The Initiative developed out of a network of feminists and antifascists that had already been active in remembrance work regarding the Former Uckermark Youth Concentration Camp for Girls and Young Women and Later Extermination Site for over two decades.
The Initiative is involved in researching the history of the camp, in making contact with survivors and keeping in touch with them and in creating a worthy memorial at the site. This work is conducted in many places, including at the annual volunteer work stays, at national and international conferences, seminars, film screenings, and talks with survivors on the topic of the youth concentration camp and other related subjects. The Initiative has been the source of exhibitions, films, radio programs and academic publications – all of which can be found on this site.
The Initiative meets regularly to discuss and coordinate this work.
The Initiative’s declared goal is to make the public aware of the former youth concentration camp, to create a worthy memorial to it, to strengthen the antifascist culture of remembrance and to critically challenge the state’s practices of remembrance.
Memorialization and remembrance should occur in a form of open commemoration (see Reader), which is a form of memorialization that allows people to actively engage with the place of remembrance as individuals, leaving space for different memory cultures and practices. In that way, the place can evoke and remember the victims and survivors while also shedding light on the continuities observed in the persecution of so-called “asocials,” to give just one example.
The Initiative works closely with the LGRF, the Association of Ravensbrück Camp Survivors, Family and Friends.
* We have chosen to use the title “Uckermark Youth Concentration Camp for Girls and Young Women and Later Extermination Site” for the camp instead of the earlier, much used term “Girls’ Concentration Camp” as a result of a discussion with the LGRF, the Association of Ravensbrück Camp Survivors, Family and Friends in 2006. At that time, a collective decision was made to use this term from then on in order to underscore the link to other youth concentration camps in Moringen and Lodz, and to respond to the fact that there were individual boys imprisoned in the camp. Since the term “Girls’ Concentration Camp” is not actually false, it can still be found in older publications and will be changed gradually over time.
A Memorial – The History of the Initiative
While visiting the Ravensbrück Memorial Site (MGR) in the summer of 1996, women from the LGRF, the Association of Ravensbrück Camp Survivors, Family and Friends, were asked by an MGR employee if they would be interested in having a volunteer work stay on the grounds of the Former Uckermark Youth Concentration Camp for Girls and Young Women and Later Extermination Site.
Up until that time, the site had been abandoned and had barely received any attention. It was not a part of the Ravensbrück Memorial Site (and still isn’t), it was not included in the Brandenburg Memorials Foundation when that was established – and it is still not a part of their target planning to this day. The federal government was and is the owner of the site; more specifically, the Institute for Federal Real Estate (BIMA – Bundesanstalt für Immobilienangelegenheiten).
The site was littered with garbage and the land had been completely overbuilt with fenced-off tank garage halls erected by the Red Army (CIS troops). The only thing that indicated the existence of a former concentration camp was a small sign put up by the LGRF, the Association of Ravensbrück Camp Survivors, Family and Friends in 1995: “Ihr seid nicht vergessen” (“You are not forgotten“).
In 1997, various volunteer work stays were organized to begin working at the site. Excavations were carried out in 1997 and 2001 under the supervision of archaeologists.
Yearly self-organized volunteer work stays have been held at the site by women, lesbians, and transgender people since 2001.
The Initiative developed out of these annual volunteer work stays. It meets regularly to coordinate discussions and events concerning the Former Uckermark Youth Concentration Camp for Girls and Young Women and Later Extermination Site. One of the main issues is the preparation of a concept for a worthy memorial site.
Since 2006, the Initiative has organized memorial celebrations there on Liberation Day, including informational tours around the site.
The Initiative started the “100×100” campaign in 2008 to raise funds for a memorial stone. In 2009, an Initiative member and artist/metal worker designed the memorial stone, which was then commemorated at the Liberation Day celebration. One of the survivors’ greatest wishes was the erection of a memorial at the site – and that wish was fulfilled in April 2009.
Vandalism has been a consistent problem at the site. In 2008, informational sign posts and an information stand were destroyed or stolen and one sign had “Hitler” written across it. To this day, there have been repeated occurrences of individuals coming onto the grounds and destroying objects related to the memorial site.
The work conducted by the Initiative is welcomed by organizers at the Ravensbrück Memorial Site. Although the collaboration between the groups is not always without conflict, both parties have declared that their goal is to make the location into a memorial site.