Women in concentration camps

Ravensbrück (Memorial Ravensbrück)

The SS constructed a large women's concentration camp in the Fürstenberg district of Ravensbrück (around 90 km north of Berlin) in May 1939. The first Sinti and Roma women and their children were deported there from Burgenland just one month later. The women suffered unimaginable torments in Ravensbrück: they were forcibly sterilised, had to perform slave labour or died as a consequence of the appalling hygienic conditions in the camp.

Sinti and Roma women were also systematically subjected to the violence of their guards, both male and female, in other concentration and extermination camps. Daily degradation determined their lives. Mothers had to look on helplessly as their children starved, were beaten to death by the SS or fell victim to disease.

"After my arrival in Ravensbrück in September 1940, the women first of all had their heads shaved and had to put on large men's shoes. I had to dig sand and hammer stones into place for road construction in the rain and cold. I often thought that I wouldn't last until evening. Anyone who didn't work quickly enough was beaten to death. Women's work details had to build houses for the SS, lay cables and water pipes, lay bricks, grout - nobody was spared." (Anne Dörr)

When the SS selected all those "capable of work" before the "liquidation" of the "gypsy camp" in Auschwitz-Birkenau, mothers did not want to be separated from their children and shared their fate in the gas chambers.