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Holocaust History: Concentration Camps

This LibGuide is a starting point for general research on the concentration camps, with resources on genocide, survivor memoirs, and primary sources.

Brief History

Ravensbrück concentration camp was constructed in November 1938 near the village of Ravensbrück in northern Germany. It became the largest concentration camp for women within the borders of the German Reich. It was designed to accommodate 6,000 inmates, but by 1945, it housed some 50,000 from more than 30 countries, including Jews, Roma, political prisoners, Jehovah's Witnesses, and criminals. Massive overcrowding resulted in widespread disease, especially typhus.

Prisoners slept in three-tiered bunks in wooden barracks. One barrack housed a makeshift hospital while others contained warehouses and a penal unit. Food rations for prisoners were limited, especially as the camp became increasingly overcrowded. The SS required prisoners to work on farms or in local industries. By 1944, prisoners were also assigned to produce armaments. Some prisoners were sent into cities for construction projects or clearing rubble from the Allied air attacks.

Starting in 1942, SS physicians subjected some prisoners to inhumane bogus medical experiments. These included testing prisoners with sulfonamide drugs and performing different forms of sterilization on them.

Before liberation, physically capable prisoners were forced on a death march in the direction of Mecklenburg, Germany. As the Soviet Union Army approached in the spring of 1945, German prisoners were set free. About 500 women were handed over to the Red Cross. The camp was liberated on April 29-30, 1945, with 3,500 female prisoners still alive.


The following summary derived information from the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust.


Sala and Aron Samueli Holocaust Memorial Library

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