It was tough deciding which members of the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp staff to include in my novel Lilac Girls. There were so many bizarre, sadistic candidates. But camp guard Dorothea Binz was so brutal and complex and so involved with Dr. Herta Oberheuser and the Polish prisoners I was writing about I had to include her.
Almost every memoir of Ravensbruck survivors I’ve read included at least one mention of Dorothea Binz. They cite her especially brutal enforcement of punishment in “the bunker,” the cell block where camp punishments were carried out. Most egregious of all, many inmates said, was her habit of flaunting her relationship with her married boyfriend Edmund Brauning, kissing him as the girls were beaten and tortured.
Nicknamed La Binz by the French inmates, Dorothea was nineteen years old when she came from a small farm town close to Ravensbruck where she worked as a maid and applied to be a guard at Ravensbruck. Many Ravensbruck survivors told of how Binz beat, slapped, kicked, whipped, shot and stomped upon women with her heavy boots. Her cruel streak was considered an asset at the camp and she quickly rose through the ranks to Chief Wardress. Dorothea also taught a variety of classes at Ravensbruck, since the camp was a training center for guards who went on to work at Auschwitz and other concentration camps.
Today if you visit The Ravensbruck Memorial at the site of the camp you can see the chalets where the camp staff lived, once furnished with down quilts and other goods taken from the “booty piles,” stockpiles of goods stolen from the people in the various countries Hitler plundered. Today there are many exhibits presented inside the former homes of the camp staff, with photos about camp life.
After Russian troops advanced on Ravensbruck and prisoners were taken out of camp on the death march, Binz fled on her bicycle. She was captured on May 3, 1945, by the British Occupation Forces and was sent to a former Buchenwald sub camp, Recklinghausen and then to Hamelin Prison. Binz was tried with other SS personnel by a British court at one of seven Ravensbruck Trial War Crimes trials in Hamburg.
Binz at trial, above, and left, below.
Dorothea Binz was convicted, sentenced to death and later hanged at the prison on May 2 1947.