This book is a continuation of the book Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths About Science and Religion. Ronald Numbers did the Galileo book and when Kostas Kampourakis met up with him in 2012, the two conceived of a book dedicated to science education myths. They agreed to have over two dozen colleagues collaborate on this project, all of whom are experts in the field upon which they are discussing. As usual, I jumped right in and discovered I already knew about the myth of their being no scientific discovery between the Greeks and the Scientific Revolution (especially the Dark Ages), mainly due to suppression by Christianity. So, I skipped that and the next one was that people before Columbus thought the world was flat. Wow, I'm thinking. I know more about hard core science than I thought apparently, because I knew this one and the next one about Copernicus and the truth about his heliocentric views.
I decide as this point it would be wise to go to the front and look at the various myths and find the ones I did not know. I started running into trouble with Myth 7: That Friedrich Wohler's Synthesis of Urea in 1828 Destroyed Vitalism and Gave Rise to Organic Chemistry. My best friend in college, a very intelligent woman, had to take organic chemistry twice. I knew I had no hope of understanding that chapter if she had trouble with it.
I do happen to have a lot of science-loving friends, though, who I think really might like this book, or the one that came before it. Here is a list of the other chapters: That Nineteenth-Century Geologists Were Divided into Opposing Camps of Catastophists and Uniformitarians; That Lamarckian Evolution Relied Largely on Use and Disuse and That Darwin Rejected Lamarchian Mechanisms; That Darwin Worked on His Theory in Secret for Twenty Years, His Fears Causing Him to Delay Publication; That Wallace's and Darwin's Explanations of Evolution Were Virtually the Same; That Darwinian Natural Selection Has Been "the Only Game in Town"; That After Darwin (1871), Sexual Selection Was Largely Ignored until Robert Trivers (1972) Resurrected the Theory; That Louis Pasteur Disproved Spontaneous Generation on the Basis of Scientific Objectivity; and That Gregor Mendel Was a Lonely Pioneer of Genetics, Being Ahead of His Time.
Maybe most of these are well know to even my science-loving friends. I have not heard of them (heck I cannot understand some of them). I am tossing this book out there for them to see. What I have read of it is well written. They chose the excellent writers and I do intend to look for the other book and see what if it holds any mysteries that I am unaware of and, more importantly, have the patience to try to understand.
I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell
Thursday, January 21, 2016
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
First off, this is a very long book. It clocks in at 657 pages. Do not let that deter you. You will not notice. When I ended the book I could not tell you when I started the book. It felt as though I had slipped inside a wormhole through time into another time in history and when I reemerged, it seemed as though time had not passed. Second, this book is a very important book and must be read, especially by women. This camp, the stories of these women have been forgotten for long enough, and that is the true crime. This will be the hardest review I have ever written, for many reasons, but mainly because it will be hard to not tell all their stories here. Every story is important. Every story must be told. I implore you to read this book.
Before we begin this journey, I will start by saying something that may not be very poplar. Very few people are purely evil, or purely good. I was a psychology major and we are rather obsessed with the seven point bi-polar scale. On the Evil Scale at the One end you might have Pope Francis, Mother Theresa, President Carter, and Joan of Arc. On the Seven point you might have Stalin, Hitler, Mao and Bloody Mary. This scale will be in a bell shape, with most of us falling in the middle. Humans are not simple beings. You cannot take a paintbrush and slap it across every Nazi or German. Some German youths chose to go to work camps rather than join the Hitler Youth (you had a choice Benedict). Some hid people in their homes. Some Nazi guards gave prisoners food. Some Nazi doctors actually treated their patients, and one you will find, went way beyond that. Its easy to see things in black and white. The Allies, by the way, were not necessarily the perfect heroes of the story either. Most of us have an equal amount of evil and good in us and it depends on our choices as to which side wins out in that moment. In the late 1960s, a man named Milgram at Yale University conducted an experiment, commonly called "the Nazi Experiment" on students (this was before psychology found it's ethics). For those that are curious about how Americans would act in situations set to be similar to those of SS officers, here is a link that explains the study: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment.
One of the main reasons people have never heard of Ravensbruck is because after the war it fell on Soviet land, under the Iron Curtain. The Soviets celebrated the communists who died there, especially Olga Benario whom they erected an interesting statue of that still stands today, even though it has been redone once Germany was unified. Sadly the Soviets tore everything down. Another reason is that the Brits who held the war crimes trial sealed the records. Also, the women were told not to say anything, and frankly, quite a few really didn't want to talk about it anyway. It also didn't help that they were women either and not there because they were Jewish. In the 1990s some women historians began to write about Ravensbruck and the stories of other women in the camps who had also been ignored, but they are a small minority.
On March 22, 1933, Hitler opened the first concentration camp. It was for those who were enemies of the state: Communists, Social Democrats, Unionists, etc... Some may have been Jews, but that was not why they were there. This was done to crush the opposition. By 1937, nearly all would be released, broken men. The women were put in jail. By 1936, the jails were beginning to overflow. A place, more jail than camp, called Moringen, was where the women were sent. In 1937 the Jehovah's Witness's were sent there when they protested their husbands being called up to war and for calling Hitler the Antichrist. The men went to the newly opened camp, Buchenwald. In 1937 the law against Rassenschande (race shame) outlawed any relationship between Jew and non-Jew, which brought in more women, Jewish, to the jail as well as vagrants. Habitual criminals were also arrested and the gypsies would be sent there too. In 1938 the police rounded up the prostitutes.
Himmler now had a new idea for the concentration camps. He could fill it with degenerates and provide a work force for the Reich, and maybe subjects for his experiments. With the women's prisons overflowing, this would mean that a women's concentration camp would be needed too. Johanna Langefeld was brought on to be the head female guard. She was a single mother who had started out working at a job rehabilitating prostitutes and then moved on to work as a guard in the jails. Sadly, she thought she would actually be in charge of the camp. Actually, it would be SS Officer Max Koegel, whom she would later describe as a sadist. The camp, Ravensbruck, was located in the Mecklenburg lake district near the town of Furstenberg. It was quite a nice spot in the woods, which was important to Himmler, as he believed that the cleansing of German blood should begin close to nature. A few SS men, including Himmler, had houses out there. Ravensbruck was fifty miles north of Berlin, which would be convenient for him when he would go to visit his mistress who lived nearby. It was built by the men from the Sachsenhausen camp nearby, who would also provide the daily bread for the women. The blocks were painted and in rows with red flowers planted in front and a tree by each one. They had chickens (Himmler was obsessed with them. He started out as a chicken farmer.) and peacocks (no idea why) and a rabbit hutch. This place was to be as self sustaining as possible.
On May 15, 1939, on a bright sunny morning, the first women arrived at the newly opened Ravensbruck camp. First off, Jews only made up ten percent of the population and the only reason they were there is because they were either asocials, criminals, or politicals. None of them were even particularly religious, which would eventually cause a problem in their block, because they couldn't get along, since they had nothing in common. The women were greeted by guards with German Shepards and orders and insults. If they helped a woman who had collapsed, they were lashed or knocked down by a dog. Instantly it was to line up in lines of five. 'Achtung. Achtung. Ranks of five. Hands by your sides.' This would become way too familiar to them. There were 867 woman that day. They were given a toothbrush, tooth mug, nugget of soap, small towel, bowl, plate, knife, fork, spoon, blanket, and pillow. If you lost one of these items, you were reported. Eventually, the number of rules would mount and get ridiculous, depending on who was making them, and you could get punished for a scratch on your mug. The bed had to be made in the 'Prussian style'.
They were sent to the showers where their clothing and items were removed, bagged, and itemized to be placed in storage. The women were scrubbed down and searched everywhere, while the SS guards watched laughing. Then their heads, and probably their pubic hair, was shaved to get rid of lice. They were then given the infamous striped dresses to wear and clogs, but only for winter. They sewed on their colored triangle (green for criminal, red for political, lilac for Jehovah's Witness, black for asocials (prostitute, beggar, petty criminal, lesbian), yellow for Jews with the color of whatever they were in there for as a background.
Every morning they were roused from their beds and ran to the Appellplatz, for Appell, where they would be counted. They could be made to stand as long as the guards wanted them to. At the beginning most of the work was done by the water, as materials were coming in and they had to haul them up, such as bricks. They also loaded up sand, for no reason that I could find, only to dump it and do it again. There was also this large log that had to be pulled by ropes up a hill to flatten the sand so things could be brought up. I really don't need to say that this was back breaking labor. Some, who had specialized talents, could get out of this. Hanna Strumm, a German Communist and jack-of-all-trades, found work around the camp doing carpentry and such. She was quite good at picking things up and hiding them on herself, such as a pen or scissors and once a knife. She would also come across a copy of War and Peace that was likely being used for toilet paper and sneaked it back to the block and started a reading group until she got caught. But she was tough and resourceful.
I know you should not find humor in a book about a concentration camp, but frankly, I could not help but laugh out loud over this. Max Koegel immediately had a problem and it wasn't, as you would think of a Nazi, about the Jews: it was the Jehovah's Witnesses. The only reason they had ended up in the camp in the first place was because of a riot. This is something that some of you may not understand. All they had to do to leave the camp was to sign a paper renouncing their faith. They were not being asked to stop believing in God or Jesus. Just to say on paper that they were no longer Jehovah's Witnesses. I was raised Southern Baptist. Southern Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, it does not really matter. I wouldn't have a problem signing that paper. I could still believe in God. It was Germany and most of them were Lutheran. I could do that. A Jehovah's Witness, however, like a Catholic (which is how I came to understand this, as my step-mother is one, and stated she would never had signed the paper either) is a whole different kettle of fish. There were over a thousand of them in the camp and only five ever signed the paper, no matter what they were put through. These women, though, they drove Koegel up a wall. Its just kinda funny how he continually is pulling his hair out over these women and nothing he does bends them, never mind breaks them. They pissed him off more than anything else. Starving them wouldn't work, he kept telling the higher ups. (Himmler, when he visited, had a solution. He understood them. They would never lie or try to escape and as long as you did not make them do war work they would be fine. He put some in SS officers homes as housekeepers. Koegel would never understand them.) Koegel believed more rigorous punishment was needed, which was something that Langefeld was strictly against. She believed you could keep discipline and order without resorting to strong violence. At this point punishment could consist of having to stand outside for hours on end. The first female guards to come were from the prisons and under Langefeld's control. This would not last when the new ones would arrive.
A lot of the new guards were young and looking to meet a man, such as the SS men at the camps, or just to find a better job with a nice apartment to live in. A few were single mothers attracted to the money and ability to send their children to school. The problem was mostly with the young ones. They would quickly come to love the power and become savage. They would become Koegel's guards, not Langefeld's, as they should have been. Langefeld would constantly find herself in a fight with Koegel over the camp. She was against having a punishment bunker, but he would convince the higher ups to build one, a Strafblock. Depending on what you "did", you could be put in with a mattress and blanket and receive a cup of "coffee" and bread for breakfast and soup for dinner or complete darkness, bare floor, coffee and bread every day and soup every four days. There was no telling how long you might stay there. Dorthea Binz, one of Koegel's guards (Langefeld was not allowed in the Strafblock) was the worst of the worst. She would hit, whip, beat and throw water on you daily. In the winter a Jehovah's Witness was found frozen to the floor after being soaked by water and had to be pried up. Koegel would also introduce the Bock, a devise the women laid on while they were whipped twenty-five times on the buttocks. Sometimes this might kill them. The Jehovah's Witnesses experienced it a lot. There would also be a place to break rocks back where the Strafblock was as a form of punishment.
Himmler knew that it would be impossible to hire enough people to staff the camps so he came up with the ingenious idea of having prisoners become a guard of sorts. In the male camps they were called kapos, in Ravensbruck they were called blockovas. The first blockovas were from the criminals and asocials. Each block had one and it was their responsibility to make sure everyone followed the rules. In return, they got to stay behind to do paperwork and such and avoid hard labor, get extra food, a better bed, and other niceties. But if you made a mistake, they would demote you and send you into the block you were blockovas of and the idea was that they would "take care of you", and do not doubt that they would. There was a gypsy who was an acrobat and managed to escape three times. The third time she escaped from the Strafblock where she was sent to break rocks. The problem was that it was hard to hide and the Nazi's with their dogs were good trackers, so they always found her. When they went to look for her they made those in the Strafblock stand, without food, until she came back. It would take them four days to find her and bring her back. When they did they just gave her to the women. When they were finished with her, well, let's just say what was left was rather unrecognizable as a body. When the bock was brought out, it was the criminals that did most of the lashings on the prisoners. They were some of the cruelest ones there. Especially Minnie Rupp, who remained in powerful positions the entire time mainly because she helped the Nazis. She would pay for that later. As a blockova you could also help out your friends.
The Poles would begin arriving later in 1939. Everyone talks about the tragedy of the Jewish people of not having their homeland and thus Israel was created. Yes, they were kicked about every country over there going back thousands of years. However, people seem to overlook the people of Poland. For almost two centuries their country had been basically wiped off the map. They had just gotten it back after World War I when Hitler came in and began decimating it in 1939. The Polish people are a sturdy lot. Both the men and the women were taught to fight and part of their very long resistance movement had always included education. That way, no matter if every building, book, artifact, or whatever is destroyed, there will always be the children to live on with the knowledge of their culture and history to pass on. After the war, as you know, the Soviet Union would swallow them up. It does seem that hardship follows them. Among them would be a group of teenagers who figured they were safe enough because if they were going to be killed it would have been done in Poland, where they spent time in jail there, not be taken by train all the way to Germany to do it. There would also be Countesses. It would be these women who would continue to teach the girls so they would not get behind on their schooling.
The communists would manage a coup and get some of the positions held by the criminals and asocials. They would now be blockovas. A German communist named Grete Buber-Neumann had headed to the "homeland" of communism, the Soviet Union, with her husband before the war. Both would be arrested. What were the charges? Who knows? It was Stalin and he often did that sort of thing. Her husband would be shot and she would be sent to a gulag in Siberia. When Stalin signed the pact with Hitler he made a "gift" of some prisoners to him. Grete was one of them. I'll spoil this for you. She is the only person to survive both Stalin's gulag and Hitler's camp. She wrote a book about it and I am looking for it. She was met eagerly at the camp, as all new arrivals were because they might have new information of the outside world. The communists in the camp, however, did not like the news she had to share and called her a "Trotskyite" and a traitor. They blackballed her. Grete would find herself alone in the camp for a while. It would be Grete that Langefeld would come to in the 1950s to apologize to and to tell her story to, which is how we know what we know about Langefeld. Grete was at one time her secretary and said that Langefeld was a devout Lutheran and a firm believer in the Fuhrer and what he is doing for Germany. As time passed the two would war within herself. At some point she would have to choose a side and she does.
It would be Langefeld who put the first Jew as a blockova. I mentioned earlier that the Jewish block was having trouble getting along. It was becoming a real problem and Langefeld believed she had just the person for the job: The famous Olga Benario. A Jewish communist, Olga left home at a very young age and headed for the Soviet Union where she rose in the ranks of the communist organization. She would leave to go to Brazil, where with the help of her husband Luis Carlos Prestes led a force to try to overtake the government and bring communism to Brazil. He would be arrested and she would try to sneak back into Germany, but the British would tell the Germans who arrested her at the dock. Pregnant, she would give birth to a girl, Anita, who would be sent to live with Luis's mother in Mexico. Every effort was made to get her out of the camp before the war started, when it was still possible to get people out, but they could not get her papers to her in time. Langefeld would be right about Olga. She was not cruel to these women but taught them the secrets they needed to know such as how to make a better bed faster. She did everything she could to help them and in no time the block was organized and getting along much better.
From those who survived and wrote down, or told others of their experiences, many names are often remembered. The asocials are rarely among those. Elsa Krug was quite the exception. Elsa moved to the big city of Dusseldorf after the death of her father, who made a good living as a tailor. When he died, she was twenty and there was no one to bring in any money. Like most girls, she had no training and quickly found out that you cannot get by cleaning houses or working in a factory. Prostitution offered more money. Krug specialized in S & M and was not ashamed of it. She even joked to Grete that after the war she'd never be able to get the money she was getting, so she was going to have to come up with something really clever to bring them in. Krug had stopped having any connection to her mother, of course, but her mother had not given up on her. She was actively looking for her. Krug ran the kitchen peeling potatoes, which was a prime spot because it allowed you a chance to swipe some food. When Grete became blockova of one of the asocial blocks, they of course gave her a hard time, but Krug jumped in and put them in their place and helped Grete out. Krug was notorious for helping others. She had a big heart. A snitch would end her time in the kitchen and send her to the Strafblock for taking food and she would be pounding rocks for a while. Koegel was looking around for someone to whip some prisoners and his eyes fell on Krug, who was a rather broad woman, and he told her to do it. She refused. He told her she would regret that one day.
In 1939, the Nazis had begun perfecting their gassing techniques. At around this point they began rounding up the mentally and physically unfit in the asylums and homes and started busing them to a castle, Grafeneck, where the coach house was set up as a gas chamber. People, important people like a judge and an ardent Nazi aristocrat, however began to notice and complain. They wrote letters telling Hitler that it was not right. Hitler and Himmler were not stupid people. They approached things like getting into a chilly pool: a little bit at a time so your body slowly becomes acclimated to it. This is why they did not round up every group they hated and immediately killed them. The Germans would not have stood for this. It takes baby steps and planning and getting people used to ideas first. When Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, Himmler told the SS to kill all the Jewish men. It would be at least another month before he would give the order to also kill the Jewish women and children. He had to make the SS hardened to killing civilians first, so that it would be possible to kill all civilians. This would happen again in 1941 when they were now using gas chambers in an old Franciscan priory. A bishop would write of how the town was upset and the old people were worried that they were next. They were cremating the bodies, which also became a nightmare, as some families would end up with two urns and lots of urns were going out at once and people were noticing. So Himmler gave up and sent them back to the asylums and homes and killed them there, either by the needle, poison, or starvation and no one complained again. This is important, because this is where the first women of Ravensbruck would be sent.
Thanks to Dr. Friedrich Mennecke and his many letters home to his wife, we have a very detailed account of the selection process, how many were taken, who was involved, the whole nine yards. Dr Sonntag, a rather evil man was the first head of the Revier, or hospital, at the camp. He had already begun a list that included those who had VD (The first experiments in the camp were performed on the prostitutes, as Himmler was hoping to find cures for various VDs. No one deserves that). By 1942 Himmler and Hitler wanted Germany to be Juden-Frei. And it would be. 2000 women would be taken from the camp in trucks over a period of months. It wasn't just the Jews, though, or those with VD or TB. It could be anyone. And that frightened everyone once they discovered that they were being sent off to be killed. Those who worked in the camp offices were given death certificates mostly filled out. They just had to put in a name and a cause of death. They were told they could choose from a list what to tell the families the prisoner had died from. The families would receive a death notice and a request for money if they wanted the ashes sent to them. The blockovas were told they had to select names. Some deny doing so, but a few admit to it and said that better they did it then the Nazis. Krug would be among them. Koegel did not forget her. Nor did her mother. After the war she was still searching contacting survivors groups for information. It would be the communists that would be the ones to tell her of her daughter's fall from grace and her amazing bravery and courage that she could be proud of.
By 1942, the Poles would be taking over the blockova spots from the communists. In April, however, something began to change for them. A group of Polish women was called to go nach vorne, out front, to the office that morning. That night they were taken outside the gates and shot. The thousands of other women were standing at Appell that evening when they heard the shots. Every so often after that, a group of Poles would be rounded up and taken outside the gates and killed, only the next times, they did it in a place where the shots could not be heard.
This would only be the beginning for the Poles. A high ranking Nazi's car was bombed on a road and had shrapnel in him. The doctor, Gebhardt, one of the top ones in the organization, was not able to save him. He died of infection. This, coupled with the rumor that the Americans were using sulphonamides over penicillin, as it was better, even though the doctor insisted that it was not, but Himmler saw an opportunity to experiment and find out. A group of 75 Polish girls from the Lublin transport of 1941, were brought in the Revier and their legs were examined and they left and more were brought in. The doctors were Karl Gebhardt and Fritz Fischer, as well as camp doctors Rolf Rosenthal and Gerhard Schiedlausky as well as the much, hated Herta Oberheuser. Six remained behind, including Wanda Wojtasik. When they returned to their block, they were staggering from the drugs. The next day the six go back to the Revier where one by one they are put under. When Wanda wakes up in bed, she has a plaster on both legs with the letters IIITK. The others have similar markings. Wanda's friend, Krysia Czyz comes to the window to see her that night and Wanda gives her a smile and shows her her leg to try to reassure her.
The girls are wheeled in again and the plaster is taken off and put back on again. They all begin to develop fevers and their wounds are leaking brown pus. Again they are brought back in and the plaster is taken off and left off. This is when they notice that the cut to their leg was made to the bone and dirt, glass, and wood has been ground in in order for bacteria to grow and form an infection that they can experiment with the treatments. The whole time a sheet is kept in front of the girl's faces so they cannot see the doctors, but they manage anyway and are able to identify them later. And no, they never do remove the stuff from these women's legs. A new group is sent in including Jadwiga Kaminska. Wanda has taken over duties as a night nurse, which Jadwiga will take over when Wanda leaves. Jadwiga notices something different with the new girls that come in after her. Someone wasn't happy with the non-conclusive results and wanted more tests. They wanted battlefield experiments and suggested shooting the girls in the leg, but Gebhardt was against that and just went with more bacteria.
One of them starts to get all stiff and has the code EII. And another has something different too with a code of KI. A Polish doctor, Zofia Maczka, working in the Revier as a radiologist is not allowed on the infected ward, but she does listen in at keyholes and doors and watches through windows. She notices the vials of bacteria the doctors bring, which are labeled, and left lying around. She gets the word out to others as who has what at what dose. EII is a very lethal dose of tetanus and a very excruciating way to die. KI was gas gangrene, also deadly. There are also Polish medical students working in the lab who provide information. Dr. Maczka keeps records that she intends to use to convict them later. Oh, and the girls were told that if they participated in the experiments they would be freed. They knew this to be a lie. They also knew the alternative was being shot outside the gates.
But that would not be the end. In November a man called Ludwig Stumpfegger would show up and start breaking bones and operating on muscles. The first bone breakage was done to the sixteen-year-old Polish dancer Basia Pietrzyk. He would not only break them, he would remove them, or take them out and surgically put them in one of the male prisoner's body's who didn't have one to see if you could do a transplant. Knees were drilled. And it just got worse from there. But it wasn't just the Poles anymore.
These girls would become known as the rabbits because of the way they hopped around and because they were experimented on like lab rabbits. Jadwiga would begin the organization to bring food and things to the first girls, but everyone in the camp was behind them because it was so horrible and because it could so easily be them next. The camp became quite protective of the rabbits. By mid-1942, the rabbits began to notice in the Revier that some of them were being lethally injected at a faster pace. The doctors had been doing this since the beginning to the sick with a bit of phenol, Evipan, or petrol. Dr. Maczka noticed that the German abortionist nurse, Gerda Quernheim, who was a prisoner (at her trial she insulted Hitler, which is how she ended up in the camp) was being given free reign to inject anyone--and she began to, with Dr. Rosenthal, the drunk doctor she had been helping perform abortions at camp, including two of her own by him. The two seemed to get off on killing patients. They chose victims with gold teeth or crowns that they could sell. Once the rabbits left the Revier, they were sent back to their block where friends would try to nurse them back to health. By January of 1943, Oberheuser would announce that there would be no more experiments and the rabbits were back in their blocks recovering.
Krysia, who had also become a rabbit, would get the idea at this time of telling the world about what was going on. But how? The Polish underground knew about the camps, but no one knew about the experiments and if they could get word to them, they would get word to the Polish government in exile in London, who would get word to the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Pope and the rest of the world and they might be protected from being killed off as living witnesses of Nazi crimes. The girls had all been scouts and learned about secret writing and Krysia's mother had told her about using urine during World War I as invisible ink. They were allowed to send carefully worded letters home and decided to send a message in one letting them know that the next letter would have the invisible ink written in the margins and between lines. The family sent care packages to the camp and the signal that they had gotten the letter might be a piece of yarn, with a return message in a tube of toothpaste. The Nazis never seemed to question their need for so much toothpaste.
Krysia's mother was a major in the Lublin 'Home Army' and had many contacts in the resistance and the information she sent out to them was sent on to London and over the radio for all of Poland, and eventually all of underground Europe to see. The rabbits became quite famous. When the sub-camps were built by the German companies that began doing war work for the Nazis, one of the rabbits would be sent to one of them once a week or so to take and deliver messages. A Polish POW camp was right there and Zofia made a friend. He would leave a package for them in the women's room there that would include food and stuff, but also, perhaps more importantly to them, the Eucharist. They would leave behind letters he would send along with his. The two would remain friends, but only friends, no matter how many times others would try to intimate otherwise.
Sadly, their faith in the Allies, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Pope were all misplaced. America and Britain's plan was to win the war and worry about innocents being tortured and killed later. The ICRC's mandate is to help POW's and soldiers, not civilians, however, if an atrocity is being committed, they are to raise the alarm loudly. They knew all along what was going on in the camps from the beginning. They knew just about everything Himmler knew and they did nothing. They had a meeting and to a man, they voted to do nothing. The first woman to ever be on the committee, however, voted violently for them to do something. The girls tried to get the ICRC to just send them parcels because if they did it would signal to the Germans that the world was watching. They refused. The woman said if they weren't going to help them the least they could do was to send them a blade so they could kill themselves with it if they needed to. The Pope, Pope Pius X, has often been called Hitler's Pope for a reason. And after the war, it would be the Catholic church who help SS officers get out of the country. That is all I will say about the fate of the rabbits. You would not believe the rest if I told you.
In July, 1942, Red Army nurses and doctors were cut off at the tip of the Crimean Peninsula taking care of the wounded. They were told by the soldiers that a ship would come back for them, but that was a lie. Stalin, by the way, did not believe in prisoners of war only traitors. They, along with the soldiers still alive were marched on. As they followed the Germans they noticed that in each village the Jews were being killed. With the men, they could not hide their Jewishness (circumcision was only done by Jews at that time), but you really couldn't tell with the women (Back at Ravensbruck there were still Jews the guards did not know about who had escaped death and there would be hundreds more.). Three of the women were picked out and shot. The women were separated from the men and marched in a different direction. A message from the front of the line started to come down: "Be strong." "Look after each other. Believe in Soviet victory." You would think this was coming from an officer, but it was from a 42-year-old teacher, who had served as a nurse during World War I and now World War II. Her name was Yevgenia Lazarevna Klemm and she had the dreamy romantic view of communism that, in her own way, she took with her to her death. After all she did for her country she deserves to see her country in a nice way and be proud of it, even if it did not deserve her. She would be the one to hold this group together. When one of them would tell the Germans one of the doctors was a Jew, likely because the two had never gotten along, Klemm would put her foot down and tell them "We are all Soviet Army girls. Take care of each other and we will survive this." She would also insist that they keep their uniforms on.
They took cattle cars and eventually arrived in Soest. Russian and Ukrainian civilians were being selected for farm and munitions work. Klemm would tell them to stand firm and not doing any war work. She told the Gestapo chief that under the Geneva Convention he could not force prisoners of war to make arms for their enemies. Of course, both of them knew this was ridiculous on many counts. First, they weren't soldiers. Second, Stalin never signed the Geneva Convention and Third, Hitler threw that out a long time ago. Klemm also gambled that the Gestapo wasn't about to kill 500 uniformed women, doctors and nurses, right on German soil. Three days later, the Germans put them on a train to Ravensbruck. They would arrive on the 23 of February 1943. A lot of what is known about these women, and others, have been found in letters collected by Antonina Nikiforova, a Red Army doctor who arrived in March of 1944 and collected material in the camp that she hoped to use in a book. However, SMERSh, Soviet intelligence, confiscated everything. That did not stop her. She contacted everyone and wrote letters and kept them locked up until after her death in 1994. They are now at the Ravensbruck archives still being gone through. (All Soviets would be grilled by SMERSh after the war, which would include 800,000 women. If they were lucky they were only blacklisted from jobs. Some were sent to Siberia or even killed. Once Stalin died, however, things calmed down, but they were looked upon as tainted for having been among the Fascist.)
By this time Koegel was gone and Suhren had taken his place. Now, Himmler had successfully avoided any interference from the ICRC, but if these women entered wearing their uniforms declaring themselves POW's there could be a real problem. So Suhren tricked them. They arrived in the dead of night and were sneaked into the showers where they had to take their uniforms off and given their new dress to wear and then sent to a special barrack apart from the camp, ringed by barbed wire and guarded by the newly formed camp police, made up of inmates armed with whips and truncheons. While there, the communist community reached out to help them and give them information. Klemm also realized that they needed to learn German if they were going to make it in the camp, so she took the German speakers and organized groups of classes while they were in the barracks. They would also notice the building of the crematoriums.
By the summer of 1943, they had run out of prison clothes and started handing out dead women's clothes from Auschwitz. The Red Army women would first start off doing the back breaking work in the sand pits. Klemm, because of her age and infirmaries (she had lost some sight in one eye among other things) would knit with some of the other women and rabbits. Later, the doctors and nurses would get jobs in the Revier, which they would feel conflicted about as they would be working for the enemy, but Klemm told them they would be helping fellow prisoners and would have access to medicines they could sneak into the blocks to help even more. For the first time, people were being cured in the Revier because they were being treated by prison doctors and nurses. The Norwegian and French were beginning to arrive now too and lucky for French ethnologist, Germaine Tillion, an expert on African tribes until the resistance called, this was a time when she could get treatment from the popular Czech doctor Zdenka Nedvedova, who had come from Auschwitz, or she would have died right after getting there from diphtheria.
This also marks the arrival of Dr. Treite, who at first seemed like a breath of fresh air compared to the other SS doctors they had been dealing with, but he is a complicated man, and, I'm afraid a very weak one. There were some that Dr. Treite worked hard to save. He also organized the Revier. However, some of the doctors would tell you that there were those that were not taken care of very well, such as the diphtheria patients. He could also be convinced, later to take people's names off lists, but you would be responsible for finding another name to put on that list. Was he complicit in what the Nazis were doing there? Yes. I did mention he was a weak man and he wasn't really happy to be there. He had been headed to Berlin to do further scientific studies. He was, however, much better than what had come before.
The NN block, or "night and fog" was one that people were sent to disappear. These women knew that they were unlikely to survive, so they did more than others to preserve their stories and the story of the camp itself. Germaine Tillon had already begun a study of the camp. She made many friends including communists and various nationalities who had connections in various parts of the camp, such as the Revier and the offices. At first, she tried to keep the all the information she gathered in her mind, but luckily she would get a hold of paper and a writing utensil to put it down on. She would be put in the NN block, but that would not stop her from her research or keep her many informants from getting her the data she needed.
At this time there was also a Gestapo man on site by the name of Ludwig Ramdohr and he was a thoroughly evil man. Even the guard Binz was scared of him. He recruited prisoners to be spies. And he never had trouble doing this. His office held a house of horrors, where blood marred his walls. If you stayed in his good graces by spying or giving him sexual favors, you would be rewarded with chocolates or other delicacies that arrived in prisoner's parcels. The women soon came not to trust anyone who exited his office with a beating.
The first sub-camp that opened was by the company Siemens and it was right outside Ravensbruck. There would be many others that would include the famous car company Daimler-Benz. It was because of these sub-camps that Himmler needed more workers, especially once the workers started dying and the agreement made him responsible for labor. So, while they were still taking women out to be shot, they began to bring women in from Auschwitz, where they were separating people in groups to be gassed and groups that could work. These sub-camps were not necessarily better than working in the camp itself. Some were actually punishment camps, where they sent you to do useless work until you died. Members of the Red Army would be sent far north to some frozen hell to do war work, and while they refused to do it at first, they remembered Klemm's words before they left, basically don't get yourself shot. So they worked and tried to survive and help each other.
At the camp, women worked in shops making uniforms, fur coats and mittens from the rabbit's fur, and other items for the soldiers. It was twelve hours of hard work with a demon tailor (they weren't SS men running these shops) constantly watching over you. In both the sub-camps and in these workshops the women would find ways to sabotage. One woman taught the others how to use a needle to poke holes in the gloves so that when the soldiers would put them on they would fall apart. The strength of the button being sewn on the military jackets was checked, but not whether it was lined up with the button hole. You could mess with the making of ammo, plane parts, or even bombs. When some of them would get caught, they would be killed. But to most of them, it was worth it.
There was also the job of working in the brothels set up at the men's camps for the male prisoners. Himmler came up with this idea as a way to motivate the men to be more productive workers. They began with disease-free prostitutes at Ravensbruck and told them they would only have to do this for six months and then they could go home. One woman who managed to find a way back to the camp told the real story. The women had sex with these men all day long with only a break for dinner and sleep (And of course they lied about the six months thing.). When the French prostitutes would arrive in 1944, they would use them. In between, when they were running low, any woman might find herself working at the brothel.
As 1943 bled into 1944, the place would become very overcrowded and more like the UN every day. By the end of the war there would a total of 21 nationalities present, including seven Chinese and some Egyptians (The author supposes that ended up there due to their marriage). There were even Americans, including Virgina Lake, who disappeared in France doing war work and whose mother was driving the State Department crazy with her demands that they get her out of there. The French would begin to arrive in earnest around February 1944 and come to be referred to as the vingt-sept mille, because their numbers were in the 20,000s, with some of the last arriving a couple of days after Paris would be liberated by the Allies. These first French to arrive would have a very hard time of it. The Nazis would do their best to turn the camp against them. Their early attitude did not help. That would change quickly. They were getting sick and starving because their stomachs could not handle the foreign food. But some of the women in the camp would help them and save them. But quite a few died quickly. These French resistance women also had a rather stuck up attitude about the prostitutes and only one name is remembered. Some of them were there because they gave the German soldiers VD, but some were there because they hid soldiers as part of an unusual underground railroad system made up of brothels. Romances between the men and the prostitutes would happen. Marie-Therese Lefebvre, a schoolteacher remembers one named "Simone" who came from her hometown of Le Havre. Simone and said that an American pilot promised to come back for her. When Marie-Therese ran into Simone after the war, Simone asked her advice on whether she should accept his proposal. Marie-Therese told her of course. "Go to America and start a new life!" Papers show that this is exactly what happened.
There were also a speculated 20 British there as well. There was a one-armed Irish nanny, Mary O'Shaughnessy, who was there for hiding servicemen. A Red Cross nurse, no-nonsense and fierce, Mary Lindell who had married a Belgian Count and was working for MI9 (British escape service). Some SOE (Special Operations Executive) operatives who had parachuted in to help the resistance made up most of them, however. For those women who think they have the worst ex-husband, this guy, I believe might have him beat. An Englishwoman went to France in the 1930s and met and married a French doctor. The two loved to sail on his boat along the coast. When the war broke out he encouraged her to help her country, since she knew the French coast so well. When she ended up in Ravensbruck, she sent a letter to him and he got word to London letting them know what happened to her. Then this prince of a man wrote her back and asked her for a divorce. Luckily she was able to legally change her will in the camp (yeah, I know, I have no idea how). The most helpful were Julia Barry, a woman who called herself an Englishwoman but was actually a Hungarian-American who had married an Englishman and tried many times to become a citizen, but had been turned down. She had been working for the British when she had been caught and sent to Ravensbruck where she got the good position as a camp police officer and was able to keep an eye out on the Brits and let them all know about each other. Barry would also be the one to make sure Lindell got her Croix de Guerre medal back after her shower at arrival.
A large tent would be put up, because they had run out of blocks to put people in (by this time I think they had 32) and in the blocks, people were sleeping three to a bed, with barely any room to maneuver.
The next group to arrive would be 12,000 Poles taken after the Polish Uprising. On their heels would be the Hungarian Jews (The country of Hungary was spared for a long time because of its friendship with Germany. When the first group of Jews were taken to Auschwitz (450,000), the puppet President would not let them take anymore and took a stand. He was defeated and an SS man was put in his place.) who would trek 200 miles in the near winter, which would kill one-third of them by the time they got there. One girl, Eva Fejer took her her Girl Guide lessons seriously and went prepared with her backpack filled with food and clothing. Her knowledge of German would make her valuable to the Daimler-Benz sub-camp in Berlin. She tried to tell her friends to leave too, but they did not listen.
With the first arrival of those from Auschwitz, children would now be at the camp. When Ravensbruck opened, the women were checked to see if they were pregnant and if they were they were sent away to have the baby that was then taken away to be adopted. That did not last too long before they began abortions (they had Quernheim on hand after all) and what I can only term as horrid births where the tiny, tiny baby was killed and thrown in a bucket. With the arrival of these Poles came many more pregnant women. Only this time, they did not perform abortions. Honestly, there were just too many of them. Some of them found out they were pregnant when they got to the camp, due to rape (and no, not by the Germans). In the Revier the women were given milk and porridge to help breastfeed, but then the babies were placed in a block of their own where one of the prison doctors, a pediatrician, stayed, tried to keep them alive, but nearly all of them starved to death. The older kids would have many "camp mothers" who were more than willing to take care of them as if they were their own.
Dr. Louise "Loulou" le Porz was an expert in infectious diseases, with a specialty in TB. Carmen Mory, a German spy who had really messed up in some way and had not made any friends in Binz or the other guards, but none-the-less became a powerful blockova. She would become the blockova of block 10, the first death block in Ravensbruck. Block 10 would be split into two sections: one for the sick and one for the "lunatics". She preferred working with the French because she hated the Poles and Austrians who held positions as blockovas. Dr. Loulou and two French nurses, Violette Lecoq and Jacqeline Heriel were there to help her. They were given no medicines to actually treat these women, but they did their best anyway, even though most of them were Poles and Russians and they didn't understand each other except by gestures. Dr. Loulou was able to smuggle in medicines she got from a Yugoslavian pharmacist and the radiologists would help out with x-rays. As each body was piled up front, Jacqueline would snip a lock of hair for the family and put it in a book. Dr. Loulou learned all the names of her patients, their family's names, and their illnesses. She can recite them today. In December 1944 another black convoy would take more women, mostly those from Block 10, but also a convoy of gypsies, off to be gassed at Castle Hartheim (One of the early euthanasia sites for the mentally and physically handicapped. 18,000 of them were killed there.) before it is shut down, because of the Soviet advancing army.
Things in the camp had started out very orderly and with German precision. Careful counts, an organized system of documentation upon arrival, "marches" on Sunday afternoon in the yard. At this point, that was all gone. Chaos reigned. When the Poles and Hungarians arrived they had to wait outside the gates for days or more, with some dying before being given a number. The bodies were just sent to the crematorium with no one knowing their name. Once inside and put inside the tent, they were left in there for a while and then the dead were taken out and cremated, while the living were finally given numbers. It was also easier to sneak things in. There has always been a PX store at the camp where prisoners could buy things if friends or family had mailed them money (and they had been allowed to receive mail), but it was nearly empty now. Two Dutch sisters in their fifties, whose family ran a clock business, was there for hiding Jews. Corrie Ten-Boom and her sister brought in a bible and at night they would read aloud in German and you could hear it echo down the block in French, Czech, Russian, Polish, etc...
In January 1945, with the Soviet army close at hand, the Nazis, who had been planning this for months, began the forced Death March out of Auschwitz for the final time, blowing up the camp as they left. There were many Death Marches, but this one is rather memorable in its horror. Of those they took (and did not kill first), 20,000 of the 60,000 were women. Even though children were forbidden go go, some came anyway. As they trod through the snow, they could hear the Russian artillery sounding just three miles away. They were each given a loaf of bread for their journey. If they were lucky, they had time to grab extra clothing in the storage room or medicine or whatever they might think of the right as the call came out. Most were not. The Polish farmers helped them when they could, providing shelter for them at night and slipping them food and milk to drink, or even taking a risk and hiding some if they could. After a few days of walking in-the-middle-of-nowhere Poland, the men and women were split up. The women were going to Ravensbruck, which was 420 miles northwest. The women would march another 250 miles and then get on train wagons. There were so many that arrived dead that the camp crematorium could not keep up and they had to use the one in Furstenberg as well.
Up the road from Ravensbruck, there was a Youth Camp, which was actually a place that held female juvenile delinquents. At some point, Himmler had the girls moved to Ravensbruck and shut down the place. With the Allies closing in, more camps were closing and prisoners were being moved to ones still open. This meant that the ones with gas chambers were much fewer in number. In the past, they had been killing "useless mouths" mainly, but also random groups of women who would be shot. SS men from Auschwitz and other camps had arrived to help. Moll and his goons, who were experts at shooting people with little muss or fuss were very busy doing their part, but it wasn't enough. Time was running out. They needed to get rid of as much evidence as possible and kill those who would not survive a march. So a gas chamber was built at the Youth Camp.
Johann Schwarzhuber, an SS officer who started at Dachau and ended up at Auschwitz, where colleagues say was not as hard as the other officers. He helped run the men's prisoner orchestra, spent much time becoming close to the gypsies, and supposedly said he had "not joined the SS to kill Jews." The guards said it was quite common to see him "drunk and weeping" as inmates were led to the gas chambers. He would be the one tapped to head up the gassing program at Ravensbruck, which would be completely different than any other that had come before. Now they had no ideological reason for killing these women. They simply needed to save food, make space, and reduce the number of people left who would have to march. Because of the Death March and the Hungarian Jews arriving there were more Jews in the camp than ever before, but it still was not a death sentence. Whether or not you could walk would determine that. Also, the gassing would be done in a camp on German soil for the first time. This would be problematic as it would be hard to fool them. Schwarzhuber came upon the idea of calling the Youth Camp, Mitterda. Even the women who worked in the office were confused. Schwarzhuber would send a French doctor and nurses up there with medicines to set up an infirmary. But if you had been in the camp long enough you knew that if the Germans were telling you they wanted to send you to a better place for the sick, they could not be believed. So many did, though, until word began to sift down from women who ran errands there.
Schwarzhuber recruited Ruth Neudeck, a prisoner who liked to thrash and gave her a gift of a silver-handled whip. The spy, Rupp, would also go as well. Dr. Vera Salvequart, half Czech, half German, was a prisoner and like Rupp was believed to be a spy as well as a prostitute. She was wanted across Europe. She also had a winsome smile and gentle manner that instilled trust. Dr. Vera would always insist that she was forced to work there, but others had a different tale to tell. She was given Red Cross parcels once a week and allowed to go to the men's camp whenever she wanted. Once a prisoner has been registered, the Germans were quite rigid about having a doctor write the death card, even if the cause of death was a lie. That was the only reason for Dr. Vera's presence there.
The gassing wasn't the only way they killed up there. They cut food rations in half and made the women stand up for hours outside. Dr. Vera was also dispensing a "white powder" that killed many as well as injecting some prisoners. The blocks were overcrowded as well, to say the least. Dr. Vera would announce the names on the list every day of who was to go in the truck to the makeshift gas chamber. The room could hold 150 women at one time. They were told they were being treated for lice and stripped and sent in. A prisoner climbed on top of the building and threw a box of gas from an opening, then shut it and climbed down. There were also gas trucks (which the Polish women were familiar with as they had seen them used in Poland), gas vans, and gas railway cars. The Germans also began sending women out on trains that held a few munitions around Germany, so if the train got bombed by the Allies, the women prisoners would be killed too.
Himmler had a special block for his important prisoners. These would include Countesses, a famous cabaret dancer, a woman who claimed (falsely) to be married to a distant cousin of Winston Churchill, New York City's Mayor La Guardia's sister, Gemma, who had married an Hungarian Jew, and eventually Charles de Gaulle's niece, Genevieve (Who was arrested for running an underground newspaper.), after de Gaulle became President. Over the years there had been prisoner exchanges, whether anyone wants to admit to it or not. Himmler saw the writing on the wall and after failing at a back channel peace agreement between him and America and Britain, which would leave him in charge of Germany, these people were his aces to help himself out. La Guardia, it is believed, never knew his sister was in Ravensbruck, however, he did receive a letter from her after the war when she was not really getting by in Berlin and asking for help. He was working with the UN at the time with the refugee situation and wrote back saying that if he helped her he would get thousands of letters from others expecting help too so he would not help her. Never take sides against the family, La Guardia. I do wonder what he had to say to his Italian mother about this when he met her in the afterlife. I can't imagine she was pleased that he left his sister out to dry because of politics. Genevierve would deny to her last breath that her uncle, Charles de Gaulle did anything to help her out, even though he moved heaven and earth to do so and very much did. But that is what family does.
America's and Britain's stance on those in the camps was that we would win the war first and get to them later. In December 1944 they released a statement urging prisoners to "stay put, await the arrival of allied forces and be prepared for an orderly repatriation after the end of the war". Yes, that was as ridiculous as it sounded. In each camp, people were dying at a rate of 200 a day. The bombings had done a lot of damage to the roads and rail lines of Europe. The French came up with plan after plan that would be immediately discarded to try to rescue the people from the camps. They had no way to get there and no way to get them out. There would basically be one country that would actually do anything to try to save the prisoners and that country would be Sweden. Yes. Sweden. (Ok, yes the Swiss would make an agreement with Himmler, using an ICRC delegate who was a former SS doctor who worked under Gebhardt, the man who carried out the medical atrocities at Ravensbruck, and get some people out of the camps, but this was only after they heard about the Swedes (their rivals) and their plans. Also, they were getting pressure from every Red Cross and the Jewish World Organization. And, they did not go through nowhere near the trouble or danger that the Swedes went through.) They had remained neutral throughout the war and watched what happened to their Dutch and Norwegian neighbors. Reports of the Nazi atrocities had been coming into them. It was now 1944 and the war was going to be won by the Allies and the Swedes felt rather horrible and wanted to do something to contribute. Wanda Hjort, a Norwegian, and her family had been sent to Germany, but because her father had important German family members they were put under house arrest with a guard. There were other families this was done to as well. Hjort was a member of the Norwegian underground. Their house was near Sachsenhausen camp for men and she would go there and leave parcels. She would be the one to discover Ravensbruck which was a NN camp that few seemed to know the name or location of at the time. She found out that she had an aunt on her mother's side staying there named Sylvia Salvesen. She would be allowed to visit her aunt and through her get information about the camp to her sources. She could not mail anything from her house, so she mailed everything from the Swedish Embassy, which is how they came to know everything.
This would all have to be done without Hitler knowing, as Himmler had sold prisoners for money and an SS officer told on him. Hitler forbade any more prisoner releases. Count Folke Bernadotte was chosen to talk to Himmler. He had strong German ties, a royal bloodline to impress Himmler with, an American wife, and most important of all, an innate diplomatic charm. Aunt Sylvia was now working in the Revier where a new SS doctor, Franz Lucas, and nurse, Gerda Schroder, were actually helping to heal people and were fighting to keep people from being killed. Sylvia gambles and decides to trust him as an intermediary with her and her family. She compiles lists of names (The Germans would only release those they had names for) and information about the camp and he leaves to give it to the Hjorts, but he does not get there right away, so Gerda is also given a letter and she does get there with the information. Both of them would be sent away from the camp. Gerda would be sent to another camp but would escape to Berlin and disappear instead.
When the first convoy of vehicles to go out leave Sweden (buses, trucks, tanks, whatever would hold people) the Brits told them at the last minute to paint them white and put a red cross on top so they wouldn't bomb them. The Germans would catch on to this and paint their vehicles as well, so the Swedes would still have problems getting bombed and the Allies refused to offer them even a small escort. They would frequently have to stop and hide in a ditch by the side of the road until the danger had passed. There were some deaths, including American and British women. The irony, huh? These buses would save 17,000 prisoners, which included 7,000 Jews. Bernadotte would be accused of not rescuing enough Jews. His death a few years later while on a diplomatic mission would be a tragedy.
I've never fought in a battle, so maybe what I am about to say is purely my opinion and not based on any personal experience. At the beginning of April, Eisenhower was right outside of Berlin waiting on Stalin to arrive (I don't know if there was some agreement made at Yalta that Stalin would enter Berlin first or if this was something Eisenhower was doing, especially considering what the Germans had done to the Soviets, but Stalin was going to be the one to go into Berlin first). Berlin was only fifty miles away from Ravensbruck and Sachsenhausen where he knew for a fact that they were still killing people at a high rate. He could have sent men in to liberate them, but he did not want to risk the lives of his men. Again, I have never been a soldier, but I have a hard time accepting that it is ok to allow all those defenseless people to continue to die when you have the ability to help them. Especially when your only reason is that you are worried that your heavily armed soldiers with tanks might get hurt against old men and boys. Yes, the camps still had some SS men there and yes a danger of harm did exist. At the same time, we had let enough people die, had we not, by out inaction? Instead, it would be the Red Army who would eventually liberate Ravensbruck, which would be a nightmare all on its own. When a person goes through the nightmare of battle it can turn them into something inhuman. This is no excuse, however for the behavior of a large number of the Soviet Army. The Germans put them through hell and when they crossed the border they went rather crazy, killing German citizens and raping German women. The problem is (well, that is a problem in and of itself) that they did not stop there. Our troops over the years, in various wars, have also been through some horrid things and do bad things as well, but not, I think, ever, on this scale.
At the Ravensbruck memorial site, there is a lot to take in. However, down the road at the Youth Camp, the land is forsaken and no one passing would ever know what happened there. It is not a part of the memorial site. No one really wants to lay claim to it except some feminists from Gedenkort. There are those who claim that a lack of money is the reason the Youth Camp has been forgotten, but the truth is there is an argument over what to call it. The camp director wants to call it what it was: an extermination camp. But members of the Jewish council of Germany have said that "only Jewish death camps, set up under the terms of the Final Solution, can be defined as such." Also, since Ravensbruck was officially ruled not a death camp, they stopped investigating crimes committed there by guards or SS officers there. Yes, six million Jews died during World War II, wiping most of them off the face of the earth, but Hitler and Himmler killed at least another four million others. The camps do not belong to the Jews alone. They belong to too many nations and religions to count. To say that Ravensbruck was not a death camp when they were gassing people there, Jews and non-Jews, as well as shooting, starving, poisoning, and whatever else they could think of to kill them is ridiculous. 130,000 women and children passed through the gates of Ravensbruck and an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 died there. It is an insult to these women who died there and a disservice to their memory. At the beginning, I tried to explain reasons why you have probably never heard of Ravensbruck. This is one of many. The ignorance about this place has gone on long enough. The women who are left who survived it are dying off now. Many have spoken out and left their stories with us, either by telling someone in the camp or writing it down afterward. Now this massive book exists as a testament to their existence and their voices can be forever heard.
Note: When I came across the name Corrie Ten Boom I had one of my vivid, memory flashbacks to when I had heard the name before. It was around fifteen years ago when I was still working at the library and a woman from the "Greatest Generation" asked for her books. We had several of them. She was only one of a few to ask for Boom's books and from what I could gather, she was a religious woman who wrote about her work. No one ever mentioned anything to me about her being a survivor. I looked her up on Amazon and her first book, Hiding In Plain Sight, which is about her family hiding the Jews and her time in the camp, is available for about six dollars. She wrote several other books that detail the events of the rest of her life as a Christian.
Note: I feel the need to offer up a bit of a mea culpa. I was watching a show on the Military Chanel last night called America: Fact of Fiction. This show was debunking the myths about General Patton and brought to light (at least to me) a rescue mission he attempted in March of 1945 while he was fighting his way through Germany. His son-in-law had been captured fighting in Africa and was in a POW camp behind German lines, so Patton took men to go and liberate the camp, all for one man (He was family.) The Germans surrounded the camp, captured a lot of his men who ended up in the camp themselves, and this would be the last POW camp to be liberated. I don't know how far into German territory he went to do this or if the situation with Eisenhower would have been different. It would be easy to say that at least Patton tried, and he did do that when no one else (as far as I know) did. Its hard to say, though, who made the right choice.
…not only did Hitler’s entourage openly scorn the ‘stupid’, ‘inferior’ female sex, they repeatedly demanded ‘separation’ of women from men, as if men didn’t see the point of women at all except as occasional adornments and, of course, as child bearers. The Jews were not Hitler’s only scapegoats for
Germany’s ills: women who had been emancipated during the years were blamed for taking men’s jobs and corrupting the country’s morals. Weimar
--Sarah Helm (Ravensbruck: Life and Death in Hitler’s Concentration Camp For Women p 8)
Himmler, however, saw blood sports as ‘the cold-blooded murder of innocent and defenseless animals.’ Criticizing the ‘bloodhound’ Herman Goring, he once told his masseur and confidant Felix Kersten: ‘Imagine, Herr Kersten, some poor deer is grazing peacefully and up comes the hunter with his gun to shoot the poor animal. Could that give you pleasure, Herr Kersten?
--Sarah Helm (Ravensbruck: Life and Death in Hitler’s Concentration Camp for Woman p 65)
Have you ever seen the face of a prisoner behind bars? Freedom lies on the other side of the window. Heaven lies on the other side of the window. On the other side of the door there is only reality.
-Milena Jesenska (Journalist) a quotation from one of her articles quoted in Ravensbruck: Life and Death in Hitler’s Concentration Camp For Women p 116)
Though killer disease was widespread in the camp, prisoners rarely complained of colds or flu. When fleeing the Germans on the Eastern Front, Ida Grinberg, a Red Army doctor, slept on branches of fur trees laid on the snow. ‘We didn’t get colds then either.’ Ida also observed that men were usually much weaker physically, ‘and I believe they had a weaker will than women.’
-Sarah Helm (Ravensbruck: Life and Death in Hitler’s Concentration Camp for Women p 276)
‘It is not easy to control women because they are better deceivers than men, and because when they escape they are better at hiding and finding ways of surviving on their wits undetected,’ said one [factory] manager.
-Sarah Helm (Ravensbruck: Life and Death in Hitler’s Concentration Camp For Women p 309)
Other camps showed what mankind was capable of doing to a man. The Jewish death camps showed what mankind was capable of doing to an entire race. Ravensbruck showed what mankind was capable of doing to women.
--Sarah Helm (Ravensbruck: Life and Death in Hitler’s Concentration Camp For Women p 649)
Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Ravensbruck-Death-Hitlers-Concentration-Women-ebook/dp/B00KK0OQUU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1494594071&sr=8-1&keywords=ravensbruck+life+and+death+in+hitler%27s+concentration+camp+for+women
Monday, January 4, 2016
I started in on this book, as I do all books, blindly, because I do not want to be influenced in any way, so I just started reading. He starts off fine enough by talking about all the progress that has been made recently with the decriminalization of homosexuality and the criminalization of raping your wife and laws on domestic assault. He starts to get a little slippery when wanders off into sexual slander and how many men are brought down (such as Hoover and Snowden) by the hint of a sexual scandal. He then goes on to mention his previous book, which I think may sound interesting: Sex and Punishment: Four Thousand Years of Judging Desire. What Plato, the Renaissance writers, and Victorians have to say on the matter could be intriguing.
Then he starts attacking science. "With its gloss of objective truth, science is often an unassailable basis for determining not only which types of sexual conduct should be condemned outright and which treated as pathologies, but also the types of punishments and treatments that should be imposed. The problem is that justice is impossible unless it is consistent, and in the sciences, the proven truths of one year can well become the next year's falsehoods." He then goes on to praise the Bible for, while being a poor judge of sex, at least a consistent one. And that "doctors and researchers make terrible moralizers." Judges, too, but that is because they listen to the doctors and scientists.
He uses as his examples homosexuals who, until 1973, were listed in the DSM as mentally ill. Today, he says kids are being accused of sex crimes for touching their siblings "inappropriately" and parents who don't use cloths to wash their children face the same fate. I've never even heard of this, but I am sure there is an instance somewhere in the United States that this has happened, but I imagine it is very rare and no scientist or psychologist backs this up. He continues in the vein with the belief that sex offenders are less likely to re-offend than other criminals. He gives no data on this or says by how much.
When he starts in on my wheelhouse of the psychiatric profession putting thoughts into the heads of those who have accused the priests and members of the Catholic Church of molestation in order to get a huge payday from the rich papacy, this is the point that the book nearly went flying into the wall. It's been a long time since I've sent a book airborne. In college, Faulkner got that treatment a lot. Especially As I Lay Dying. It went against walls, across the lobby floor, into furniture. It flew so many times it earned enough frequent air miles to fly several times around the world. This book, however, I did not own, and I did not want to own. It belongs to the library and if I had thrown it and damaged it I would have been stuck with this horrid thing. Instead, when I return it, I will merely slam it really hard in the return bin.
The author, by the way, is a civil rights lawyer. For some reason, I've always thought better of them. One bad apple will not make me change my mind about them yet.
Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Boundaries-Desire-Century-Changing-Identities-ebook/dp/B011H52X9W/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1498919760&sr=8-1&keywords=boundaries+of+desire