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Ravensbrück Concentration Camp: Timeline of Persecution

(1938 - 1945)

November 25, 1938

The SS transfers 500 male concentration camp prisoners to the village of Ravensbrück, north of Berlin, Germany. The prisoners begin the construction of the Ravensbrück concentration camp. Ravensbrück will serve as the main camp for women prisoners in Germany.

May 15, 1939

The SS transfers almost 900 women prisoners from the Lichtenburg concentration camp for women to Ravensbrück. Upon this transfer, Ravensbrück replaces Lichtenburg as the main camp for women prisoners in Germany.

June 29, 1939

A transport of 440 Romani (Gypsy) women, with their children, arrives in Ravensbrück from the Burgenland in Austria. By 1945 about 5,000 Romani women will have passed through the Ravensbrück camp.

September 23, 1939

After the German invasion of Poland earlier in September, the first Polish women prisoners arrive in Ravensbrück. By 1945 more than 40,000 women from Poland and the German-occupied eastern territories will have been deported to Ravensbrück.

June 6, 1941

300 male prisoners arrive at Ravensbrück from Dachau. The SS holds them in a separate camp for men at Ravensbrück. The men serve as forced laborers in the construction of factories in the area.

November 20, 1941

Friedrich Mennecke, the head of the Eichberg State Mental Hospital and a doctor in the Euthanasia Program, conducts a selection among the women prisoners at Ravensbrück. Over the next two months Mennecke determines that about 850 prisoners are too weak or ill to work. He orders their killing as part of an operation codenamed 14f13.

March 23, 1942

Over the next two days, the SS transfers 1,000 women — mainly German Jewish women but also Romani (Gypsy) women — from Ravensbrück to Auschwitz-Birkenau in German-occupied Poland. The SS establishes a women's camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

July 7, 1942

Almost 200 women arrive in Ravensbrück from the Czech village of Lidice. The Germans destroyed Lidice, a small village outside Prague, in retaliation for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the German governor of Bohemia and Moravia and head of the Security Police. SS forces killed all the men of Lidice and more than 50 women. They deported the remaining 200 women and almost 100 children to camps in Germany. Demolition squads burned and destroyed the village.

July 20, 1942

SS doctor Karl Gebhardt begins sulfanilamide experiments in Ravensbrück on about 80 concentration camp prisoners, mostly Polish women. Gebhardt seeks to determine the effectiveness of sulfanilamide in preventing infections in battlefield wounds for the benefit of the German armed forces. He deliberately inflicts wounds on prisoners and infects them with bacteria. He tests treatments of sulfanilamide and other drugs. Some women die as a result of these experiments; many others are crippled or maimed. Other experiments at Ravensbrück include the testing of various methods of setting and transplanting bones and sterilization experiments on women and children, mostly Roma (Gypsies).

October 5, 1942

The SS transfers more than 600 Jewish women from Ravensbrück to Auschwitz-Birkenau. The transfer is a response to an order from the Reich Security Main Office requiring the transfer of all Jewish concentration camp prisoners from camps in Germany to Auschwitz.

June 22, 1944

The SS conducts the first documented gassing in the women's camp at Ravensbrück. The gas chamber at Ravensbrück uses Zyklon B, crystalline hydrogen cyanide gas, as the killing agent. The gas chamber is relatively small; the SS uses it primarily to kill those prisoners they deemed "unfit" for work. In all, the SS will kill more than 2,000 prisoners in the gas chamber at Ravensbrück.

January 15, 1945

SS camp officials report that there are almost 54,000 prisoners in the Ravensbrück camp, including nearly 8,000 men. Beginning in 1944, forced labor by concentration camp prisoners became increasingly important to Germany's armaments production. Ravensbrück grew into an administrative center for more than 40 subcamps located near armaments factories across east-central Germany. Tens of thousands of prisoners work long hours under intolerable conditions. Many are worked to death.

April 23, 1945

As a result of negotiations between Swedish count Folke Bernadotte and SS chief Heinrich Himmler, the SS turns over 7,000 women prisoners from Ravensbrück concentration camp to the Swedish Red Cross. The Swedish Red Cross takes the prisoners to neutral Sweden for care.

April 27, 1945

The SS orders the final evacuation of the Ravensbrück concentration camp, forcing about 15,000 prisoners on a death march. The SS kills any prisoner who cannot keep pace.

April 30, 1945

Soviet forces liberate the Ravensbrück concentration camp. They discover between 2,000 and 3,000 sick and dying prisoners in the camp. Between 1939 and 1945, more than 120,000 prisoners, nearly 100,000 of them women, passed through the Ravensbrück camp system. Ravensbrück camp records indicate that about 90,000 prisoners died in the camp. Thousands more died without being recorded.

Sources: U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum