If This Is A Woman

If This Is A Woman

Inside Ravensbrück : Hitler's Concentration Camp for Women

Book - 2015
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On a sunny morning in May 1939 a phalanx of 800 women - housewives, doctors, opera singers, politicians, prostitutes - were marched through the woods fifty miles north of Berlin, driven on past a shining lake, then herded through giant gates. Whipping and kicking them were scores of German women guards. Their destination was Ravensbrück, a concentration camp designed specifically for women by Heinrich Himmler, prime architect of the Nazi genocide. For decades the story of Ravensbrück was hidden behind the Iron Curtain and today is still little known. Using testimony unearthed since the end of the Cold War, and interviews with survivors who have never spoken before, Helm has ventured into the heart of the camp, demonstrating for the reader in riveting detail how easily and quickly the unthinkable horror evolved.
Publisher: London : Little, Brown, ©2015.
ISBN: 9781408705384
Characteristics: xviii, 748 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates :,illustrations, portraits ;,24 cm.


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Jun 07, 2016


Apr 29, 2016

This is a demoralizing book. Not only the fact that Ravensbruck was a death camp where ALL the prisoners were women; nor that the detainees were not only Jews but drawn from 22 countries across Europe, from Russia to the Channel Islands and every ethnicity in between.

This was the camp that beta tested many of the most evil deeds committed by the Nazis, including medical experiments, extreme food rationing (at one point less than 200 calories a day) and the first gas chambers.

Nothing was done by the German Red Cross, for it had been co-opted by the Nazis early in its regime. Nor was anything done by the International Committee of the Red Cross who turned a blind eye to that and other death camps, and when it did make visits were shown "show barracks" that suggested idealized conditions, thus getting the stamp of approval.

Perhaps most shocking was the role of Siemens who set up a slave labour camp within the grounds, making component for German war planes - something the company today barely acknowledges. (It's worth noting that those prisoners who were Jehovah's Witnesses refused to work at the plant, citing their pacifism.)

That this particular story of the Holocaust has gone untold for so long is shameful to say the least. But Sarah Helm has done careful research (at times frustratingly so due to lack of records) in telling the tale and is to be commended.

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