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The Uckermark Youth Concentration Camp and later Extermination Site

The following is a short summary of the website.

Uckermark Youth Concentration Camp

The Youth Concentration Camp for Girls* and Young Women* (1) in Uckermark (Brandenburg) was built by prisoners of the Ravensbrück Women’s Concentration Camp in the spring of 1942. By 1945, the camp had imprisoned around 1,200 girls* and young women. The camp was designed for the detention of 16 to 21 year olds. However, much younger girls were also imprisoned there. A decree issued in 1937 called ‘Preemptive Crime Prevention’ [‘Vorbeugende Verbrechensbekämpfung’], (2) enabled the imprisonment of girls* and women* criminalized as ‘asocial’. The camp was called a ‘youth protection camp’ by the National Socialists. Many of the girls* and young women* came from public welfare institutions (such as foster care homes) and had been transferred from there to the youth concentration camp. They were referred to as so-called ‘sexually depraved’, ‘ineducable’, ‘asocial’, ‘unwilling to work’ and/or ‘disobedient’ by the National Socialist institutions. Slovenian partisans and Polish girls* and young women* who were politically persecuted were kept in a special block. Some girls* and young women* were incarcerated based on racist ideology for being Jewish, Sinti or Roma. According to National Socialist ideology, the girls* and young women* were considered a danger to the white ethnic German public [‘Volkskörper’].

According to prisoner reports, some young boys* were also imprisoned in the Uckermark Concentration Camp, although the camp was specifically designed for the persecution of girls* and young women. Boys and young men* were generally incarcerated in the Moringen Youth Concentration Camp (Niedersachsen).

I just ran away several times. And that was reported to the youth welfare office. I could never stay anywhere for long, I was a wanderer. […] The youth welfare office came after me because I wasn’t complying with my notification requirements. And that’s how my life went, I ended up in prison and then from one prison to the next.

Interview with Anita Köcke, Uckermark Youth Concentration Camp prisoner

The Youth Concentration Camp and later Extermination Site was closely linked with the Ravensbrück Women’s Concentration Camp next door.
The Youth Concentration Camp was under the purview of the Reich’s criminal police office. The criminal counselor Lotte Toberentz presided over the direction of the camp. There were 80-100 female camp wardens in the camp who had the role of so-called educators.
As far as we know, the camp consisted of 15-17 barracks that housed the girls* and young women*. The prisoners and some of the functional barracks were surrounded by high fences of barbed wire. Outside of the barbed wire fence, there were other barracks and houses that were a part of the camp, such as housing for the camp wardens, greenhouses, and a rabbit breeding area. In 1942, the company Siemens & Halske built a manufacturing facility next to the Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, in which prisoners from both concentration camps were forced to work. In 1944, the company built another two production barracks directly on the Uckermark camp site.
The prisoners’ day began at 5am with so-called morning exercises, which were followed by 10-12 hours of forced labor and several hours of standing roll call. The hard work, inadequate provisions, poor treatment, and lack of medical care led to illness and death.

“[…] The terrible hunger was always there, always. And on top of that, there was often punishment, they took away our food! Not making your bed right, too lazy at work, talking to your neighbor and things like that were punished with hunger. Towards the end of the war, there was even less food and it was even worse. Starving for months during the years when you are developing both mentally and physically, that had consequences for our entire lives. People today can’t really understand that, since the main thing today is for people not to eat too much. For me, however, that excessive anxiety about food won’t leave me alone until the very end.”

Stanka Simoneti/Uckermark Youth Concentration Camp prisoner – Excerpt from a letter from Stanka Simoneti sent for the Uckermark Memorial Event 2007

Uckermark Extermination Site

At the end of 1944, a part of the Youth Concentration Camp was cleared out. Only 50-60 girls* and young women* and their guards remained in four barracks left off to the side, screened from the rest of the camp.
The other part of the camp was converted into an extermination site. Prisoners from the overcrowded Ravensbrück Concentration Camp were the first to be deported to this extermination site. Later, more prisoners were sent there from other concentration camps and ghettos. Among them were many Hungarian Jews, resistance fighters of different nationalities and women* who were deported first to Ravensbrück and then to the extermination site after the suppression of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising.

Living conditions at the extermination site were dramatically worsened systematically with the goal of killing the women* by starvation, illness and exposure to cold. Many were killed by poison injections or the administration of a poison powder. Starting in February 1945, women were also murdered in gas chambers that had in the meantime been constructed at the Ravensbrück Concentration Camp. Around 5,000 women* were murdered in the short period between January and April 1945.
At the end of April 1945, both the Ravensbrück Concentration Camp and the Uckermark Youth Concentration Camp and Extermination Site were liberated by the Red Army.

“Iron bars, SS henchmen! We crossed the threshold. In the dense pine forest of this youth camp, of this death camp, or better, of death’s waiting room, there were only a few barracks made of pale wood. Not all of the camp’s barracks were used, as the location was not meant to be a residence for the wretched prisoners, no, it is a transitional residence, a residence for selection, so that the main camp could be cleaned out.”

Maria Massariello Arata/Inmate at the Extermination Site
Maria Massariello Arata: Ravensbrück: Tagebuch einer Deportierten. [Ravensbrück: Diary of a Deportee] Edition Sturzflüge Studien Verlag, 2005, pp. 102 et seq.

After the Liberation

After the 1945 liberation, the site was used militarily by the Red Army starting in 1970. The remains of the camp were torn down and built over. The site was altered so much that barely any traces of the former concentration camp are visible today. Access to the site only became possible in 1994, with the withdrawal of the CIS (formerly known as the Red Army).
There has yet to be a full investigation into the camp’s topography.
According to the laws of both German States, the girls* and young women* imprisoned there were not entitled to any reparations, as they were not recognized as victims of the National Socialist regime. Moreover, there is still no societal recognition of their persecution and suffering or any solidarity expressed for them. It wasn’t until 1970 that the Youth Concentration Camp was categorized as a concentration camp and not until 2020 that people persecuted as ‘asocial’ were recognized as victims of the National Socialists by the Federal Government.

Uckermark Concentration Camp/Antifascist Remembrance Politics

Since 1997, various antifascist-feminist groups have worked together with survivors and their families and friends to make the site accessible to the public and to create a dignified memorial space. This remembrance work is supported by the Initiative for an Uckermark Concentration Camp Memorial, which is also the group that curates this website. Since 2005, annual liberation celebrations have been held at the memorial site. In 2009, a memorial stone was erected there and in 2020 a new exhibition was created. Antifascist-feminist volunteer work stays are held every year at the memorial site, where a concept called “open commemoration” is followed. This concept is about allowing different practices of commemoration to develop at the site while keeping the focus on the voices of the survivors and their families and friends. The Initiative would like a variety of people to take responsibility for the site and the commemoration.
Part of this antifascist commemoration work is to call out the fact that people affected by poverty still face discrimination and scorn today – as do Sinti and Roma, people who engage in sex work, those experiencing homelessness, joblessness, and people who live in youth institutions.
The Uckermark Memorial Site can be visited and is accessible by foot and in part by wheelchair. There is an exhibition in German and English. It is also possible to download an audioguide with more information from this website in German, English, and Polish.
Under the “Contact” link, you will find directions to the site. For any other questions or suggestions, please contact us at initiative [at ]gedenkort-kz-uckermark [dot]de

Footnotes:

1.) We use the asterisk in order to leave space for people who were imprisoned as girls or women but who would not have identified themselves as such. Since we can no longer ask them, we have given them an *.

2.) The language of the National Socialists is extremely dehumanizing. When we write about this time period, it is almost impossible to do so without citing their dehumanizing terminology. In order to distance ourselves from certain terms, we decided to mark discriminatory (National Socialist) word usage in English with single quotation marks (for example: ‘asocial’).

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