My mother's words,which I wrote down in 1986
drawing by marguerita
"Todesengel" ohne Reue
Ein zufälliger Fund wirft Licht auf einige der letzten Gedanken und Lebensumstände des berüchtigten SS-Arztes Josef Mengele, der bis zu seinem Tod bei einem Badeunfall 1979 seine Gräueltaten nicht bereut hat. Der Inhalt von 85 Dokumenten des "Todesengels von Auschwitz", darunter viele Briefe und Tagebuchnotizen, die seit 1985 in den Archivschränken der brasilianischen Bundespolizei in São Paulo vergilbten, ist jetzt in größtenteils vom Deutschen ins Portugiesische übersetzten Auszügen exklusiv von der Zeitung "Folha de São Paulo" veröffentlicht worden. So geht aus ihnen etwa hervor, dass er noch 1972 mit dem Gedanken gespielt hatte, nach Deutschland zurückzukehren. "Aber wie ist heute meine Heimat? Und ist sie noch meine Heimat? Wird sie mich nicht als Feind empfangen?", schrieb der gesuchte NS-Kriegsverbrecher.
Life in the Camp
When a new prisoner arrived at Ravensbrück they were required to wear a color-coded triangle (a Winkel) that identified them by category with a letter sewn within the triangle that indicated the prisoner's nationality. Polish women wore red triangle, red denoting a political prisoner, with a letter "P". By 1942, Polish women became the largest national component at the camp. Jewish women wore yellow triangles, but sometimes, unlike the other prisoners, they wore a second triangle for the other categories or for "race defilement". Some transports had their hair shaved, such as from Czechoslovakia and Poland, but "Aryan" transports did not. For instance, in 1943 a group of Norwegian women came to the camp. None had their hair shaved. Between 1942 and 1943 almost all Jewish women from the Ravensbrück camp were sent to Auschwitz in several transports following Nazi policy to make Germany "Judenrein" (cleansed of Jews). Common criminals wore green triangles, Soviet prisoners of war, German and Austrian Communists had red triangles and members of the Jehovah's Witnesses were labeled with lavender triangles. Classified separately with black triangles were prostitutes and Gypsies. The pink triangles for homosexuals played no role in the Ravensbrück women camp, but the camp did have some lesbians imprisoned in the camp for other crimes.
Based on the Nazis incomplete transport list "Zugangsliste" consisting 25,028 names of women sent by Nazis to the camp, it is estimated that inmates of Ravensbrück ethnic structure was the following: Poles 24.9%, Germans 19.9%, Jews 15.1%, Russians 15.0%, French 7.3%, Gypsies 5.4%, other 12.4%. Gestapo categorized the inmates as follows: political 83.54%, anti-social 12.35%, criminal 2.02%, Jehovah Witnesses 1.11%, racial defilement 0.78%, other 0.20%. The list is one of the most important documents, preserved in the last moments of the camp operation by courageous members of the Polish underground girl guides unit "Mury" (The Walls). The rest of the camp documents were burned by escaping SS overseers in pits or in the crematorium.
One of the forms of the resistance were underground education programs organized by prisoners for their fellow inmates. All national groups had some sort of program. The most extensive were among Polish women where various high school level classes were taught by experienced teachers.
Inmates at Ravensbrück suffered greatly. Living in subhuman conditions, thousands were shot, strangled, gassed, buried alive, or worked to death. Periodically, the SS authorities subjected prisoners in the camp to "selections" in which the Germans isolated those prisoners considered too weak or injured to work and killed them. At first, "selected" prisoners were shot. Beginning in 1942, they were transferred to "euthanasia" killing centers or to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp. The SS staff also murdered some prisoners in the camp infirmary by lethal injection.
Starting in the summer of 1942, medical experiments were conducted on 86 women; 74 of them were Polish inmates. There were two types of the experiments done on the Polish political prisoners. The first one aimed at testing the efficiency of sulphonamide drugs. These experiments involved the deliberate cutting out and infection of bones and muscles of the legs with virulent bacteria, the cutting out of nerves, the introduction of virulent substances like pieces of wood or glass into the tissue and the causing of artificial bone fractures. The second one aimed at studying the processes of regeneration of bones, muscles and nerves, and also the possibilities of transplanting bones from one person to another. All the experiments were done against the will and despite the open protest of all the victims. Out of the 74 Polish victims called Króliki, Kaninchen, Lapins or Rabbits: 5 died as a result of the experiments, 6 with still unhealed wounds were executed and the rest miraculously survived thanks to help of other inmates in the camp. The survivors suffered permanent physical damage. Four of them: Jadwiga Dzido, Maria Broel-Plater, Władysława Karolewska and Maria Kuśmierczuk eloquently testified against Nazi doctors at the Doctors' Trial in 1946.
Between 120 and 140 Gypsy women were sterilized in the camp in January 1945. All of them, unaware of the consequences, signed the consent form after being told by the camp overseers that the German authorities would release them if they agreed to sterilization.
All inmates were required to do heavy labor. The women were forced to work at many kinds of slave labor, from heavy outdoor jobs to building the V-2 rocket parts for the giant German company, Siemens AG. The SS also built several factories near Ravensbrück for the production of textiles and electrical components.
The bodies of those killed in the camp were cremated in the nearby Fürstenberg crematorium until 1943. In that year, SS authorities constructed a crematorium at a site near the camp prison. In the autumn of 1944, the SS constructed a gas chamber near the crematorium. The Germans gassed several thousand prisoners at Ravensbrück before the camp's liberation in April 1945.
The Ravensbrueck concentration camp was the largest and, after the closure of the Lichtenburg camp, the only Nazi concentration camp almost exclusively for women. German authorities began construction of the camp in November 1938, at a site near the village of Ravensbrueck in northern Germany, about 56 miles north of Berlin. In the spring of 1941, the SS authorities established a small men's camp adjacent to the main camp.
The first prisoners at Ravensbrueck were approximately 900 women. The SS had transferred these prisoners from the Lichtenburg women's concentration camp in Saxony in May 1939. By the end of 1942, the female inmate population of Ravensbrueck had grown to about 10,000. In January 1945, the camp had more than 45,000 prisoners, mostly women. Besides the male Nazi administrators, the camp staff included over 150 female SS guards assigned to oversee the prisoners. Ravensbrueck also served as one of the main training camps for female SS guards.
Periodically, the SS authorities subjected prisoners in the camp to "selections" in which the Germans isolated those prisoners considered too weak or injured to work and killed them. At first, "selected" prisoners were shot. Beginning in 1942, they were transferred to "euthanasia" killing centers or to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp. The SS staff also murdered some prisoners in the camp infirmary by lethal injection. The bodies of those killed in the camp were cremated in the nearby Fuerstenberg crematorium until 1943. In that year, SS authorities constructed a crematorium at a site near the camp prison. In the autumn of 1944, the SS constructed a gas chamber near the crematorium. The Germans gassed several thousand prisoners at Ravensbrueck before the camp's liberation in April 1945.
Starting in the summer of 1942, SS medical doctors subjected Ravensbrueck concentration camp prisoners to unethical medical experiments. SS doctors experimented with treating wounds with various chemical substances (such as sulfanilamide) to prevent infections. They also tested various methods of setting and transplanting bones; such experiments included amputations. The SS selected close to 80 women, mostly Polish, for these experiments. Most of the women died as a result. The survivors suffered permanent physical damage. SS doctors also carried out sterilization experiments on women and children, many of them Roma (Gypsies), in an attempt to develop an efficient method of sterilization.