April 1945. Military doctors immediately began to dispense medical care but, despite this, many more women and men died of disease and total exhaustion in the following weeks. 

Many of the survivors are still suffering from the consequences of their imprisonment today, which not only deeply affected them but also their families.

Every year in April, the anniversary of liberation is an occasion for people all over the world to commemorate the victory over National Socialism and the crimes committed in the camps. Especially the photographs taken during and after liberation have deeply influenced our image of death and sickness at these places.

The gallery shows photographs taken in spring and summer 1945, which depict liberation in a series of snapshots.

  • Photographer unknown Ravensbrück Memorial, Photo No. 1721

    The journey back home: A group of Czech women travelling from Ravensbrück to Prague, first stop on Czech soil, late May 1945.

  • Photographer: Michael Goldberg (Sladogorow) | Source: Michael Goldberg, copy held at Ravensbrück Memorial, Photo No. 2000/1029

    Former Ravensbrück prisoners before their journey home to the Soviet Union, Fürstenberg, summer 1945.

  • Photographer unknown Ravensbrück Memorial, Photo No. 1740

    Nursing and medical care of survivors by former prisoners at Ravensbrück, May 1945.

  • Source: Picture-Alliance/Polfoto; Peter Thiesen, peter@polfoto.dk | Photographer: Tage Christensen

    Rescue mission of the Swedish Red Cross in April 1945; arrival in Sweden. After a short stop-over, liberated Ravensbrück prisoners leave Padborg quarantine station (Denmark) to travel on to Sweden by train.

    Messages of greeting from survivors

    Ib Katznelson, born 1941

    Selma von de Perre, born 1922

    Lili Leignel, born 1932

    Richard Fagot, born 1936

    Stella Nikiforova, born 1939

    Barbara Piotrowska, born 1935

    Online events

    All our online events are live-streamed. We look forward to seeing you and having interesting conversations!

    More Videos

    Remembering lesbian detainees

    The initiative remembers lesbian women detained in the Ravensbrück camp and the Uckermark juvenile protective custody camp.

    Organized by the Autonomous Feminist Women and Lesbians from Germany and Austria Initiative 

    Language: German

    Unveiling a commemorative sign to remember the women forced into prostitution

    For many years, a project group from Bielefeld regularly remembers all those women who were taken from Ravensbrück to other concentration camps to work as sex slaves.  On the initiative of the group, a memorial sign was set up in Ravensbrück in 2020.  The film shows how it is unveiled, giving the initiative an opportunity to speak about its work. 

    Organized by the Project Group Ravensbrück (Bielefeld)

    Languages: German with subtitles in English

    Grüneberg REMEMBERS: Unveiling a commemorative sign

    Grüneberg ERINNERT / überLAGERt, an initiative of young people to keep the memory of the camp there alive, is actively campaigning to mark the site of the former Ravensbrück subcamp at Grüneberg.  It is in the context of these activities that the initiative has designed a commemorative plaque due to be unveiled on the anniversary. 

    Organized by Grüneberg ERINNERT / überLAGERt

    Languages: German with subtitles in English

    Commemoration at the Soviet Memorial

    Every year, the Camp Community Ravensbrück/Freundeskreis e.V. recalls the liberation by the Red Army with speeches and music at the Soviet Memorial.

    More videos of the Camp Community Ravensbrück can be found here:

    https://lg-ravensbrueck.vvn-bda.de

    Languages: German and Russian with subtitles

    Book review: The story of Francine R., resistance and deportation (avant-verlag, 2021) With author Boris Golzio

    Boris Golzio and Memorial staff member Hannah Sprute speak about the graphic novel Chroniques de Francine R. published in March 2021. It is based on an interview with a survivor of Ravensbrück that Golzio translated into empathetic images.

    Languages: French with subtitles in German

    Book review: French women in Ravensbrück (Metropol, 2020)

    With Marie-France Cabeza-Marnet, representative of Amicale de Ravensbrück en France, Dr. Insa Eschebach, former Director of the Ravensbrück Memorial, and Carsten Hinz, translator of the book into German

    Moderated by Thomas Kunz, Ravensbrück Memorial

    The participants speak about the book Les Françaises à Ravensbrück published by Metropol in German in November 2020.  This biography of a group of women, published in France in 1965, is one of the first works describing French detainees as a group and has shaped their image in a lasting manner. 

    Languages: French and German

    Opening the photo exhibition “Faces of Europe”

    In cooperation with the Ravensbrück Memorial, the International Ravensbrück Committee has put together “Faces of Europe”, an exhibition of portraits on show for visitors as from April 2021.  In it, daughters and a son tell us about their mothers, shown in large-format black and white photos, speaking about their family relationship and their memories.  The texts have been translated into eight languages.

    Languages: German with subtitles in English

    Commemoration of the 76th anniversary of the liberation of the Former Uckermark Youth Concentration Camp for Girls and Young Women and Later Extermination Site

    You are not forgotten! We commemorate and remember the murdered and the survivors of the Uckermark Youth Concentration Camp for Girls and Young Women and Later Extermination Site.

    A film by the Initiative für einen Gedenkort ehemaliges KZ Uckermark e.V. (for a memorial site for the former Uckermark concentration camp e.V./ and Marek Barwikowski (son of the Uckermark survivors Łucja Barwikowska)

    More information: http://www.gedenkort-kz-uckermark.de/info/aktuelles-EN.htm

    Languages: German, Polish

    Book review „My mum was a resistance fighter“ (Picus Verlag, 2019)

    Book review – Meine Mama war Widerstandskämpferin

    With Helga Amesberger, Brigitte Halbmayr and Simon Clemens

    The authors speak about the experience of children whose mothers were resistance fighters. They link the biographies of the mothers to the second generation while consciously also choosing a gender perspective.

    Organized by the Austrian Camp Community Ravensbrück and Friends.

    Language: German

    Book review “Rosa Jochmann. Political activist and contemporary witness” (ÖGB Verlag, 2020)

    Book review – Rosa Jochmann. Politische Akteurin und Zeitzeugin

    With Dr. Veronika Duma

    The author presents the biography of resistance fighter and social democrat Rosa Jochmann who was detained in Ravensbrück from 1940 to 1945. After her liberation, Rosa Jochmann was active as a contemporary witness to remember the women imprisoned in Ravensbrück.

    Language: German

    Book review „Work-shy and morally degenerate“. Women persecuted as “anti-social” in the Nazi era (mandelbaum, 2019)

    Book review – „Arbeitsscheu und moralisch verkommen.“

    With Helga Amesberger, Brigitte Halbmayer and Elke Rajal

    Stigmatized as anti-social. Gender-specific attributions, administrative routines and places of persecution in the Nazi era (mandelbaum, 2019).

    The authors present their books, taking up current debates about the recognition of people persecuted as “anti-social”.

    Language: German

    The history that followed – Nachgeschichte – Conversations with members of the second and third generation

    Claude du Granrut

    Hans van Beem

    Jeanine Bochat

    Nina F. Grünfeld

    Aldo Rolfi

    Aleksandra Kann-Bogomilska

    Ambra Laurenzi

    Elzbieta Kuta

    Marko Lipuš

    Kateřina Kočková

    Marie-France Cabeza-Marnet

    Monika Seiffert

    VIDEO WILL FOLLOW SHORTLY

    Daniel Seiffert

    Petra Rosenberg

    Jan van Ommen

    Weronika Kann

    VIDEO WILL FOLLOW SHORTLY
    Exhibitions

    Faces of Europe

    In cooperation with the Ravensbrück Memorial, the International Ravensbrück Committee has put together “Faces of Europe”, an exhibition of portraits on show for visitors as from April 2021. In it, daughters and a son tell us about their mothers, shown in large-format black and white photos, speaking about their family relationship and their memories. The texts have been translated into eight languages.

    For the digital opening video, see „More Video

    Languages: German with subtitles in English

    Zofia Pociłowska-Kann and her sculptures

    Starting in April 2021, the Ravensbrück Memorial presents an openair exhibition, organized in cooperation with the Department of Art and Visual History at Berlin’s Humboldt University, with works of sculptor Zofia Pociłowska-Kann (1920−2019). While in detention in the all-female concentration camp, she began to carve a large number of miniatures. She returned to Poland after the war to become a distinguished sculptor. On the anniversary of liberation, the Memorial uses social media channels to present some of the sculptures:

    Instagram: @ravensbrueck.memorial
    Twitter: @ravensbrueck
    Facebook: @GedenkstaetteRavensbrueck

    Languages: German, English Available online as from April 2021

    For more information, see https://www.ravensbrueck-sbg.de/en/.