For a long time, World War II historians came across the name Ravensbrück but didn’t know what went on in the German concentration camp.
All of the documents about Ravensbrück, the camp for women, were burned before the end of the war. After the war, the area was under the control of the Soviet Union. Now, after researchers have tracked down survivors and visited the site, we know that it was opened in 1939 and housed women deemed prostitutes, criminals, minorities, or who had opposed Hitler.
One survivor wrote in her account, “Among the prisoners were ‘the cream of Europe’s women.’”
She continued, “They included General de Gaulle’s niece (pictured above), a former British women’s golf champion, and scores of Polish countesses.”
Ravensbrück, however, was mostly known for its medical experiments on the women, most of whom were Polish.
One medical goal was to test sulphonamide drugs. This was done by deliberately wounding a prisoner and injecting viral bacteria into the wound. Death or permanent injury was usually the end result.
Another goal was to see if muscles and bones could regenerate or be transplanted. Prisoners’ bones were broken, dissected, and grafted, leaving subjects in excruciating pain.
One group of women had their wounds filled with wooden splinters, another group with glass shards, and the third group had both implanted.
Some women were experimented upon with no pain medication just to see how effective the tested drugs were.
Nazi doctors shared the results of their experiments at a 1943 medical conference in Berlin. None of the civilian German doctors dared question the experiments on the basis of cruelty.