Where Birds Never Sang: The Ravensbrück and Sachsenhausen Concentration Camps
RAVENSBRÜCK CONCENTRATION CAMP 1939 – 1945
Seventy-six kilometers north of Berlin is a pastoral setting accessible by a road that winds through a woods of pine trees, with splashes of wild flowers leading down to a lake. There, one can recline on the sandy beach and look across to the medieval town of Fürstenberg, or watch local fishermen working from their docks and small boats, old men smoking pipes as they calmly fish for a living, as they have for centuries. Fürstenberg is a sylvan setting; its quiet broken only by the breeze moving through the trees and an occasional church bell, quiet, peaceful, a place of refuge for citizens escaping the hubbub of Berlin or simply wishing a moment of reflection and solace. Not far from the center of this village is a wall, rather tall and imposing, made not of hand-cut stones, but of concrete. Even more startling, more incongruous, is the second wall of barbed wire. It is only then that we realize that behind this wall separating tranquility from history is Ravensbrück. Ravensbrück was not the only concentration camp for women, there were many others. Ravensbrück was the largest concentration camp for women on the grounds of the German Reich.
SACHSENHAUSEN CONCENTRATION CAMP 1936 – 1945
Located in Oranienburg, a small town at the northern edge of Berlin, Sachsenhausen concentration camp was built in the summer of 1936 by prisoners from other concentration camps. It was the first camp to be built after “Reichsführer SS” Heinrich Himmler was put in charge of the German police in July 1936. The new concentration camp was designed and planned by SS architects to be the ideal camp. It was to express the world view of the SS in its architecture and at the same time symbolically subdue the prisoners to the absolute power of the SS. Sachsenhausen concentration camp took on a special position in the system of NS concentration camps. This was highlighted by the move of the concentration camp inspectorate’s administrative department from Berlin to Oranienburg. The inspectorate was responsible for all of the concentration camps within the German realm of power.
Between 1936 and 1945, more than 200,000 people were imprisoned in Sachsenhausen. At first the prisoners were political opponents of the National Socialist regime, then came the people declared by the National Socialists to be racially or biologically inferior, and from 1939 onwards, increasing numbers of citizens from occupied European countries were transported to the camp.
This film project has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany
Funded by the Fund for Women’s History of the Holocaust and anonymous private foundations
Additional funding by:
Corporation for Pubic Broadcasting
The Irene Diamond Foundation
Christopher and Carrie Reed
Richard and Dorothy Reed