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Ravensbruck Concentration Camp

September 9, 2017 Freewheeling No Comments

I read the book Lilac Girls with my book club a couple of months before leaving on our European adventure. It was a well-written book, but tough to get through because of the subject matter. It is historical fiction based on what went on at the the “re-education camp” in Ravensbruck, Germany. This camp was for Jewish women and children, and also the site where 74 young Polish women were subjected to horrific surgical atrocities in the name of research for the SS.

When we got back to Germany after spending almost two weeks in Denmark, I knew we’d be heading south toward Berlin and thought I’d just see how far away Ravensbruck was off our path. It was basically on the way, and situated near a series of lakes that were worth exploring in their own right. I mentioned it to Greg in passing, but he was non-committal.

I ended up working the entire day while Greg drove (which means eyes on my computer, not paying attention to road signs), so when he said, “We’re here,” I wasn’t exactly sure what he was talking about. And then I saw the large building that is the headquarters for the memorial that has been set up at the concentration camp.

There was an audio tour available, but we got there as the grounds were closing. That in itself made it even more somber and impressive/oppressive. We were the only ones there on an overcast day. A few raindrops fell here and there as we walked around.
An artist was commissioned to create a few sculptures for the memorial site, all of which are amazing and heartbreaking. The main statue, titled “Burdened Woman,” stands alone in a courtyard and is really stunning. As we walked out to it, the sun broke through the clouds and shone on the statue. It was really moving.
The building with the cells (“the bunker”) is under construction, which is probably for the best. I don’t know that I would have handled that well.
The setting reminded me largely of Alcatraz, with this beautiful view of the lake visible from the windows, if only you could have access to it all. The only difference, of course, is that these people were being held prisoner through no fault of their own.
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The below images are of the crematorium. Just let that sink in for a moment.



The cobbled courtyard outside of that building was purposely cleared and placed there with the stones covering the ashes that they found in that area, indicating it had been a burial ground.
The back wall of the property has the names of each country affected, and there are many plaques/memorials to individual groups. We have toured a couple of other memorial sites since then and have been surprised that some of the memorials have been made as recently as 2012.IMG_2792
It was an honor to visit this site, having read that book twice through (I was out of something to read when we got here and read that one over again — picking up many more details the second time). None of the information kiosks we saw said anything specific about “the Rabbits,” the girls that were subjected to these horrific experiments. I looked for a hospital or some other such building, finding nothing.If you’re interested in more information about the story of the Ravensbruck Rabbits, click here (with the warning to brace yourself for what you’ll find).

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