In the SS’ Service: Female Wardens at the Ravensbrück Women’s Concentration Camp
Ravensbrück Memorial Site
The focus of the exhibition is the women who were the female component of the Armed SS (Waffen-SS), who tormented and tortured the women in Ravensbrück who came from all over Europe. The exhibition is displayed on one of the eight female wardens’ houses which was renovated complying with guidelines regarding memorial sites. Over 3,500 female wardens worked here between 1939 and 1945, most of them held low-level positions. They kept the camp system running and willingly endorsed it or were themselves active participants. They showed no signs of doubts about the legality of the incarceration of the prisoners.
Due to the concentration camp’s organisational structure, the female wardens probably only made up about ten percent of the entire concentration camp staff. The Ravensbrück commandant staff and the guard troops were consistently made up of men. Women were exclusively assigned by the SS to guard the prisoners inside the camp and those prisoners who had to work outside of the camp. Nevertheless, it was the female guard personnel who exerted their direct authority on the female prisoners on a daily basis. The witness accounts from surviving prisoners which are presented in the exhibition explain this direct, violent relationship of subordination.
Who were these women, of whom only a minority were members of the NSDAP? What were the reasons which contributed to young women becoming SS wardens? How was their participation in the crimes punished in the courts after 1945? The exhibition attempts to approach these questions in two ways: On the one hand, the history of the Ravensbrück female wardens between 1939 and 1945 is presented through the use of examples. On the other hand, examples are also used to show what the social and especially the legal handling of the female guard staff after 1945 was like. In addition, the exhibition includes the thematically linked biographies of 18 former wardens.
About 300 exhibits are presented in the exhibition; for example the SS propaganda album with 92 pictures from the Ravensbrück Concentration Camp dating from around 1941. Photos, documents, drawings as well as film and audio recordings are displayed. Some photos and documents come from private collections and show female wardens around the Ravensbrück Concentration Camp outside of their work shifts. Many of the pieces will be on display for the first time; for example, a secretly recorded film sequence probably filmed in 1943 which shows the guarded prisoners in the Grüneberg satellite concentration camp.
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