University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies
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CHGS

  • Murder

    Murder

    Although Ravensbrück was not designated as a death camp, deliberate murder methods there included lethal injections, shooting, and gassings both inside and outside the camp.

    crematorium exterior

    Photo of crematorium exterior. Courtesy of MGR/SBG

    shooting corridor

    Photo of shooting corridor. Courtesy of MGR/SBG

    crematorium interior

    Photo of crematorium interior. Courtesy of MGR/SBG

    In the WinterSpring of 1942, some women, including those incapable of work and Jewish political prisoners, were gassed at a euthanasia center set up in the psychiatric facility of Bernberg. Ravensbrück had a crematorium, and at the end of 1944, it became an actual killing center, with its own gas chamber, The first prisoners were probably gassed in the camp in January, 1945.

    The majority of those killed by gas in the camp were Hungarian, mostly Jewish, then Polish, then Russian. Women prisoners working as scribes counted a total number of 3,660 names on lists for "Mittwerda;"the Nazi code name for the gas chamber. However, since some of the transports went directly from the satellite camps to the gas chamber, the number of women murdered in the camp's gas chamber is estimated to be 5,000 to 6,000. The socalled "youth concentration camp" Uckermark, less than a mile from Ravensbrück, was sometimes the conduit to the gas chamber. The SS used this adjacent camp for old, sick, and weakened women who had been selected as "unable to work;" and were sometimes given poisonous "white powder." Women who were sentenced to death for acts such as espionage at times were shot in a special corridor between buildings, and other women received lethal injections. The shooting corridor was a place for execution of many political prisoners, including Grazyna Chrostowska, a Polish political prisoner whose portrait can be found here.

    In testimony collected at the Nuremburg Doctors' Trial and others, it was noted that the following experiments were performed on prisoners in Ravensbreuck: use of sulfonanilamide; experiments on bone, muscle and nerve regeneration; bone transplantation experiments and sterilization. There were 86 known "rabbits," the designation for women who were forced into medical experimenation. 74 were Polish, 12 were of different nationalities. There was also sterilization experiments in the camp. Sixty-three women "rabbits" left the camp at the end of the war, many disfigured and disabled for life. More Information.

    a sorrowful job

    "A Sorrowful Job." Drawing by Ravensbrück prisoner France Audoul. Ravensbrücker Zeichnungen. © MGR/SBG. (From 150,000 Femmes en Enfer by France Audoul, "Le Déporte", Paris, 1966.)

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