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The Ravensbruck Kinderzimmer: A Horrible Experiment

By February 19, 2023July 26th, 2023No Comments

          My latest novel The Golden Doves features a scene set in one of the worst blocks at Ravensbruck Concentration Camp, the Kinderzimmer, where my French character Arlette is assigned with her baby Willy.          

         

          In the later stages of the war many women arrived at the camp pregnant and this posed a problem for the Nazi camp staff. Desperate for workers and concerned that many of the new mothers became despondent when their newborns were taken away and were unable to be productive, they cleared out one of the barracks and created a special ward for the mothers. They named it the kinderzimmer or children’s room, a maternity block, as shown in the prisoner illustration above.

          At first the prisoners felt bolstered by the idea that their children would be looked after when they went off to work and their fellow prisoners assigned to the kinderzimmer did what they could to care for the babies. They organized rags to use as diapers, cut the fingers off of rubber gloves to make bottles. But the mothers and caregivers realized the camp staff provided no food for the children and they wasted away, even while SS Nurse Elisabeth Marschall (featured in Lilac Girls) hoarded Red Cross packages and milk and porridge.

        The haunting illustration above, which depicts the early days of the block, is the only one I know of and was key to my describing the block in The Golden Doves.

          But some children born at Ravensbruck managed to survive, including little Manfred, below, true miracles.

Translation: Birth and baptismal certificate of one of the children born in K.L.Ravensbruck. Little Manfred, who miraculously survived the concentration camp, found godparents in Wein.

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