On this day in 1945, 500 women from the Ravensbrück Womens Concentration Camp north of Berlin were transferred by the Swiss Red Cross to Switzerland. Soviet forces arrived at the camp a week later. Ravensbrück was the largest concentration camp in the Reich built solely to house women. It was a work camp, not a death camp, but nearly 40,000 died there, some from being overworked while being underfed, and some from the horrible medical experiments there starting in 1944.
Although not well publicized, the pretty, or at least the young, women in the camp were sent to about 10 nearby camps to provide 'sexual comfort' to male prisoners who had somehow earned the privilege. No one was ever prosecuted for these crimes. Perhaps 160,000 women passed through the camp between May, 1939 and liberation. Sweden's somewhat more generous Red Cross managed to get 7,000 women transferred to better conditions in Sweden, but only in the last full month of the war in Europe.
Labels: WWII history; European theater; Ravensbrück