Women prisoners at Ravensbruck were forced to do all sorts of labor, from assembling rocket parts to pulling an enormous concrete roller to pave roads, but weaving these odd-looking straw boots (Strohschuhe) for German soldiers was among the oddest jobs.
The Germans thought they would win a fast victory when they invaded Russia in June 1941 but their offensive ground to a halt once winter set in and the German army suffered terrible casualties due to frostbite.
The standard leather boots most German troops wore were useless in the Russian winter so prisoners were forced to make straw overboots (above) at concentration camps. The Strohschuhe were covered in pitch to resist snow and moisture.
It was not easy work for the women. They were fed little and spent long hours weaving the straw, their hands cut and bleeding from handling the rough reeds.
A prisoner of war has his Strohschuhe searched at a Russian prison camp.
The boots reportedly worked well, insulating the soldiers’ feet, but were not as useful for jobs that required walking, better suited to sentry duty.